Sunil Gavaskar was one of the greatest opening batsmen of all time, and certainly the most successful. He was an emblem of dependability, bravery and excellence in a time when there were too few of those around.
He was a legend for his prolific debut against the West Indies in 1971, his crawl to 36 not out of 174 balls in the 1975 World Cup, and his fourth innings century that helped India successfully chase down 403 at Port of Spain in 1976.
His game was built around a near-perfect technique and enormous powers of concentration. It is hard to visualize a more beautiful defence: virtually unbreachable, it made his wicket among the hardest to earn. He played with equal felicity off both front and back feet, had excellent judgement of length and line, and was beautifully balanced. He had virtually every stroke in the book but traded flair for the solidity his side needed more. His record for the highest number of Test hundreds was overtaken by Sachin Tendulkar, but statistics alone don’t reveal Gavaskar’s true value to India. He earned respect for Indian cricket and he taught his team-mates the virtue of professionalism. The self-actualisation of Indian cricket began under him. Since retiring, Gavaskar has served as a television commentator, analyst and columnist, as well as taken on various responsibilities with the BCCI, and served as chairman of the ICC cricket committee. He stepped down – after some controversial comments – from the latter in order to continue as a media columnist and commentator.
Sunil Gavaskar was the first to get 10,000 Test runs and 30 centuries. India’s lynchpin of the 70s and 80s, and arguably their first great batsman, he was known for his immaculate defence but was equally at ease hooking and pulling the most fearsome bowlers of all time.