When Sunil Gavaskar upstaged Don Bradman

Published Dec 28, 2013, 9:51 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:15 am IST
Chennai:  Records are set only to be broken. Three decades ago on this very date a feat which many only dreamt of during those days — surpassing the record of 29 Test centuries held by Sir Donald Bradman — was accomplished by a then Indian ‘No.4’ batsman Sunil Gavaskar against the West Indies at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai.
Surprised to read the tag ‘No.4’ associated with Gavaskar? The Chennai innings happens to be the only occasion when the diminutive opening batsman from Mumbai walked out to bat at this position. He remained unconquered on 236 at the end of the last day of the Test. 
Gavaskar slammed his record breaking 30th hundred on the fourth day of the sixth Test of the series. It took about 22 years for another No. 4 batsman — Sachin Tendulkar  — to dethrone Gavaskar. 
Former Indian cricketer Anshuman Gaekwad, who had been the opening partner for Gavaskar in the previous five Tests of the series, said it was the man himself who decided to come down the order. It paved the way for Navjot Singh Sidhu to open the innings with Gaekwad.
“Maybe he wanted to go down the order for a change after failing in the previous two Tests at Mumbai and Kolkata against the pace battery of the Windies,” he said.
What made the century so special to the ‘little master’ other than the amazing record?  “There was a lot of criticism that he was not coping with the pace and bounce of the West Indian pacers. He fell to Marshall and Holding in most of the Tests we had played before. Gavaskar wanted to prove a point. 
“He started hooking the pacers. I would say he hooked his way to a hundred. It was an exceptional display of horizontal bat shot-making. He proved his critics wrong,” said Gaekwad.  
“We all wished him after his achievement and he was always a man who kept things to himself. Gavaskar was happy and there was nothing more than that,” he added.
It was from this day that the record for the most number of Test centuries has been with an Indian. Gaekwad, 61, has seen both those achievers — Gavasakar and Tendulkar — at close quarters.
“It’s difficult to compare the two because they were from different eras. During the time of Gavaskar there were no helmets and equipment weren’t that good those days as they are now,” he said.
“I would say Sunil was technically sounder than Sachin. However, Sachin was a lethal combination of caution and aggression. He was taking on the bowlers head on. It was that approach from Sachin that had made him miss many hundreds. Gavaskar hardly missed an opportunity to score a hundred,” he added. 
After the departure of Tendulkar, Virat Kohli has shown promise that he can fill in the big shoes of the little man at No. 4. His superlative hundred against South Africa in the first Test of the ongoing series is proof of his undoubted talent. 
Gaekwad said Kohli is a “great talent”. “Every cricketer goes through a golden period in his career. And Kohli, who is a star in the making, is enjoying that phase now. The question is how long he can deliver,” he added.