@ Rakesh Agarwal
Birth of a Maestro: Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, the original “Little Master” aka “Sunny” was born on July 10, 1949 in a Marathi family in Mumbai. Years later Gavaskar described an interesting anecdote related to his birth in his autobiography “Sunny Days (1976)”. He wrote, “Providence had helped me to retain my new identity, and in the process charted the course of my life. I have often wondered what would have happened if nature had not ‘marked’ me out, and given me my ‘guard’ by giving me that small hole on my left ear lobe; and if Nan-kaka had not noticed this abnormality. Perhaps, I would have grown up to be an obscure fisherman, toiling somewhere along the west coast.” The baby Gavaskar was accidently swapped with a fisherwoman boy by the nurse of the hospital, which his maternal-uncle (mama) Madhav Mantri, a retired Indian cricketer had spotted that the boy has no birth mark. The subsequent frantic search could trace him.
Records Galore: His birth date 10 represents number 1 in numerology, which fits appropriately to him. His playing position as an opening batsman is a testimony to it. First debutant to score a still unbroken record 774 Test runs in eight innings at an average of 154.80. Only cricketer to score 4 consecutive centuries at 2 venues – Port of Spain & Wankhede stadium. Only cricketer with Test century partnerships with 18 different players. Joint holder of the record for scoring centuries in both innings of a Test match on 3 occasions along with Ricky Ponting and David Warner. First to carry his bat (36*) in the inaugural World Cup match at Lord’s against England in 1975 and first to carry his bat in Test cricket (127*) in the Faisalabad Test in 1983. The English newspapers carried the headlines “Snail Gavaskar scores 36 in 60 overs” on his slow batting. Gavaskar was first to complete 10000 Test runs & to surpass Don Bradman 29-Test century record (34) in history. First player other than a wicket-keeper to take over 100 catches in Tests. Incidentally in his long career he grabbed only 1 wicket in Tests (Zaheer Abbas 1978-79 series) and scored maiden century in his last 108th ODI match in the 1987 World Cup match against New Zealand. When the rest of the world cowered under the barrage of bouncers and intimidating pace bowling unleashed by the marauding, rampaging West Indies side in the late ’70s to early ’90s, he stood firm amidst the ruins. 13 of his 34 hundreds were against the mighty West Indians (still a record) and another 8 were belted against the Australians. He was the first to play 100 consecutive Tests. Gavaskar played 125 Tests, 108 ODIs, 348 First-class and 151 List-A matches in his entire career scoring 43642 total runs with 121 centuries and 214 half centuries. His highest Test score of 236 not out was against West Indies in the 6th Test at Chennai in 1983. Starting cricketing career in 1966, he played his last First-class match at Lord’s in 1987 (Rest of the World XI v M.C.C.). It was the only occasion when he scored a century (188) at the ‘Mecca of Cricket’ for Rest of the World XI, which eluded him throughout his illustrious career. Gavaskar captained the Indian team in 47 Tests and 38 ODIs. The Somerset English County recruited him in 1980, where he played 15 First-class and 16 One-Day matches.
Beyond Cricket: The first Indian cricketer to raise voice for players’ remuneration and their welfare is believed to be anti-racism and against cultural imperialism. Gavaskar refused the coveted Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) membership in 1993 because a rude steward at Lord’s had once turned him away from the Grace Gates not realizing that he was playing there. He is the first and only Indian till now to deliver the MCC “Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture” at Lord’s in 2003. The MCC however named a box in the Tavern Stand after him a decade later. Sunil Gavaskar is a wonderful mimic and his on-field and off-field mimicry videos may be enjoyed on YouTube. He also played the lead role in the Marathi movie “Savli Premachi” (1980) and a guest role in Hindi movie “Maalamaal” (1988) with Naseeruddin Shah and Satish Shah. Gavaskar has sung a Marathi song “Ya Duniyemadhye Thambayaala Vel Konala” depicting the similarities between a cricket match and real life. Married to Marshneill, he is blessed with a cricketer son Rohan Jaivishwa Gavaskar named after three most favourite cricketers of him- Rohan Kanhai, M L Jaisimha and Gundappa Vishwanath. He has authored three books on cricket- Idols (1983), Runs ‘n’ Ruins (1984) & One Day wonders (1986). The Little Master with a height of 5’4’’ was ‘Wisden Cricketer of the Year’ 1980 & was awarded the Padma Bhushan in the same year. He was inducted into the ICC “Cricket Hall of Fame” in 2009. The BCCI in 2012 awarded him the ‘Col CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award’. Currently a commentator and columnist, who debuted in international cricket on 6 March 1971 at Port of Spain against West Indies was honoured by the BCCI at the Narendra Modi Cricket Stadium, Ahmedabad before start of the 4th and final Test match between India and England for completing 50 glorious years in cricket.