Sunil Gavaskar – the architect of modern Indian batting
Good batsmen come every now and then. But to be a great batsman, you need to be acknowledged for taking your nation to another level and one such great batsman of all times is Sunil Gavaskar. Break down cricket into two eras, B.G. (before Gavaskar) and A.G. (after Gavaskar) and you can see how Indian cricket turned a new, blooming leaf.
The first and basic proof of this remains the stats. Figures don’t lie, and here they more than reveal the great that Gavaskar was. Before the reign of the Mumbaikar, Team India played a total of 116 tests, of which it won only 15, lost 49 and drew 52. It played 28 series, won 5, lost 17 and drew 6.
Once the master took to the throne, the disgraceful numbers started to look decent, if not very great. During his reign, India played 130 Tests, won 25, lost 35 and drew 70. It won 10 out of the 33 series it played, lost 16 and drew 7.
Of course, all these victories and draws cannot be credited to a one-man-show, but there is no scarcity of incidents when the Little Master contributed heavily to India’s wins and his fighting spirit in many of the matches saved the team from a defeat.
At a time when Indian batting had become a matter of joke, Gavaskar brought respect to it. He brought in the faith that Indian batsmen could play the fast bowlers. Since Vijay Merchant, he was the first brilliant opening batsman who changed the fortunes of the team.
For nearly half his career, Sunny was unable to find a secure opening partner and his partnership with Krishnamachari Srikkant is the only one that cricket fans fondly remember. However, the lack of a stable partnership did not discourage him from playing the solos, which he did for years. During his era, there were only a few series in which his performance could be overshadowed by others in the team.
Sunny Bhai – The Mentor
Gavaskar was the guiding force behind the rise of most Indian batsmen of his time. He mentored the young Sandeep Patil, Vengsarkar and Shastri, amongst the others, all of whom bloomed during his era. One can also largely credit the return of Mohinder Amarnath to Gavaskar, from whom Jimmy received great backing.
Amongst many other greats, Gavaskar set a special benchmark for Sachin Tendulkar. One could see the influence of the former on the latter. The actual Little Master, by passing on his pads quite early in the secondary Little Master’s career, passed a legacy which was manfully carried by Tendulkar.
He was naturally gifted and more dynamic – probably an amalgamation of the legacy of Gavaskar – but the flicks of his legs and the straight drives were the same. According to some, even with the incredible talent that Tendulkar possessed, it became a mighty struggle sometimes for him to overshadow the behemoth that Sunil Gavaskar was.
Rahul Dravid, too, looked like a product made in the school of Gavaskar. His game was also based on an array of strokes. And much like Gavaskar, Dravid improved as an ODI batsman with time. As years passed by, both of them became pearls of ODI cricket.
The Gavaskar influence is clearly unmistakable for players other than Sachin or Dravid. When the flamboyant Sehwag says that he seizes his opportunity only after giving the first hour to the bowler, he is talking in the archetypal Gavaskar language.
Sunny Sir was, by all means, the pioneer of contemporary Indian batting. Here’s wishing the Little Master a happy birthday!