Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Myth of Sunil Gavaskar and the West Indies Quicks

Sunny Gavaskar is, without doubt, one of the greatest batsmen of all-time. Gavaskar is a true legend of the game. His technique was near faultless, and when combined with limitless patience, you had the mould for the perfect opening batsman. Gavaskar’s test career saw a total of 10122 runs at an average of 51.12, with an astounding 34 test centuries.

Gavaskar retired from test cricket in 1987, and therefore his era would appear to almost completely coincide with the great Windies bowling lineups of the late 70s and 80s. In 27 tests against the West Indies, Gavaskar scored an almost unbelievable 2749 runs at an average of 65.45, with an astonishing 13 centuries. These statistics are often used by fans and supporters to underline his claims as the greatest opening batsman of all-time. However, one of the great myths that has grown up about Gavaskar is his amazing dominance of the otherwise unconquered West Indian four pronged pace battery that these statistics would suggest. If you break down the actual series that he played, Gavaskar’s record doesn’t quite look as impressive as a first glance would indicate.

Gavaskar made his debut for India against the West Indies on the 6th of March, 1971 at Port of Spain. He played four tests, and finished the series with an impressive total of 774 runs at the astronomical average of 154.80 with four centuries. During this series, the West Indies were in a state of change. The leading pacemen of the 60s including Hall, Griffith and Gilchrist had all played their final test. The Windies bowling attack was dominated by spin, with Lance Gibbs well on his way to passing Fred Trueman as the leading test wicket-taker. The fast bowlers that Gavaskar faced during this series were Keith Boyce, Grayson Shillingford, Vanburn Holder and Uton Dowe (he of the 11th Commandment – Dowe shall not bowl). The other medium paced bowlers used included Gary Sobers and John Shepard. With all due respect to the bowlers of the time, it was hardly an attack to cause significant concerns to a player of Gavaskar’s obvious skill.

Gavaskar only played two tests of the 1974/75 home series against the West Indies. He struggled, scoring 108 runs at an average of just 27. The quick bowlers he faced in this series included a young Andy Roberts, and the medium paced Holder, Boyce and left armer Bernard Julien. Gavaskar’s next series against the West Indies was again away from home in 1975/76. Gavaskar again batted beautifully, scoring 390 runs at 55.71, with another two centuries. By this time, the Windies fast bowling battery was just starting to take form. The first two Tests saw Gavaskar opening the batting against genuine quicks Michael Holding and Andy Roberts. In support was swing bowler Julien, and spinners Holford and Jumadeen. After disappointing initially with 37 and 1 in the First Test, Gavaskar did score a wonderful 156 in the second. The Third and Fourth Tests saw no Andy Roberts, with Michael Holding in his second series as a Windies player supported by Wayne Daniel, Holder, Julien, Jumadeen, Albert Padmore and Imtiaz Ali. There was not yet any sign of the four pronged pace attack that would soon dominate the cricket world.

The West Indies then toured India in 1978/79. This tour was in the middle of the Packer years, and the West Indies bowling attack was decimated. Rather than facing Holding, Roberts, Garner and Croft, Gavaskar opened the batting in the First Test against the legendary Norbert Phillip, his old nemesis Vanburn Holder, and Sylvester Clarke. The Windies attack again had reverted to spin, with Derek Parry and Jumadeen both playing. Gavaskar again gorged himself, scoring 732 runs at 91.50, with another 4 centuries. A very young Malcolm Marshall made his debut during this very high scoring six test series that India won 1-0, with five draws.

Gavaskar’s second last series against the Windies was away in 1982/83. He scored 240 runs at an average of 30, with one century. Against the full might of the Windies four quicks (Holding, Roberts, Garner and Marshall), he scored 20 and 0 in the First Test, 1 and 32 in the Second, a very good 147 not out in the Third (which was badly affected by weather and India didn’t even finish their first innings), 2 and 19 in the Fourth, and 18 and 1 in the Fifth. This was the first time Gavaskar had played against all of the Windies quicks, and he clearly struggled.

In 1983/84, Gavaskar played the Windies for the last time. This series was at home, and the bowling attack was weakened by the absence of Garner. In the first test, the Windies fielding four quicks, but whilst Holding and Marshall were genuinely fast, neither Eldine Baptiste or Winston Davis really threatened. Gavaskar started poorly with 0 and 7 in the First Test, before finding some form with 121 and 15 in the Second, and 90 and 1 in the Third. 12, 3, 0 and 20 were his scores in the next two tests, before Gavaskar played one of his great knocks. In the final test, he dropped himself down the order to no. 4, with Gaekwad and Sidhu opening. The fact that Malcolm Marshall took two wickets without a run being scored meant that Gavaskar may as well have opened anyway. Gavaskar proceeded to totally dominate the Windies attack and scored a wonderful 236 not out. This was a fantastic innings, and underlined why Gavaskar is a great. There is a wonderful account of this innings at that is highly recommended reading. Unfortunately, his previous failures in the series were effectively covered up by this large unbeaten double century.

