It was the 7th of March and a warm day, a typical of the West Indian weather during the early days of March. A young lad had opened with Ashok Mankad and was on 12, facing the famous Vanburn Holder. Back home the conditions were tense. An uprising had started in neighbouring East Pakistan and leading to clashes near the border and a large influx of refugees. Unknown to this hostile news, the young lad prepared to face Holder.
A drop sweat poured down his forehead and into the ground. He was also tensed like the country. Vanburn started his run and very soon the ball left his hand and pitched on line. The lad undecidedly played it. The ball soared up in the air and started its decent into the hands of the Windies captain Garry Sobers. Suddenly in a stroke of luck, the sun came up blinding Sobers and as he closed his eyes the ball dangled through his hands and fell on the ground.
The youngster scampered to the non-striker looking at Sobers all the time. Vanburn looked bemused. He wondered at the luck of the diminutive youngster on debut as he prepared for the next delivery. That same youngster would go on and later would be remembered as ‘The Little Master’.
Down the lanes of memory and age, at an ICC felicitation event Little Master Sunil Gavaskar would recollect that day, and state that facing the tall West Indian was his scariest moment on debut. However the dropped catch made him feel that the then Gods of Cricket- Sobers and his team were also beatable.
Sunil Gavaskar was one of the greatest opening batsmen of all time, and certainly the most successful. His game was built around a near-perfect technique and enormous powers of concentration. Gavaskar is widely admired for his technique against fast bowling, with a particularly high average of 65.45 against the West Indies, who possessed a four-pronged fast bowling attack regarded as the most vicious in Test history.
20 years after the Gavaskar debut the 5th Test at Perth in the February of 1992 was lost by India as Alan Border and his men stamped their authority in Test cricket. But the match was particular for a very peculiar reason. An 18 year old Sachin Tendulkar played a very fine innings and established his authority over a bowling that consisted of Craig McDermott, Merv Hughes and Bruce Reid. In the first innings he would stand tall at 114 when all the Indian batsmen and the established greats of the game failed.
Hughes remarked to Allan Border at the time that the young prick would go on to get more runs than him. And it did indeed happen that way. Sachin went past not only him but Gavaskar and several others to become the highest run getter in Tests and in One Dayers.
At 5 feet 5, Sachin looks like the embodiment of Sunil Gavaskar. He initially started off wearing Sunil’s ultra-light pads, which he had gifted him after a superb domestic knock, and like him was pretty comfortable against the fast bowlers in the hard conditions of abroad. He has a variety of strokes in his arsenal and has developed some more in the later stages of his career but the most remarkable are the offside shots from the back foot.
In August 1990 he became the second youngest cricketer to score a Test century as he made 119 not out at Old Trafford in Manchester.Wisden described his innings as “a disciplined display of immense maturity”.
Truly he is the right successor to Sunil Gavaskar and the legacy along with the pads was passed to the most proper person.