Sunil Manohar Gavaskar (Marathi:सुनिल मनोहर गावसकर) (born 10 July 1949 in Bombay, Maharashtra), nicknamed Sunny, is a former Indian cricketer. Widely regarded as one of the greatest batsmen in Test match history, Gavaskar held world records for the greatest number of runs and most centuries scored by any batsman in Test cricket. The record of 34 Test centuries stood for almost two decades, before it was broken by Sachin Tendulkar. Gavaskar was the first player to score 10,000 runs in Test cricket. He was widely admired for his technique against fast bowling, with a particularly high average of 65.45 against the West Indies, who had one of the most vicious pace attacks in the history of the game. His tenure as captain of India, however, was less eventful. The team at one stage went 31 Test matches without a victory. There were incidents such as crowd displeasure at Eden Gardens in Calcutta in response to the poor performance of the Indian team, which led the disruption of several matches. Turbulent performances of the team lead to multiple exchanges of captaincy between Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, who was captain when India won the 1983 Cricket World Cup. However, Gavaskar captained the team to victory in the World Championship tournament held in Australia.
Gavaskar’s arrival in England in 1971 for a three Test series generated substantial publicity in light of his show in the West Indies. He was unable to repeat his earlier performance, making only two half centuries. Gavaskar’s aggregrate of 144 runs at the low average of 24, led some to question Gavaskar’s worthiness in international cricket.
In 1972-73, England toured India for a five match Test series. In his first series on home soil, Gavaskar was ineffective in the first three Tests, accumulating only sixty runs in five innings as India took a 2-1 lead. He scored some runs in the final two (drawn) Tests as India completed consecutive series wins over England. His first home series was largely disappointing, aggregating 224 runs at 24.89. His English critics were placated when India returned in 1974 and Gavaskar scored 101 and 58 in the first Test at Old Trafford. He managed 227 runs at 37.83 as India were whitewashed 3-0.
Gavaskar’s 1974-75 Indian series was interrupted, playing in only the first and fifth Tests of the series against the West Indies. He scored 108 runs at an average of 27, with an 86 at Mumbai the closest the Indian public got to seeing a century.
The 1975-76 India toured New Zealand and the West Indies. In January 1976 Gavaskar led India in a Test for the first time; against New Zealand during the first Test in Auckland when regular captain Bishen Bedi sustained a leg injury. Standing in despite having scored only 703 runs at 28.12 since his debut series, Gavaskar rewarded the selectors with scores of 116 and 35*. As a result, India secured an eight wicket victory. He ended the series with 266 runs at a respectable average of 66.33. On the West Indian leg of the tour, Gavaskar scored consecutive centuries of 156 and 102 in the second and third Tests, both in Port of Spain, Trinidad. These were his third and fourth centuries at these grounds. In the third Test, his 102 helped India chase a mammoth target of 406 to win a game. The Indians’ mastery of the Caribbean spinners on a turning track reportedly led West Indian captain Clive Lloyd to vow that he would rely on pace alone in future Tests. Gavaskar totalled 390 runs at 55.71 for the series.
Gavaskar was not to score a century on home soil until November 1976. Gavaskar scored a century each gainst New Zealand and England. The first was 119 in front of his home crowd at the Wankhede Stadium in Bombay, helping India to a victory. Gavaskar scored another half century in the second Test to end the series with 259 at 43.16. In the first Test against England at Delhi, he was mobbed upon becoming the first India to reach 1000 Test runs in a calendar year. A steady series saw him finish with 394 runs at 39.4 with a century coming in fifth Test at Mumbai and two half centuries.
In 1977-78 he toured Australia, scoring three consecutive Test centuries (113, 127, 118) in the second innings of the three Tests at Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne respectively. India won the third but had lost the earlier two. He finished the Five Test series with 450 runs at 50, failing twice as India lost the final Test and the series 3-2.