When you examine the record of Gavaskar against the West Indies, it is clear that only the final three centuries were actually scored against an attack that resembled the fearsome Windies pace barrage that we remember. A large percentage of his runs were accumulated in two series against very much weakened bowling attacks. As a consequence of factors outside of his control, Gavaskar didn’t play against the Windies full strength team between 1975/76 and 1982/83. This analysis is not to decry Gavaskar – he is a legend of the game and deserves ultimate respect for what he has achieved. He could, after all, not control who he played against. A very strong argument can be made that Gavaskar should be considered of the best few opening batsmen in the history of the game. However, the claims made by some supporters that he is the greatest opener of all-time based solely on his record against the Windies is one that simply does not hold up to closer scrutiny.


Anonymous said...


The statistics as usual dont reveal the true picture.

Granted, in the light of cold facts, Sunil Gavaskar's achievements pale.

I also agree, that the much vaunted. West Indies pace attack was just congealing into shape.

So it does look like Gavaskar was a paper tiger.

However, to me, when Gavaskar, trotted, the man had short legs, into open, I was at peace in the knowledge, there will be some semblance of a batting line-up.

Stuart, I ask this to stimulate a conversation,are there any other batsmen, in the same era, who withstood the WI and scored as freely?

Tony said...

The stats support one of the undeniable facts of cricket: no batsman, no matter how good, finds it easy batting against high quality speed merchants.

AB NB: That comment was dedicated to Alan Border.

Jrod said...

Perhaps you should do a blog on the history of how many great cricketers become ass clowns upon retirement.

Stuart said...

Hi Ottayan,

As I said in the piece, I wasn't having a shot at Gavaskar, and certainly didn't mean to imply he was a 'paper tiger'. He could only bat against whatever the opposition put on the park.

An interesting comparison could be made to Greg Chappell. He is remembered as a great player (lousy coach notwithstanding :) ), but also for his dismal series against the Windies in 1981/82 when he couldn't score a run. This has led to a perception he was weak against quick bowling.

Interestingly, Gavaskar and Chappell's careers almost perfectly overlapped. Chappell debuted at around the same time as Gavaskar (1970), and retired just before him in 1984. In 17 tests against the Windies, he scored 1400 runs at an average of 56 (even taking into account his 1981/82 scores).

Where Chappell becomes even more interesting is in the Packer 'SuperTests'. These were against the full Windies pace attack (Roberts, Holding, Garner and Croft) and he scored 1415 runs at 56.6 in 14 'Supertests'. While these figures aren't officially recognised in the statistics, they do show he did very well (when most of his team-mates weren't).

I am not trying to argue that Chappell is better than Gavasker, merely pointing out one comparison for you.

Soulberry said...

Nice piece and exposes an aspect overlooked while perusing stats.

I am not sure if only those 13 centuries are used to underline his greatness...they are of course but also must be read with almost all the worthies he scored against form all countries. There were then, all over the cricketing world, one of the best constellation of bowlers cricket has seen at one time.

Stuart, not having seen the matches in West Indies before live telecast began here and having only play in India to go by plus the written word, I have taken a chance and have tried to contact Mr.Gavaskar through e-mail. Let me see if this shot in the dark works. Also, over the weekend I'll try and contact two former Delhi and India players who played alongside him in that period just to get an idea of what the bowling was like. One of them is my son's coach so he should be accessible.

Stuart said...

Once again - please don't take my piece as an attack on Gavaskar. He was a great opener and deserves his place as a legend. It was only looking at the myth that he dominated the four pronged pace attack that so demoralized the rest of the world.

It will be interesting to see what responses you get.

Viswanathan said...


Thanks, for the info on Chappell.
BTW, I am not a Gavaskar fan, and not much into statistics.

From, what you have said, other than these two, there is paucity of batsmen who have fared well against pace.

Just a thought, how about Gower? I think, he is a batsmen who played well against Croft, Garner and co.,

Unknown said...

interesting that this myth has so seldom been challenged. great analysis. so who were the best openers in your view?

Soulberry said...

Once again - please don't take my piece as an attack on Gavaskar.

Stuart, isn't taking it so. I just dropped by to report that the Deepavali commotion and on-going Indo-Pak series has drawn away the two gentlemen I wished to speak to. I see them in the tv strudios these days! Maybe next weekend when things might be quiter here in India. I just wanted to understand how the bowlers were.

And unlike many Indians, I am an unabashed admirer of Sunil Gavaskar the cricket player and am not ashamed to admit so. My stance was modelled after of the best and most comfortable stances seen in the game. (this is my view and I felt most comfortable with such a stance...of course there could be a zillion players with far better ones). I also felt he played some of the surest straight drives I've seen. (again my own blinkered? view)

Anonymous said...

Rubbish article. Period. West indies alone was not having fast bowlers. Thomson, Imran were also fast bowlers. One bad series again West Indies won't make him a bad batsman against pace. You are suggesting as if all the west indian bowlers have to be at top of their game against helmetless Sunny. Ridiculous.

