New Delhi: Sunil Gavaskar, who celebrates his 63rd birthday today, remains one of India's greatest batsmen. His sound technique and flawless batting style made him India's most dependable batsman and his wicket one of the prized ones for the bowlers.
While Indian batsmen even today struggle against fast bowling, Gavaskar relished facing fast bowlers. This is evident in his batting average of 65.45 against the West Indies, who were the best team that had a lethal pace attack at that time.
Although extremely successful as a player, Gavaskar's stint as India captain was ordinary. Under his captaincy there was a time when the Indian team went without a Test victory for 31 Tests. On his 63rd birthday, here's a look at the highlights of his life.
July 10, 1949: Sunil Manohar Gavaskar is born in Bombay, now Mumbai.
1966: Was named India's Best Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year after scoring 246*, 222 and 85 in his final year of secondary education.
1968-69: He made his Ranji Trophy debut against Karnataka, but was out for a duck. He, however, later hit 3 centuries to impress the selectors.
1970-71: Was selected for India's tour of the West Indies and made his Test debut in the second Test in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, after missing the 1st Test due to an infected fingernail. Scored 61 and 67 not out, hitting the winning runs which gave India its first ever victory over the Windies.
He also made his maiden Test ton in the 3rd Test and followed it up with another in the fourth match before slamming a century in both innings of the fifth and final Test, which also included his first double ton. He helped India register their first ever series victory over the West Indies, and the only one until 2006. He also became the first Indian to make four centuries in one Test series and also to aggregate more than 700 runs in a series. His total of 774 runs remains the most runs scored in a debut series by any batsman.
1975-76: In January '76, he made his debut as India captain during the 1st Test against New Zealand in Auckland after regular captain Bishen Bedi suffered from a leg injury. In December while playing against England at Delhi, Gavaskar was mobbed after becoming the first Indian to reach 1000 Test runs in a calendar year.
One of his most famous knocks, but for all the wrong reasons, came in the 1975 World Cup at Lord's against England. He carried his bat through the full 60 overs, scoring only 36 not out, leading Indian supporters to storm the field and confront him. He had the flair and the technique but was never really a flamboyant batsman. And, that's the reason he had a very average record in ODIs.
1978-79: India toured Pakistan for the first series between the archrivals for 17 years. After narrowly missing out on hundreds in first Two Tests, he scored 111 and 137 in the 3rd to become the first Indian to score two centuries in one Test on two occasions. He also surpassed Polly Umrigar (3,631) as India's leading Test runscorer.
He also became the full-fledged captain for the first time with a home series against the West Indies. In the fifth Test at Delhi, he posted his fourth century for the series, scoring 120 to become the first Indian to cross 4,000 Test runs. He aggregated 732 runs at 91.50 for the series, securing India a 1–0 win in his first series as captain.
1979-80: He was stripped of the captaincy for India's tour of England amid speculations that the little master would defect to the rebellious World Series Cricket. Nonetheless, Gavaskar finished the series with 542 runs at 77.42 and was named as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year.
1983-84: In November '83, playing against his favourite opponent, the West Indies, Gavaskar hit his 29th Test century in 94 balls in the 2nd Test at Delhi, equalling Don Bradman's world record. He also passed 8000 Test runs in the innings, and was personally honoured at the ground by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In the next Test at Ahmedabad, he scored 90 and passed England's Geoff Boycott's Test world record of 8114 career runs.
In the 6th Test in Madras, now Chennai, he got his 30th Test century, becoming the leading centurion in the world, with an unbeaten 236 which was also the then highest Test score by an Indian. It was his 13th Test century and third double century against the West Indies.
1986-87: On December 21 1986, Gavaskar scored his 34th and final Test century, a knock of 176 in the 1st Test against Sri Lanka at Kanpur. After the Lankan series, he played Pakistan in what was his last Test series. In the fourth Test at Ahmedabad, Gavaskar became the first batsman to go past 10,000 runs during his knock of 63. The following match at Bangalore on March 13, 1987, turned out to be his final Test, in which he finished with scores of 21 and 96.
On the ODI front, after having gone through his entire career without scoring a one-day century, he manages his first (and only ODI century) in the 1987 World Cup. He slammed an unbeaten 103 against New Zealand at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground, Nagpur, in his penultimate ODI inning.
1993: Gavaskar proved he was not only a hero on the cricket field but also off it, when during the 1993 riots in Mumbai, he helped rescue a Muslim family from a mob near his residence, telling the mob "first you have to hit me".
2008: He was forced to step down as chairman of ICC Cricket Committee after his scathing attack on match referee Mike Procter after the controversial Sydney Test between India and Australia irks the ICC. Some of Gavaskar's comments in his columns did not go down well with the ICC officials as he alleged that Procter preferred to agree with a "white player's version" than a player of Sachin Tendulkar's integrity during the racial row involving Harbhajan Singh and Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds in Australia.
Gavaskar resigned after ICC asked the former Indian captain to choose between his job as a commentator and columnist and that of the chairman of the cricket committee.
The little master, who has been conferred with the Padma Bhushan, continues to be actively associated with the game in the capacity of a cricket expert and commentator. He also has a happy family life with wife Marshneil and son Rohan, who is also a cricketer and has played a few games for India.
Here are some quick facts about Sunny Gavaskar:
# Sunil Gavaskar remains the only batsman to have scored more than 6000 runs in drawn Tests
# 22 of Gavaskar's 34 hundreds came in draws, and his average shot up to more than 65 in those matches.
# In the 23 Tests Sunil Gavaskar played that India won, his average was only 43.97, and he scored six hundreds.
# Geoff Arnold, Imran Khan & Malcolm Marshall are the man to dismiss Sunil Gavaskar off the first ball of the match/inns (each once).