1978-79 saw India tour Pakistan for the first series between the arch rivals for 17 years. For the first time Gavaskar faced Pakistani captain and pace spearhead Imran Khan, who described him as "The most compact batsman I’ve bowled to." Gavaskar scored 89 in the first Test and 97 in the second. Gavaskar saved his best for the third Test in Karachi, scoring 111 and 137 in the fhird, but was unable to prevent a defeat and thus a series loss. His twin centuries made him the first Indian to score two centuries in one Test on two different occasions, and saw him go past Umrigar as India’s leading Test runscorer. Gavaskar finished the series with 447 runs at 89.40.
Gavaskar was captain of the Indian team on several occasions in the late 1970s and early 1980s, although his record is less impressive. Often equipped with unpenetrative bowling attacks he tended to use conservative tactics which resulted in a large number of draws. During his tenure Kapil Dev emerged as a leading pace bowler for the country. He captained India to nine victories and eight losses, but most of the games were drawn, 30.
His first series as captain was against the West Indies who visited India for a six Test series. His 205 in the first Test in Bombay made him the first Indian to score a double century in India against the Caribbeans. He added a further 73 in the second innings of a high scoring draw. After failing to score in the second Test, he scored 107 and 182 not out in the third Test at Calcutta, another high scoring draw. This made him the first player in Test history to score centuries in both innings of a Test three times. He managed only 4 and 1 in the fourth Test in Madras as India forced the only win of the series. He posted a fourth century for the series, scoring 120 in the fifth Test at Delhi, becoming the first Indian to pass 4000 Test runs. He aggregated 732 runs at 91.50 for the series, securing India a 1-0 win in his first series as captain.
Despite this, he was stripped of the captaincy when India toured England in 1979 for a four Test series. The official reason given was that Srinivas Venkataraghavan was preferred due to his superior experience on English soil, but most observers believed that Gavaskar was punished because he was believed to be considering defecting to World Series Cricket. He started consistently, scoring four half centuries in five innings of the first three Tests. It was in the fourth Test at The Oval that he produced his finest innings on English soil. India were 1-0 down and needed to reach a world record target of 438 to square the series. They reached 76/0 at stumps on the fourth day. Led by Gavaskar, India made steady progress to be 328/1 with 20 overs remaining on the final day with a record breaking victory still possible. An Ian Botham lead fightback saw Gavaskar removed, with India still needing 49 runs from 46 balls. With three balls left in the match, all four results were possible. India ended nine runs short with two wickets in hand when stumps were drawn. According to Sanjay Manjrekar, it was “Vintage Gavaskar, playing swing bowling to perfection, taking his time initially and then opening up. Nothing in the air, everything copybook.” He ended the series with 542 runs at 77.42 and was named as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year.
Gavaskar was restored to the captaincy for the gruelling 1979-80 season, for the home series against Australia and Pakistan. The first two Tests against Australia were high scoring draws where only 45 wickets fell, with India taking a first innings lead in both after making scores over 400. India broke through for a 153 run win in the third Test at Kanpur, where Gavaskar scored 76. He made 115 in the fourth Test in Delhi, where India despite a first innings lead of 212 were unable to secure a victory. After another stalemate in the fifth Test, Gavaskar scored 123 in the Sixth Test in Bombay, where Australia collapsed by an innings after India posted their fourth first innings total in excess of 400 for the series. The series against Pakistan was similarly high scoring, with four draws, three of which did not reach the fourth innings. India won the third and fifth Tests in Bombay and Madras. At Madras, he made 166 in the first innings and was unbeaten on 29 when India brought up the winning runs. Having secured the series 2-0, Gavaskar was rested for the drawn Sixth Test. This occurred because Gavaskar had refused to tour the West Indies for another series immediately afterwards, asking for a rest. As a result, Gundappa Viswanath was appointed so that he could prepare his leadership skills for the tour. In the end the tour did not go ahead as the West Indian board were not interested in a team without Gavaskar. The season ended with a one off Test against England in Mumbai, which India lost. In the 13 Tests that season, he made 1027 runs at 51.35 with three centuries and four half centuries. This ended a 14 month period in which Gavaskar played in 22 Tests and the 1979 Cricket World Cup. In the time, he scored 2301 Test runs including eight centuries.