Optimistix said...

As an Indian cricket buff and cricket statistics buff, I've long been aware of the fact that Sunny's stats against the WI were significantly boosted by those two series. It also helps that I started following cricket as a kid in 1983 :-)

Nice to see someone else talking about this. And as for the anonymous commentor rubbishing this article, (s)he'd also do well to check Sunny's record in Pakistan in 1982-83, when Imran was at his absolute peak. In the two away series that India played against the great quicks of the era that season, in Pak and WI, there was daylight between Mohinder and the rest of the batting order, Sunny included.

I'm a great admirer of Sunny, but a greater one of objectivity :-)

Roop said...

Please tell me how many of them have fared in 4 member pace attack apart from Gavaskar.

In the 1983 series against WI in India, in Kanpur Test Sunny was out on the first inninings and the second inninings on the same day to the pace attack, (0 and 7) the bat flying from his grip. But the second match in Delhi, Sunny took revenge, he trashed Marshall for fours and six that was the first time I saw Gavaskar hitting a ball to six. This was the answer to all pace bowlers of WI.

Regarding Rileen comment about the Tour of Pakistan and pace attack of Imrah Khan, I have watched all the matches of that tour. Did he? In these matches Gavaskar was not out for 3 inninings but were given out by the Pakistan umpires, (That is why 3rd country umpires are included after this one sided umpiring decision). Can I say if this kind of decision did not happen you might have seen (No read in paper) Gavaskar scoring best knocks in that tour also.

Optimistix said...

Roop, I didn't have access to a TV in 1982-83, so I haven't seen the Indo-Pak series - but I've read about it in several places. And the umpires were the same for Mohinder, right?

Anyway, like I said, I'm a big admirer of Sunny as well. The point being discussed here was that his two big series against the WI were against attacks far weaker than the fearsome quartets of Clive Lloyd. Nobody's saying he wasn't one of the finest openers ever, which in turn implies being one of the finest players of pace, though he was excellent against spin as well - the masterpiece on a raging turner in his final test innings, now that one I did see.

Mo said...


Nice piece and an attempt by atleast somebody to put things in perspective. Incidentally Gavaskar's record against Dennis Lilee is pretty ordinary as well.
However key is that most players rate him very highly and I think players opinions count more than anything else as they are the true experts. Guys like Gary Sobers, Imran Khan, a lot of West Indian, English, Australian and all Indian players rate him very highly.
As you have said correctly, in the end we have to hand it to Gavaskar for achieving what he did.

Mo said...

Stuart, you seem to stopped communicating on this interesting topic. Can someone come up with the list of new ball bowlers Sunny faced during each of those 34 hundreds?

HARI said...

Cool analysis. It would have been more insightful had you compared other batsmen in the same era and compared their achievements against fast bowling. Also Gavaskar's performance against Lilee, Thomson, Imran is missing.

Aimanzul said...

THAT IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN SAYING ALL ALONG. Even Michael Holding says that when the wicket did not suit him he was not that keen. Now I do consider him great, no doubt but even the 1982-83 tests had Holding and Andy roberts past their best. THAT IS A FACT.
Now how great was he. Very few batsman in history could have faced the windies in the 1970s and scored regular centuries on ANY wicket. So he was one of the best ever BUT lets keep things in perspective.

even Imran khan and Viv rate him as high as any.

Anonymous said...

Granted that Gavaskar has plundered some runs against some weak bowling, especially when many of the quicks went with Packer. However, he still had to play the likes of Thomson and the 2 Clarks (Syvester, Wayne?) - He has played all of them starting with Snow to Marshall. He has played them all all over the World. So he was the best opener during his time. An Englishman may tend to side with Boycott, but Boycott was no Gavaskar.

Then there was that innings of 96 he played on a dirt track against the Pakistani spinners. It was astonishing.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why this is titled "The myth of Sunil...". Why there has to be a myth? The numbers do tell their own story. No other batsman of his era can hold a candle to Sunny - just check out the combined averages against WI, Pak and Aus! Greg Chappell comes close, but he was not an opener and his numbers are certainly given a boost by the relatively high number of not-outs.

And if you say numbers do not tell their own story, then please let me know your story why "King" Richards averages below 45... We are all sure that does not take away his crown of being the King. In a similar manner, I'd argue that Gavaskar is simply the best opening batsman the world has seen, notwithstanding Stuart's superb analysis.

He may not have fought fire with fire, but it does not need to be that way always. Let me put it this way: if a quartet of Marshall, Holding, Lillee and Imran are bowling, and you have to choose one (post-Bradman) batsman to bat for your life. Whom would you choose?

Subhojit said...

Even since the Indian team’s tour of West indies in 1971, I have been a great fan of Sunil Gavaskar and not just a cricketer, I admired him the way he retired and moved on to become a cricket scribe and a commentrator. Recently I came across The Gavaskar Omnibus comprising of all his three books at along with a host of books on cricket. For those in to cricket I suggest visiting the site and checking out the titles which come at a great discount.

Nish said...

