Jan 17, 2007

Beautiful Things: Sunil Gavaskar's Straight Drive

Hitting a straight drive right past a fast bowler is the worst thing a batsman can do to a bowler. Just imagine, a bowler runs steaming down the pitch to throw a scortcher, only to be hit right back, all the way to the boundary line. Hitting a ball back on the front foot is what the west Indian's call beautiful Cricket.

That was Sunil Gavaskar's most glorious stroke. Gavaskar's is Mumbai's very own.

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. It is hard to visualise a more beautiful defence: virtually unbreakable, it made his wicket among the hardest to earn. He played with equal felicity off both front and back foot, had an 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 recently 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.