The 1980-81 season saw Gavaskar returned as captain for the Australasian tour, but it was to be the start of an unhappy reign for Gavaskar and India. He managed only 118 runs at 19.66 in the three Tests against Australia, but his impact in Australia was a controversial incident. At the Melbourne Cricket Ground, when Gavaskar was given out by the Australian umpire Rex Whitehead, he ordered his fellow opener Chetan Chauhan off the field. Instead of abandoning the match, the Indian manager, SK Durani persuaded Chauhan to return to the match which India went on to win by 59 runs as Australia collapsed to 83 in their second innings. India drew the series 1-1 but the following three Test series in New Zealand were to signal the start of a barren run of 19 Tests under Gavaskar of which India were to win only one and lose five. India lost to New Zealand 1-0, with Gavaskar managing 126 runs at 25.2. He finished the Oceania tour with 244 runs at 22.18, with only two half centuries, making little impact.
The 1981-82 Indian season saw a hard-fought 1-0 series win over England in six Tests. India took the first Test in Mumbai, before five consecutive draws resulted, four of which did not even reach the fourth innings. Gavaskar made 172 in the second Test at Bangalore and reached a half century on three further occasions to compile 500 runs at 62.5. India reciprocated England’s visit in 1982 for a three Test series, which was lost 1-0. Gavaskar made 74 runs at 24.66 but was unable to bat in the rhird Test.
The 1982-83 subcontinental season started well for Gavaskar on an individual note, as he made 155 in a one off Test against Sri Lanka in Madras. It was the first Test between the two nations, with Sri Lankan having only recently been awarded Test status. Despite this, India were unable to finish off their novice opponents, the draw heralding a start of a winless summer. India played in twelve Tests, losing five and drawing seven. The first series was a six Test tour to Pakistan. India started well enough, drawing the first Test in Lahore, with Gavaskar scoring 83. Pakistan then defeated India in three consecutive matches. In the fhird Test in Faisalabad, Gavaskar managed an unbeaten 127 in the second innings to force Pakistan into a run chase, but the other two losses were substantial, both by an innings. Despite holding on for draws in the last two Tests, Gavaskar was replaced by Kapil Dev as captain after the 3-0 loss. Despite his team’s difficulties, Gavaskar remained productive with 434 runs at 47.18 with a century and three half centuries. Gavaskar went on to the West Indies for a five Test tour purely as a batsman, but could not reproduce the form that he had shown in the Caribbean in 1971 and 1976. He managed only 240 runs at 30, as India were crushed 2–0 by the world champions. Apart from an unbeaten 147 in the drawn fhird Test in Georgetown, Guyana, his next best effort was 32.
The 1983–84 season started with a home series against Pakistan, with all three matches being drawn. Gavaskar scored an unbeaten 103 in the first Test in Bangalore, and made two further half centuries to total 264 runs at 66. This was followed by a six Test series against the touring West Indies at the height of their powers. The first Test was held in Kanpur and India were crushed by an innings. Gavaskar had his bat knocked out of his hand by a hostile delivery from Malcolm Marshall before being dismissed. In the second Test in Delhi, Gavaskar delivered his riposte to Marshall, hooking him for a consecutive four and six to start his innings. Gavaskar, unwilling to be dictated to by the Caribbean pacemen, hooked the short pitched barrage relentlessly, reaching his half century in 37 balls. He then went on to score 121, his 29th Test century in 94 balls, equalling Don Bradman’s world record. He also passed 8000 Test runs in the innings, and was personally honoured by Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India at the ground. The match was drawn. Gavaskar’s 90 in the third Test at Ahmedabad saw him pass Geoff Boycott’s Test world record of 8114 career runs was insufficient to prevent another defeat. During the fifth Test in the series, India were defeated by an innings at Calcutta to concede a 3-0 series lead. India had won only one of their 32 most recent Tests and none of their last 28. The Bengali crowd singled out the Marathi Gavaskar, who had made a golden duck and 20. Angry spectators pelted objects onto the playing arena and clashed with police, before stoning the team bus. In the Sixth Test in Madras, he compiled his 30th Test century, with an unbeaten 236 which was the highest Test score by an Indian. It was his 13th Test century and third double century against the West Indies. He had aggregated 505 at 50.50 for the series.