I think this is a rather catty article aimed at belittling the exploits of a great player although the author takes great pains to deny the obvious . For all those doubters , here's something to chew on - Not only did Gavaskar score runs against the Windies fast bowlers but against the likes of Imran and Safraz and pakistan umpires in 1978 when everyone else failed miserably , Against Thomson , Botham and willis and not to forget the great Hadlee and mind you opening the batting without a helmet to boot ! . May I ask the
writer to analyse the so called great players of today including Tendulkar , Ponting and Kallis who have feasted on minor county standard attacks of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh plus weakened attacks of New Zealand , England , WI for the major part of their careers - then you might come up with a proper perspective on how good or great a player Gavaskar was !

Raj Shenoy said...

Gavaskar's greatest contribution to cricket came not in the field, but outside of it. He was the person who made cricket India's de facto national sport, thus bringing in a billion souls into cricketing world, gave a life to an otherwise dying sport

ml said...

In these comments, perspective is missing to some extent. Gavaskar averaged 83 in the 1979-80 period against WI with 10 centuries, but only 41 with 3 hundreds after 1980. THis sentence is as misleading as it could ever be because of two missing factors 1) when Gavaskar succeeded / failed, did other batsmen succeed / fail? and 2) what was gavaskar's career average before and after 1980? Let me start with 2) - Gavaskar made 20 centuries in his first 50 test matches ending september 1979 and averaged 58. For the rest of his career, he averaged 42, making 4300 runs in 75 tests with 14 centuries. Clearly, he was not the record chasing batsman he is made out to be. In fact, he pursued his destiny to become India's captain, unlike Tendulkar who realised that captaincy posed a risk to his batting and continued as a batsman. In the context of his post-1980 average, his average against WI does not dip. secondly, he played several major innings during this period - 166 (Pak, Chennai), 90 (Aus, Chennai), 121, 90, 236 (WI 1983), 96 (pak, Bangalore), most of which were beyond the capabiity of his team mates, suggesting that though Gavaskar was able to rouse himself less frequently than before, he had not lost his abilities (and no helmets). On 1), we must see that though Gavaskar failed, he had been dumped for the 3rd time as captain, and went to WI in an unhappy state of mind. Secondly, there were several batsman who fared well in that series, though they all failed in the two tests we lost. In Pak in 1982-83, when Gavaskar and Amarnath stood firm, all other batsman failed. In 1970-71, while the WI bowling was weak, Gavaskar's 774 adn Sardesai's 624 runs were followed by 224 runs by the next best batsman. I dont think Gavaskar ever played before 1980 without pressure - there were no easy matches - only shame for the team and country if he failed. I wonder if Greg Chappell ever played in such a circumstance.

Anonymous said...

Sunny played 3 matches against Aussies involving Lillee. His average was just 19.66 with top score 70.
And Lillee managed to get him twice!

In 8 matches against Kiwis involving Hadlee, he averages just 35.71 with one century(119).
Hadlee has dismissed him 4 times.

Against Windies involving at least one of Holding, Garner or Roberts, he averaged just 42.86 with 5 centuries (17 matches).
Holding has dismissed him 11 times in 15 matches, Roberts 3 in 11 and Garner 2 in 4 matches.
Without any of these 3 greats, Sunny averaged 115.84 with 8 tons (10 matches).

Of course Gavaskar is a true legend. But Sobers picked him as the best ever mentioning his brilliant performances against West Indian pacers! These stats clearly show that wasn't exactly the case!

I'm not trying to take anything away from Sunny, nobody can. But he simply isn't as good as Bradman!!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

To Rileen: Yes, there is daylight between Gavaskar and Amarnath!!! That is why Amarnath's scores read 0,0; 1,0; and 0,0 in the 1983 series against the West Indies in India. Amarnath is no match for Gavaskar!

Optimistix said...

To "The Alexanders" - I love both guys, and find it amusing that you have to "retaliate" :-p

Gavaskar was great, and his place in India's as well as the world's all-time greats is secure (Amarnath makes it to the former list, but not the latter).

But Amarnath was the best player of fast bowling for a few glorious months, according to some of the finest pace bowlers of that era. That's all.

Anonymous said...

How long have you been following Cricket? This is not retaliation - only stating facts. Amarnath might have enjoyed some success on some days - that is all. That does not mean that he is a better player than Gavaskar, who carried on the burden of the team, as an opener.

Optimistix said...

"The Alexanders" - read my comments carefully. I've only said that Mohinder was better than Sunny and the rest of the Indian batting order in 2 specific series, in Pak and WI in the '82-'83 series.

It's quite weird that you are under the impression that I claimed Mohinder was better than Sunny in general.

Anonymous said...

I did read your comments, carefully! Mohinder was not better than any one in the 1983 series against the West Indies. His scores of 0,0; 1,0; and 0,0 will prove that! How can some one be better than any one with scores like that?! Now, you read it, carefully! Any way, I, just, happened to catch on to this site and the comments, accidentally. I am not going to comment, again. I have better things to do. So, I am going to end this here.

