63 years & still going strong: Sunil Gavaskar has been the role model of Indian batsmen for years now

Sunil Gavaskar is one of the greatest opening batsmen that the world has seen and the way he tamed the best bowling attack of all time, he will be remembered till the time cricket will be played. Gavaskar played in the era which saw some great fast bowlers from West Indies and he tackled them superbly, and remember, those were the days when a batsmen did not had the advantage of playing with a helmet or for that matter a perfect gear.

Gavaskar celebrates his 63rd birthday today and will always be remembered for his rock-solid technique and his impeccable timing. He at one time held most of the Test batting records before it were broken by another ‘Little Master’ Sachin Tendulkar.

Gavaskar achieved a lot in his career and the impact he had on Indian cricket was great. Here was the man who stood tall against fierce bowling, took body blows ball after ball, but didn’t throw his wicket away. He played on uncovered pitches without proper safety gears and still managed to achieve the heights he did. Gavaskar gave his fellow batsmen and coming generation the belief that runs can be scored in alien conditions if a player is ready to take the challenge head-on.

The great man made his debut against the West Indies in 1970, the time when Windies were considered unbeatable and the little man stamped his authority on his debut itself, as it was his bat that produced the runs which gave India its first victory over the West Indies. This was only the beginning as Gavaskar went on to score 774 runs in the four matches he played there, it was his first series and Gavaskar made sure that the cricketing world could not avoid his achievements in the series. In the last Test match of the series, Gavaskar scored 124 and 220 and became the second batsmen in the world score a hundred and a double in the same match.

It was the start of a great career which saw some unbelievable heights being reached and some lows as well. Gavaskar ended his career as one of the best Test opener of all time and arguably the best India ever saw. His 34 Test centuries remain a record for a long time, he scored more than 10,000 runs and played some unbelievable innings in his career. It was his sheer determination that separated him from the other players.

Opening in Test matches is the most difficult job and there have been examples in the past where great players have avoided the responsibility of facing the ‘red cherry’ but Gavaskar was the man who just loved it.

Before he started playing, it was considered that Indians are only good against spin bowling and handling fast bowling is not their cup of tea, and it was Gavaskar who proved the world wrong. He was the first Indian batsmen who looked confident and even enjoyed the competition. And that explains the 13 centuries that he scored against West Indies which had the most fearsome attack with the likes of Malcom Marshall, Michael Holding and Andy Roberts.

Gavaskar was criticized in his career for the way he lead the team. He was termed as a negative captain, but when it came to his batting there was nothing that he could be criticized for. He provided the much needed confidence to the players and his name will always be discussed whenever there will be a debate about the best batsmen of all time.

By Gaurav Jha
Indian Sports News Network