With India having failed to win for 29 successive Tests, Kapil was sacked as captain and Gavaskar resumed leadership at the start of the 1984-85 season. The two Test tour of Pakistan resulted in two further draws, with Gavaskar compiling 120 runs at 40. The first Test against England in Bombay saw India breakthrough for its first Test victory in 32 matches. It proved to be a false dawn, with England squaring the series 1-0 in Delhi before another controversial third Test at Eden Gardens in Calcutta. The hostile crowd watched as India batted for over two days to reach 7/437 after 203 overs. Angry with the slow pace of India’s innings, the crowd chanted "Gavaskar down! Gavaskar out!" blaming him for India's performance. The local police chief reportedly asked Gavaskar to declare to placate the angry crowd. When Gavaskar led his team onto the field, he was pelted with fruit. Gavaskar vowed never to play at Eden Gardens again, and duly withdrew from the team for India’s next fixture at the Bengali capital two years later, ending his record of 106 consecutive Tests. The match was drawn, but India conceded the series after losing the fourth. The series ended 1-2, and with a poor display of 140 runs at 17.5, Gavaskar resigned, although he had already announced his into to relinquish the leadership before the series. The change of captain improved the form of neither Gavaskar nor India as they toured Sri Lanka for a three Test series. India were embarrassed 1-0 by the Test minnows, with Gavaskar managing only 186 runs at 37.2.
Gavaskar was also a fine slip fielder and his safe catching in the slips helped him become the first Indian (excluding wicket-keepers) to take over a hundred catches in Test matches. In one ODI against Pakistan in Sharjah in 1985, he took four catches and helped India defend a small total of 125. Early in his Test career, when India rarely used pace bowlers, Gavaskar also opened the bowling for a short spell on occasions if only one pace bowler was playing, before a three-pronged spin attack took over. The only wicket claimed by him is that of Pakistani Zaheer Abbas in 1978-79. While Gavaskar could not be described as an attacking batsman, he had the remarkable ability of keeping the scoreboard ticking with unique shots such as the "late flick". His focus of technical correctness over flair meant that his style of play was usually less suited to the shorter form of the game, at which he had less success. He infamously scored an ignominious 36 not out carrying his bat through the full 60 overs against England in the 1975 World Cup, leading Indian supporters to storm the field and confront him. Gavaskar almost went through his career without scoring a one-day century. He finally managed his first (and only ODI century) in the 1987 World Cup, when he hit a blistering 103 not out against New Zealand in his penultimate ODI innings at Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground, Nagpur.
Gavaskar has also been awarded the Padma Bhushan. In December 1994 he was appointed the Sheriff of Mumbai, an honorary for a year. After retirement, he has been a popular, sometimes controversial commentator, both on TV and in print. He has written four books on cricket – Sunny Days (autobiography), Idols, Runs n' Ruins and One Day Wonders. He also served as an advisor to the Indian cricket team during the home series against Australia in 2004 and currently serves as the Chairman of the ICC cricket committee.
The Border-Gavaskar Trophy has been instituted in his (co-)honour.
Recently, he has been involved in a string of controversies as an ICC official. He has been criticized for supporting changes in cricket rules that tend to favour batsmen. In addition, his role as the chief selector for ICC World XI also came under criticism due to some controversial selections, which resulted in one sided matches against the ICC World Champion, Australia.
On 25 March 2008, Malcolm Speed, ICC chief executive, told "very clearly" to Gavaskar, during the meeting between the two at Dubai, that he would have to quit his post of the chairman committee of the ICC if he does not give up his job of commentator and newspaper columnist.
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