Optimistix said...

"The Alexanders" - '82-'83, in Pak, and in WI.

Why do you keep harping on about the series against WI in India, which is not one of the two I was talking about?

Anyway, ending this non-discussion is absolutely fine with me as well :-)

Anonymous said...

Many of you were not even born while some of these much talked-about players were born, and thereby, do not know the conditions - on and off the field - that these players had to play under. Numbers alone do not pay justice!

Anonymous said...


I must appreciate that you have tried your best to be balance. But few things you may not know that when Gavaskar played against four great fast bowlers, his innings were full of domination. He was never scared and I guess you have not seen his innings. Gavaskar was injured for most of the series of 74-75. But in Mumbai Gavaskar score excellent 86, chanceless and he straight drove Roberts 3 times in an over for boundaries. No one played Roberts like that and I haven not seen anyone straight driving any fast bowler thrice in an over. So it is important to understand Gavaskar's domination in the innings he played. Apart from this, is there any batsman during that period who scored so many runs against pacebowlers and dont forget Bob Willis/Imran Khan. Imran khan rates him the best batsman he has ever bowled to,


Anonymous said...

While I have to say that was a brilliant statistical analysis, I just hope people don't fall into the "if you take away this series, and this score, his average drops to..." or "What about in 19-, when he averaged only 17?"

All players have good and bad patches, and statistics aren't everything. I haven't read the full comments thread (it got boring after a while), but I assume arguments have cropped up. I want to present a different argument: What are the statements that make no sense in such an analysis

1. Take away a large score to get the true picture.
You take away a large score, and you are bound to be left with mediocre ones. If I had a rupee for everytime I saw "Take away Lara's 400 and 375 and his average drops..." on a comments thread. Yes, morons. Take away a large score and averages drop. Batsmen look mediocre if you remove their hundreds. That doesn't have anything to do with the batsman's skill, it's simple maths. Point is, no matter how easy a pitch may be or how depleted a bowling lineup, scoring big is scoring big. Big scores only lose relevance if everyone got one. I'll dismiss a double-century by a batsman by saying the pitch/attack was easy only if the tail all got 50+ each, and nos. 1-6 scored centuries.

2. He failed in this tour, hence he sucks.
All batsmen fail in some tour. They compensate by belting in others. Batting averages are the most misleading thing in the world. A 50+ average comes from the combination of series where the batsmen averaged either 90+ and ones where their average is somewhere in the 15-20 range.

3. He couldn't play Bowler X.
Yeah. Everyone has a weakness. He couldn't play bowler X, Y, Z; but he could play the hundred others in his career? And no matter how bad a bowler is, if he's playing for his national team, he's no joke. (Except Paul Adams, of course).

4. Today, a batsman can boost his average in a series against a Bangladesh or similar teams. Back in the day, every test team was good. Runs didn't come easy anywhere. Even India. So, you can't say that Gavaskar or Viv boosted their average against weak teams. There weren't any.

5. X>Y because X's HS > Y's HS
In that case, the greatest batsman of the pre-Bradman era was not Trumper, Hobbs, Sutcliffe or even WG; but it was Andy Sandham. And India's greatest FC batsman is B.B. Nimbalkar. Consistency matters. Some 80s are better innings than a 270.

Now I'm bored again. Kudos if you've read all of this. I wouldn't have!

Nihar said...

Bradman only faced one truely fast bowler. Gavasker faced Holding at his prime and Holding bowled 3 bouncers and 2 beamers in one over at Gavasker. No batsman has faced the adversity Gavaskar had to face. That is why he is the greatest opening batsman ever in the history of the game. You dont need all 4 villains in a movie for the movie to be a hit.

Unknown said...

if performs a postmortem on all cricket careers...then i don't think it is fair on make daniel and co. sound like ordinary pace bowlers...i'm afraid u are wrong. sunny was the best player of fast bowling in the 70's and mid 80' player in that era has a record equaling sunny especially as an opener when the ball is new and the pitch is spicy. even medium pacers look venomous on fresh pitches.

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Nikhil said...

Great points made. I would point out though that he was the start that we (Indians) should have built on rather than considering him as a pinnacle. If he had some weakness against the Windies fastermen, everyone else did - no shame in that. Even Javed Miandad had to play till 1988 (I think) to score his first century against the windies.I read somewhere his own captain didnot rate him before that.

Moving backt to Sunny- we haven't taken inspiration and produced more opening batsmen of his calibre. Imran inspired a spate of bowlers in hist country.

Sunny should have inspired aspiring openers to master foreign conditions and hell even the fast bowlers.

As a side note Steve Waugh's battle against Ambrose at Trinidad 1995 was extremely special. A tough as nails batman copping it, but still fighting on.

Anonymous said...

