Sunil Gavaskar Turns 74: A look At Little Master’s Accomplishments

New Delhi [India] : Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, also known by nicknames ‘Sunny’ and ‘Little Master’, is undoubtedly among the greatest Indian cricketers to have graced the gentleman’s game.

The diminutive opener, who burst into the cricketing spotlight in his debut Test series overseas against the mighty West Indies, fronting up to the fiery Caribbean quicks, broke numerous batting records while setting new ones over the course of a spectacular career, turned 74 on Monday.

Several of his historic and heroic innings in cricket’s logest and, arguably, the toughest format, came between 1971 and 1987. Through his many memorable knocks, which came on some of the least hospitable surfaces, got him among the pantheon of legends.

Having learned his first lessons with the willow in the dustbowls of Mumbai, the city he was born, Sunny was as much at home playing on some of the bounciest strips in the Caribbean as he was on rank turners of the Indian sub-continent.

A distinguished member of India’s maiden World Cup winning squad of 1983, Gavaskar once held the record for scoring the most centuries in Tests. The Mumbaikar, who scored more than 10,000 runs in red-ball cricket, brought curtains to his career with 45 half-centuries and 34 centuries against his name.

There is no better way to celebrate the 74th birthday of this cricketing colossus than relive some his best knocks and records, some of which have stood the test of time.

In March 1987, Gavaskar became the first cricketer to reach 10,000 Test runs, a milestone that nobody dared imagine, far less aspired to, at the time. By the time the legend made his curtain call and strode into the cricketing sunset, the ‘Little Master’ had a staggering 10,122 runs against him.

The number is dizzying in cricketing parlance, even more so when one considers that they were made on some of most hostile of surfaces against the likes of Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Jeff Thompson and Denis Lillee, to name a few.

Sunny held onto to his record for the most number of Test hundreds for a fairly long time. Representing India in 125 Test matches, Gavaskar scored 34 centuries.
To many, the record seemed insurmountable till ‘Master Blaster’ Sachin Tendulkar dwarfed it in 2005.

The ‘Little Master’ smashed 13 centuries in 27 Tests he featured in against the West Indies. As history would bear witness, the Caribbeans were a formidable red-ball team in the 70s and 80s but where most batters seem to fail or come unstuck, Gavaskar triumphed and thrived on, crossing batting milestones against some of the world’s most feared quicks.

After a breakthrough debut series against the West Indies in 1971, Gavaskar failed to cross the three-figure mark in his next eight Tests against England.

But the opener put all the doubts at rest as he struck a splendid 101 in India’s first innings of the Test tour of England in 1974. He followed that up with a half-century in the second innings as well, but his heroics with the bat could not help India avoid defeat in the encounter.

Gavaskar was seldom unfazed or intimidated even by the West Indian pace pack of Holding, Marshall, Roberts and Garner He aggregated 774 runs in his debut series against the West Indies in 1971 and also had a double-century against his name.

He struck a century and a double century in the final Test. He made 220 in India’s total of 427 in the second innings in which only one other batsman registered a 50-plus score. The match ended in a draw, sealing India’s historic Test first series win in the Caribbean.

While his exploits with the willow is the stuff of legends, he was shrewd fielder and a leader too.

Not counting wicketkeepers, he was the first Indian fielder to have achieved a milestone of a century of catches in Test cricket.

For the record, he took an incredible 108 catches in his Test career.

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