Sunil Gavaskar Turns 75: Remembering the ‘Little Master’s’ Most Memorable Innings

Sunil Gavaskar, the legendary former Indian captain and one of the greatest opening batters of all time, turned 75 on Wednesday. Affectionately known as ‘Sunny G,’ Gavaskar was a force to be reckoned with on the cricket pitch, dominating fast bowlers with his impenetrable defense and near-perfect technique. He etched his name in cricketing history, representing India in 125 Test matches and 108 ODIs.

In the longer format, Gavaskar amassed a staggering 10,122 runs, with a highest score of 236 not out. He achieved a remarkable 34 centuries and 45 half-centuries in Tests, leaving an undeniable mark on the game. His brilliance extended to the shorter format as well, where he scored 3,092 runs with an unbeaten 103 as his highest.

Born in Mumbai, Gavaskar’s cricketing journey spanned 348 First-Class matches, where he accumulated 25,834 runs, including 81 centuries, 105 half-centuries, and a triple-century. His consistent performances and unwavering determination established him as a true icon of the sport.

A Look Back at Some of Gavaskar’s Most Memorable Innings:

1. The 236-run Masterclass in Chennai:

In the sixth and final Test match of the West Indies’ tour of India in Chennai, Gavaskar achieved his highest Test score of 236 – the highest by an Indian batter at the time – in a marathon innings that spanned 425 balls and 644 minutes. Coming in to bat at number four after India lost two wickets without a run on the board, Gavaskar’s resilience and determination were on full display as he achieved this feat on the last day of the match. Though India drew the match, they lost the series 3-0.

2. The Debut Series Hero in Port of Spain:

In the final match of India’s tour of West Indies, India needed only a draw to secure a historic series win against the hosts. It was Gavaskar, playing his debut Test series, who ensured this victory. He scored a record 220 runs in the second innings in Port of Spain, battling through the formidable West Indian attack for an incredible 529 minutes. This remarkable knock led India to a 1-0 series win. It is noteworthy that Gavaskar had also scored 124 in the first innings of the same Test match.

3. The Stalwart in the First Innings:

In the same Test in Port of Spain, Gavaskar once again displayed his class, scoring 124 runs in the first innings, which included just 11 boundaries. His contribution was crucial in setting up a challenging target for the West Indies, with India scoring 360 in the first innings.

4. The Uncharacteristic Century in the World Cup:

During the 1987 World Cup match against New Zealand, Gavaskar scored his maiden ODI century in what was a rather uncharacteristic knock from the ‘Little Master.’ He smashed an attacking hundred off just 88 balls, which included 10 fours and three sixes, guiding India towards a 222-run chase in Kanpur. His unbeaten century helped India advance to the semi-finals of the tournament.

5. The Marathon Knock at the Oval:

Gavaskar’s 221-run knock against England at the Oval, in what was considered one of his finest performances, involved a valiant effort in a record 438-run chase. While India fell short by just nine runs, he achieved a draw. His marathon innings lasted 490 minutes and featured 21 fours. He established a 213-run partnership with Chetan Chauhan (80) for the first wicket, followed by a 153-run stand with Dilip Vengsarkar (52) for the second.

6. Chasing Down the Target in Port of Spain:

Gavaskar’s knack for scoring big against the West Indies continued in Port of Spain, where he played a pivotal role in helping India chase down a target of 403 runs with ease. On a pitch that was becoming slow and difficult to score on, the legendary opener set the tone for the chase with a crucial 102-run innings. Gundappa Viswanath later finished the chase with an unbeaten hundred.

7. Standing Tall in Bengaluru:

On a challenging minefield pitch in Bengaluru where the other Indian batters struggled, Gavaskar stood tall in India’s 221-run chase against Pakistan, scoring an impressive 96 runs. Though India ultimately fell short by 16 runs, Gavaskar’s determined 320-minute stay at the crease, facing 264 balls and showcasing his defensive technique, kept the hopes alive.

8. The First Test Century Against Australia:

In yet another big chase for India, this time against Australia, Gavaskar once again proved his mettle. He scored his first Test century against Australia in Brisbane, carrying the chase for nearly 320 minutes. Despite his valiant effort, a lack of support from the other end kept India away from the finish line by 17 runs.

9. The Emperor Among the Ruins:

Gavaskar achieved a milestone by scoring an unbeaten 127 against Pakistan, becoming the first Indian to carry the bat in Tests. The rest of the Indian batting line-up crumbled against the likes of Imran Khan. His battle against Pakistan’s great bowler is one to remember, as Gavaskar survived the pace and accuracy of Imran. His knock in Faisalabad was aptly described as ’emperor among the ruins’ by R. Mohan.

10. The Fastest Test Century:

In Delhi against the formidable West Indian attack, Gavaskar reached his century off just 94 balls, recording the then fifth fastest Test hundred. His counter-attacking knock also brought him to his 29th Test century, a feat achieved only by Donald Bradman before him.

Sunil Gavaskar’s career is a testament to his exceptional skill, resilience, and the remarkable impact he had on the game of cricket. He will forever be remembered as one of the greatest opening batsmen of all time, inspiring generations of cricketers with his elegance, grace, and sheer determination.

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