A rare lean patch does not lower the stature of great players.Sunny had his own but it does not make him an ordinary batsman.The great Viv had to be counselled by a psychiatrist during the Australian tour with Lillee and Thommo at their best.That he succeeded is a tribte to his greatness.Sunny never wore a helmet and faced the fast bowlers world over is a tribute to his greatness.When we talk about depleted attacks,can anybody let me know when India had a potent attack and at the same time how many of the greats have plundered the Indian attack including Sir Don who has four centuries against India.A player Mudassar Nazar developed such a liking for Indian attack that if we take out the runs he scored against India he would be a mediocre batsman.After the decline of the famed spin quartet Indian attack was all about Kapil Dev only.We can talk about Ghavri,Dilip Doshi,Shilal Yadav,Chetan Sharma etc but we all know they were never worldclass.On the contrary,Nobert Phllips could not play for WI because of the masters like Roberts etc.Sylvester Clarke was a genuine fast bowler who represented WI with distinction before defecting to rebel tours in SA.India always played a full fledged Pak team,England,NewZealand and Australia.The runs Sunny scored against them is being forgotten facing the likes of Imran,Sarfaraz,Qadir,Hadlee,Cairns,Lillee.Thommo,Hogg,Willis,Botham,Snow,Underwood etc.Mohinder Amarnath was always a worldclass player but lacked the consistency.The greats like Sir Don,Sir Hobbs,Sutcliffe,Hammond played only in England and Australia.Does it affect their greatness?

Theresa said...

Thank you for this post, really worthwhile data.

Anonymous said...

Gavskar baiters have always taken pains to elaborate on how he failed in the only series that he was up against Dennis Lille.Extending the same logic, they ,however, do not acknowledge that Lillee himself was a pacer who came good only on bouncy tracks, because he failed dismally in his only tour to the sub-continent in Pakistan. Gavaskar's record against a fiery Thomson, Imran, the West Indian Pace battery, Richard Hadlee, Bob Wills etc. are often analysed in a manner which highlights mediocrity rather than the phenomenal proportion of his achievements, given the conditions in which he played as well as the message conveyed by statistics.

Whether he was great or good or neither is a theoritical exercise which would be of least value to Gavskar himself.However, to us , the young Indian boys who were growing up during his playing days, Sunny was much more than cricketer He was a symbol of self respect. The man solely responsible for earning respectability to a fledgling Indian cricket.

Those were the days of uncovered pitches. The generation of the most feared pacers ever in the history of the game. When an average in the 30s was considered very good (the great G R Vishwanath retired with an average of 37 in Test Matches).He was an opener wothout a helmet averaging 51.12.

Cricket today has degenerated to the slapstick of T 20. The rules of Test Match Cricket( and even the simplified version of Limited Overs)have been ridiculously bent in favour of batsmen, to an extent that an average of 50 is considered quite easily achievable, which in those days used to be the rarest of rareities.

It is not possible for the present generation ,fed on a "distorted" version of the game laoded in favour of the batsman to assess the steel in Gavaskar.

He is often made to suffer in comparison to other past and present batsmen, by a lot of people posing to be experts.

Be that as it may, he will always remain the man who batted hardest when the conditions and the opponents were hardest.

Whether he was great or good or neither is a theoritical exercise, to which I am sure Gavaskar himself would attach least importance.

Anonymous said...

This page written 3 years AFTER Stuart's blog is quite similar.

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SV Raghav said...

The great thing about Sunny is his runs scored / average / centuries on foreign soil is better than the home which itself is a testimony to his greatness, which not almost all the players are having. No helmets and no bouncer restrictions and always a green top for Indians whenever they tour in which he fared much better than many cricketers is once again shows that He is incomparable.

Unknown said...

I would like to make one more addition to the comments , greg chappel was born in Australia and played in a bouncy pitches which si=uited quickies and thus got used to it . On the Contrary Sunny is from india and what kind of pitches do we have (even today). Despite Sunny excelled and he had the burden of holding the promises and weaker side with him. With these enormous pressure , he excelled

Unknown said...

Sunny Played against Lillee in just one series , which does tell the whole story. Ofcourse Lillee is the best Faster any day

Unknown said...

This catty, mealy-mouthed hatchet job is easily countered.

Comparing Greg Chappell with Gavaskar against similar attacks and venues around the same time we find:
1. Chappell faced the Holder, Dowe et all minus Sobers in 72/73 with and average of 48.85 compared to Gavaskar's 154.8 in 70/71. Almost the same West indian team crcushed England in England winning 2-0 out of three including a win by an innings and 226 runs at Lord's.

2. Chappel faced Roberts, Holding, Daniel, Padmore et al in 77/78 Supertests for an average of 29.00, in 78/79 for 26.8 against an attack that that also included Garner and Croft. Joel Garner, while a great bowler, was useless against India. He averaged 43.00 in one series and being dropped for the next. Chappel only came good in the last Supertest series with 68.89. People need to stop inflating the Packer myths. The Greatest Windies attack was early 80s with Roberts, Holding, Marshall and Garner(another bowler subbed for India against whom Garner was ineffective).

3. Chappell scored 20, 13, 235, 55, 57 against Imran and co in Pakistan vs Gavaskar 89, 8, 5, 97, 111, 137. Chappell's 235 was socred on a worst featherbed at Iqbal Stadium, where bowlers took only 10 wickets in 4 full days of play. Worse, neither Imran nor Mudassar played.

