Sunil Gavaskar’s feat of equaling Sir Don Bradman’s number of centuries and then beating Geoffrey Boycott’s aggregate was acclaimed in Sri Lanka with much jubilation. Almost all the newspapers carried editorials, and even local politicians made references and comparisons to his innings when presenting budgets.
Sunil Gavaskar has been a very popular cricketer here in Sri Lanka since 1969. I still remember how I predicted a great future for him when ‘he came here with the university team that year and impressed us with his compact batsmanship, most pleasing manners, and modesty.
He was pessimistic about making the Bombay team for the Ranji Trophy Final then, but in a few month’s time, he was breaking records in the West Indies. Schoolboy prodigies in any walk of life only occasionally live up to their promise in later years. This is particularly true of cricketers, but it has been quite different in Sunil’s case. He has shown a rare ability shared by only about half a dozen batsmen in this generation.
Sunil Gavaskar at a Kanga League match in the 1970s
Sunil Gavaskar at a Kanga League match in the 1970s
I think despite playing the game hard, he is one of the calmest and most friendly cricketers I have ever seen and ‘has won the respect, admiration, and affection of not only his friends but his own team and his opponents. Although born to the purple, he has reached the top through his own persuasive methods.
He has batted with a sort of volatile precision entirely his own. He was like a hostler inspired to cricket, nimble, quick of bat, and eye, excelling in the rapid alternation of the cut, the drive, and the hook. Sunil has kept his loyalties to those who have aided and guided him, fresh and pickled in enthusiasm.
Right from his early days, he has been a calculating attacker, and his delight has been to scatter the enemy with his strong stroke of bat and tactics. He has feared neither tradition nor bowlers, and he has hated conventions. It was while at school that he acquired the double century habit, and he took it to the highest innings of club, university, and Ranji Trophy, and finally test cricket, so that right from his teens, his cricket career has been illuminated with stupendous innings.
Those like me who live on the memory of great players, the George Headley the Wally Hammonds, the Vijay Merchants, the three W’s, Sir Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, and the one and only Sir Don Bradman, have no hesitator in putting Sunil Gavaskar into this category together with Greg Chappell and Viv Richards.
Three former Sri Lanka players, former captain Vernon Precis and the former Leicestershire all-rounder of the forties and fifties, Fairlie Dalpethads (now a leading cricket coach), confirm the view that Sunil Gavaskar is the greatest batsman ever produced by India.
Sunil Gavaskar 123 runs on opening day of the Bombay test.
Sunil Gavaskar had 123 runs on the opening day of the Bombay Test.
Stanley Jayasinghe, who played so much first-class cricket in England, thought of him as sound or similar to Geoffery Boycott in stance and style but far more enterprising. Like Sir Don Bradman, Sunil Gavaskar isn’t very tall at 5 feet 5 inches, and every time I see him at the crease or observe his leadership, my first reaction is, “I see him as one of the most beautiful players and a fine cricketer and tactician, and Indian critics, commentators, and even administrators are wasting adjectives on many less talented men.” With all due respect to Kapil Dev, Sunil’s removal from the captaincy was tragic, after having been their most successful leader ever. It is well known that no man is loveable if he is too masterful, and Gavaskar has encountered much petty jealousy on his way to the top.
For India to win Tests, they need more penetrative bowlers, not new captains. The cricket press of the world can be fickle, as sometimes great cricketers, sportsmen, umpires, and writers are never wholly recognized nor adequately rewarded. Even in Sri Lanka, at times, so much venom is spilled in the name of cricket. The joke of the times was an attempt to expose a hypothetical case of the world’s worst cricket writer, but the anonymous writer only mirrored his own image in the process. The gutter press exists in Southeast Asia, too.
Fortunately, in India and Sri Lanka, there are many first-class cricket writers, and these isolated cases hiding behind anonymity, reeking of malice, and cowardice are only exceptions and few and far between. Politicians and Eelpouts are not the only people who thrive on falsehood and misinforming the public. Since the ethnic troubles, many have changed into Sinhalese names. Rod Pullar can become Perera or De Mel. Sunil himself has had a taste of this. In success or failure, Sunil has never varied. As a friend, casual acquaintance, companion, or opponent, he has always been courageous, courteous, interested, and interesting. He is a very perfect and complete sportsman.
We in Sri Lanka welcome him again, at least to retain glimpses of the splendor he has given many of us over a decade or more. Many knowledgeable critics from Australia, England, and the West Indies have told me that, for sheer grace and entertainment, Sunil Gavaskar has not been surpassed by any Indian batsman. He is a reflection, a recapture, or a rare mixture of the KS Ranjitsinhji, Vijay Merchant, and Syed Mushtaq Ali manner.
Read More: Sir Len Hutton’s Views on Sunil Gavaskar
Sunil Gavaskar - Bombay & India 2
Sunil Gavaskar’s feat of equaling Sir Don Bradman’s number of centuries and then beating Geoffrey Boycott’s aggregate was acclaimed in Sri Lanka with much jubilation.
Source: Harold de Andrado, 1983