It was Gavaskar
De real Master
Just like a wall
We couldn’t out Gavaskar at all, not at all.
You know the West Indies couldn’t out Gavaskar at all.
I was in high school when I read ‘Sunny Days’ an autobiography of Sunil Gavaskar. A friend of mine got hold of a copy which was already dog eared. We pored over it many times. We were big fans of his batting and records (who in India is not a fan of cricket records?) and it was written in simple English which we could understand. It was also the same time we read Don Bradman’s autobiography, I am not sure whether it was ‘My Cricketing Life’ or ‘Farewell to Cricket.’ My hunch is, it was the later. While Gavaskar talked about his scores and hundreds in detail Bradman just mentions in passing about his double and triple centuries.
I wondered how could someone write biography of his life when he was just twenty seven years old. But then, when you had a recording breaking debut series when you are just twenty one, being considered one of the best cricketer in the world at that age and most importantly the most famous cricket calypso song was written on you, I guess you could write one when you are twenty seven.
Gavaskar made his debut in March 1971 and got himself into statistics, records and folklore. India had never won a cricket series abroad till then. He made his debut in the second test, scored 65 and 67 and most importantly helped India to win their first Test Match outside of India’s shores. He then went on to score few more runs in the series and ended up with 700 odd runs in the series including a Century and a Double Hundred in the final test. That’s when the Calypso song ‘we couldn’t out Gavaskar’ was born.
Of course we did not know any of this as we were just eight year old at that time but elders in the family used to rave about it. He had written elaborately about the series in Sunny Days. He also had an infection in his middle finger which worsened during the travel and proper attention in USA before their flight to West Indies saved his finger and Indian Cricket.
He did not do well in the following years and things were at nadir when India got bowled out for 42 runs in the England tour of 1974. He bounced back and how. He along with Viswanath helped India to chase the highest number of runs in the fourth innings and win the test in the 1976 tour of West Indies. And of course the best batting from him was the Oval test when India again tried to chase a huge target and missed it by just nine runs. I had written about this in Priceless Draws – Oval 79 and Sydney 21
Gavaskar and Viswanath Chasing highest score in 4th Innings. West Indies 1976
The ‘who’ is better argument for us, always centered around Gavaskar Vs Viswanath. We were not big fans of Sivaji Vs MGR argument. Kamal Vs Rajni and Borg Vs McEnroe came later. While some of us rooted for Gavaskar, Viswanath was the favourite of most of the friends. To strengthen our arguments, we used to read more about Gavaskar in sports magazines and even tried to get hold of a copy of Times of India (a leading newspaper which was not published in the south those days). Viswanath was definitely more attractive to watch, but Gavaskar had superior technique, his concentration unparalleled and was definitely a purists delight.
His final test was as famous as his first though India ended up on losing side Vs Pakistan. The pitch was more of a minefield. He scored 97 runs and declared his retirement. He definitely had couple of top level cricket in him. When asked why did he quit, he shot back, “It’s better to go when people ask ‘why’ and not ‘why not?'”
It was his other trademark, speaking his mind. The quote ‘Hindi films are made for the masses by the asses’ is attributed to him. I would be surprised only if he had not said that. He then went on to act in couple of Marathi movies.
What next after you write your biography at 27 and retire at thirty seven. Gavaskar would never have survived in the quagmire of Indian Cricket Administration politics. The arrival of cable TV in the early nineties provided him role of a commentator where he could express his views. After thirty years, even today, when you watch/listen to his commentary, you still can learn a thing or two about the game, the batsman or the bowler. Except for his oft repeated remark ‘converting ones into twos and twos into threes‘ his commentary is incise and insightful.
I met him at a baggage carousel few years back. The IPL has helped us to see most of the famous players in person in one airport or other. I went up to him and said, “Sir I am a big fan and thanks for making our school/college days memorable.” His reply was, “Thank You sir.” That’s some humility.
Fifty years and couple of months have passed since the most famous debut series of an Indian Cricketer. Even today when you read about it you get goosebumps all over. Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, the calypso king, is more than an extraordinary cricketer.
BTW thank you Mohan for sending me a reminder in March about 50 year of Gavaskar’s debut.