4. Against England in 1975 against Old, Arnold, Greig, Underwood Chappel averaged 21 in 7 innings. Against the same attack in 1974 Gavaskar averaged 36.6

5. In 1977 against Willis, Lever, Underwood et al Chappell averages 41.22. In 1979 against Willis, Botham, Hendrick, Edmonds(much better attack) Gavaskar averages 77.42.

6. Gavaskar failed in 1981 in Australia, but guess what. In the 81/82 season Chappell averaged 14.33 against the West Indies.

7. Gavaskar fails against New Zealand in 1981 with 25.20 but Chappel isn't much better in late 1980 with 36.00

8. If you dismiss Gavaskar's 79/80 series against a "very young Marshall" you may as well dismiss Chappel's 75/76 series against "a very young Holding". Sylvester Clarke was an excellent bowler and the quicks bowled a lot in that series. The Windies attack had not "reverted to spin".

9. The 83/84 Windies series was a low scorer, especially for India. Even Richards average only 34 and had even fewer successes than Gavaskar. Chappell completely dodged Marshall, who was easily the best of the great Windies quicks.

All of this can not capture the fact that Gavaskar opened the batting for India in an era that saw the most fearsome pace batteries while India did not produce a single genuine pace bowler. It is simply no contest between Chappell and Gavaskar. Gavaskar is endorsed by Sobers as the best he ever saw, by Imran as the best he played along with Richards, by Akram and others. Which non-Aussie cricketer ever compared Chappell favorably with Gavaskar?

Unknown said...

Irrespective of what a meticulous examination of stats suggests, to my mind there is little doubt that Sunny had one of the best techniques against fearsome fast bowling. Yes, he scored heavily when spinners or docile medium pacers constituted the West Indian attack. That, however, no way undermines Sunny's greatness. Lets not forget how he tore apart Marshall & Co at Firozshah Kotla, New Delhi while scoring run-a-ball century - his 29th and he had also drawn the parallel with the peerless Don. Also, a piece of correction - In 1983-84 series, Gavaskar didn't bring himself down the batting order. He was asked to do so as the middle order was struggling pretty badly. Remember the famous quote of Viv Richards! - " Man, no matter where you come to bat, the score is still zero".

Anonymous said...

Did don Bradman play against holding, Roberts etc or where most of his centuries against the fine English bowlers

Vampire36 said...

Stats are great but then there are certain facts you missing...
1. Even with those pace men and their developing phase they were still very very good.
2. He batted against such an attack wearing just a hat not helmet ! Imagining itself would give you an idea of the technique he had
3. No bouncer limits and no technology. So you play on instincts not 'studied'
4. So I would say whatever stats you come up with against that attack to play with no helmet, super fast pitch and no technology to back you and sore so many runs needs guts and skill bro.
5. Even today people who have seen him play I have just video but my dad says his technique inspite of being vertically challenged is phenomenal.
6. No one comes close to hime in that respect.

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Sunil Gavaskar is the only batsman to score either a fifty or hundred on his first test appearance against every test playing nation he played:1971-65 vs West Indies;1971-53 vs England;1976 -116 vs New Zealand;1977-113 vs Australia; 1978-89 vs Pakistan and finally 1982-155 vs Sri Lanka.Only the legendary Jack Hobbs has done this on his first appearances against Australia, South Africa and West Indies. No modern cricketer great figures in this list like Don Bradman, Graeme Pollock, Viv Richards, Greg Chappell, Tendulkar, Lara etc. I think this achievement will be impossible to be equaled or broken by any batsman in the future.

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One thing that people tend to slightly overlook when looking at stats is the fact that, not just Sunny opened without a helmet throughout his career, he obiviously did not get hit on the head! Look up on you tube how many times guys like Sachin or Virat have got hit. Virat was hit right on the helmets monogram in Australia. That would have been his last test with out a helmet. All these players have been hot multiple times on helmet..and to me that is the main difference. How Sunny managed such technical perfection so as to leave every short pitched delivery with minimal and calm movements was brilliant and never matched. The day his bat was ripped off by that delivery from Marshall in Kanpur 1983, the next test in Delhi saw Gavaskar fury! He tore into the attack and and not just slogged. He had decided, enough was enough and he did not duck..he just hammered the short balls. All these things tell me and have shown me, that there was no one like Gavaskar. Technical perfection. His innings inn Manchester 1973 when nobody could lidentify the wicket from the outfield, his 221 in Oval chasing 420 odd and almost pulling it off, his 160 odd in 1986 in Australia, his hundreds in Pakistan vs Imran and Sarfraz etc, his hundreds vs Thomson and co in 1977 in Australia on some of the quickest wickets...too many great knocks..what a champion. I loved him as a player, as a very humble person, as a fighter for rights of players, as a charitable ex-player looking after older players, wonderful commentator, excellent communicator, a very patriotic and proud India (refused the MCC membership because he was not let in..felt if you don't know me, why give me the membership!) What a man..the celebrate him..we havevery few like him in the world!

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Tony from Australia said...

You make some very valid points but the analysis is flawed for a couple of reasons. Most importantly because you underestimate the West Indies pace attack in the 1975-76 away series that India had in West Indies. Andy Roberts and Michael Holding were at their devastating best by then. Just look at what they did in England in the West Indies next series. They destroyed a pretty decent English batting line up with each of them taking 28 wickets and Holding averaging just 12.7 with the ball (see:;team=4;type=series). When you have fast bowlers of that quality it matters little whether you have an attack with four excellent fast bowlers or one with two absolutely great ones alongside one or two other decent bowlers.

The other thing is that 1975-76 away series was the only time Gavaskar actually played the West Indies when it had a top class attack when he was also at the peak of his career (i.e. in the years 1974-1980). During the tour of West Indies in 1983, Gavaskar was in a period of a form slump that probably had a lot to do with the turmoil around just losing the captaincy and all the hype, controversy and politics that surrounds such events in Indian cricket. That is why he only averaged a modest but not terrible (especially for an opener) 30 that series.

They never should have made him captain by the way - his batting went downhill somewhat when he became permanent captain at the peak of his batting prowess. And after the turmoil and controversy surrounding losing the captaincy on each occasion, he often took a series or two to recover. That is why his batting went back to a higher level from 1985 onwards after he became comfortable in not having the captaincy after losing it the second time. This despite being quite old by then.

Getting back to that 1983 away series, the proof that it was a form slump and not just a question of not doing that well against the particular bowlers is shown by the fact that Gavakar had a horror 1983 World Cup failing against almost all opposition including the weakest (he failed twice against Zimbabwe).

By the time of the 1983-84 home series against WI, Gavaskar was in a better mental state in that he was more accepting of not having the captaincy and thus performed much better. That century he scored in the second test was a classic where an opener devastated that quality attack like it has never been dealt with by any other opener. He reached his hundred in just 94 balls. In the next test he scored a fast 90 on a minefield of a wicket and only got out after an interruption to play distracted him. Gavaskar averaged 50.5 in that series which is no mean feat against an attack of that quality and during a series dominated by fast bowlers operating on some difficult batting wickets. Nevertheless Gavaskar still was not the same level of batsmen then that he was in the 1975-76 series (ongoing controversies around captaincy, ridiculous fan expectations and team politics continued to dog him). So even more weight has to be placed on his performance in that 1975-76 series when assessing his ability to combat top class fast bowling (although admittedly to only focus on that series means a too small sample size).

By the way, Gavaskar did not become a great player of fast bowling until the 1974 series against England. Up until then he simply did not have enough exposure to fast bowling - playing his domestic cricket in India which at the time had basically no express bowlers at all.

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KMan said...

That 80s WI team was the greatest ever and they whitewashed every series they played, everywhere. (Pak fared OK here and there against them but played second fiddle in general). In that, Gavaskar's record stands out compared to everyone else, matched only by Chappell barring one series. Remember SG played against other great teams and succeeded too. Anyway, test cricket has moved on for the better despite lesser accomplished batsmen but higher scoring rates and results.

Voltaire said...

Stuart-I stumbled on this gem/including responses per chance. Despite your objective assessment it's not hard to see your tilt...that is diminishing Sunny! It almost seems like Sunny's mistake he didn't play all the 4 pacemen at once. Tony has already made many superb points and pointed your diminishing 75-76 series in Windies. Roberts was very seasoned and the very best fast bowler by that time(Lillee, Thommo notwithstanding) and Holding was FEARSOME. I saw quite a lotta of Croft and Garner.....while they were difficult they were not sh*tting in pants variety. How can 79 series in India be dismissed outright....Sylvester put many in hospital and a callow Macko was no slouch. Imran, by his own admission, was at his quickest/menacing between 78-82. Sunny was glorious in that time....even in the failed series in Pak, he was next only to Jimmy in his purplest patch. And the final point....I've seen the series in India(83-84) and believe me ….Macko has to be the MOST intimidating, terrorizing fast bowler ever. We were shivering in front of TV screens....ppl only remember the bat flying off Sunny in Kanpur....there was another glorious sight of Vengasarkar's legstump in full flt of Macko. The point is any runs scored against that PEAK/FEROCIOUS Macko should count as double....and why a large innings 236 should be seen rest of the series being mediocre. I will say this....that 121 wouldn't be possible even for Viv.....since he never mastered Macko in regional windies matches. 90 in Ahmedabad is one of the greatest knocks on an uneven track and in addition to Macko, Holding , W davies was quite dangerous. Then came the 236 we all know....India were not out of woods, given the quality of the pace attack, even on the 5th day. To have played and blunted Macko/Holding for such grueling period is an incomparable achievement. Holding was so frustrated as to bowl beamers at Kirmani. Sunny, simply could have played not only 4 pronged but a 6 pronged pace attack very well and would be as successful if not more.

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