22 Facts about Sunil Gavaskar: The Little Master

Sunil Gavaskar
Sunil Gavaskar. (Photo Source: Bipin Patel)

Sunil Gavaskar was all about fearless batting. He taught Indians how to pull and hook the fearsome fast bowlers during the time when there were no helmets. Gavaskar, on his day, would play out the dangerous bowling attacks with ease. His playing style had everything an orthodox cricket lover would want. The balance, technique, attitude, enormous amount of concentration and excellent judgmental skills made him an efficient run-scorer. Often called as ‘Cricket’s Napoleon’, he was a run machine who broke and re-wrote many batting records which were sort of unachievable during his playing days.

1. Nan-Kaka- The saviour:

Indian cricket would have never got Sunil Gavaskar had Gavaskar’s uncle been absent in the hospital during his birth. His uncle’s keen eyes had spotted Gavaskar had been mistakenly swapped with another newborn. He had noticed a small mole near Gavaskar’s left ear lobe and observed that the mole was missing in the child the next day. The brought the matter to the notice of the hospital and baby Sunil who was found sleeping beside a fisherwoman, was returned.


2. The cricketing family:

Gavaskar is not the only international cricketer from his family. His maternal uncle was Madhav Mantri, who played four Tests for India. Gavaskar’s son, Rohan, represented India in 11 One-Day Internationals. GR Viswanath, the former India batsman, is Gavaskar’s brother-in-law. Gavaskar’s sister, Nutan, also played for Albees Cricket Club, the first women’s club in Mumbai.

3. Test team pullover turns a wrestling fanatic into a cricketer:

Gavaskar wanted to be a wrestler and was a big fan of the legendary Maruthi Vadar before opting for cricket. The ambition to play for India came to him when he saw the Indian team pullovers of his uncle, Madhav Mantri, who had played for India. When he asked if he could have one of the pullovers, Mantri told him sternly that they had to be earned.

4. A prodigy during his school days:

Young Sunil took no time in making a name for himself in school cricket. He was named India’s Best Schoolboy Cricketer of the year in 1966 after scoring 246*, 222 and 85 in school cricket in his final year of secondary education, before striking a century against the touring London schoolboys. He later led the Bombay’s (Mumbai) renowned college St. Xavier’s, His performances for the college paved way for his first class debut.

5. First class debut: 

Gavaskar made his debut in the 1968/69 season against Karnataka. It was not a memorable one for him as he as dismissed for a duck in the game.

6. Fulfils his childhood dreams:

Gavaskar made his Test debut against West Indies at Port of Spain during the 1971 tour. He was supposed to make his debut in the game but had to miss the game due to an infected fingernail. He made his debut in the following Test and scored 65 and 67 not out, hitting the winning runs which gave India its first ever win over the West Indies.

7. False runs to start his career:

Sunil Gavaskar’s first runs in Test cricket were actually leg-byes that were not given. He revealed this fact in his autobiography ‘Sunny days;’

“As I took strike after Ashok (Mankad) had got three runs, I was a little afraid that I might not be up to the mark. (Vanburn) Holder thundered down and bowled on the leg stump. The ball struck my leg guards and went down to fine leg for two leg byes. But I was surprised to see that the umpire did not make any signal so I was off the mark with two runs when actually I should not have had any. This helped me to get rid of the fear of failure and I was soon middling the ball and clipped Holder to the square leg fence for my first boundary in Tests”

8. Most runs by any player in a series:

Sunil Gavaskar went on to smash 774 runs at an average of 154.80 in debut series which included 4 centuries and 3 half-centuries.

9. A song dedicated to his exploits:

Trinidad Calypso singer Lord Relator (Willard Harris) wrote a song in Gavaskar’s honour, the “Gavaskar Calypso.”

It was Gavaskar

De real master

Just like a wall

We couldn’t out Gavaskar at all, not at all

You know the West Indies couldn’t out Gavaskar at all

10. Botham traps Gavaskar inside a phone booth:

With the bat in his hand, Sunil Gavaskar was the definition of ‘fearless.’ But, every man has a weakness and in Gavaskar’s case it was – dogs. Legendary English all-rounder Ian Botham once trapped him inside a phone booth by simply standing outside it with a massive dog. Gavaskar came out only after Botham was persuaded to go away.

11. Umpires turns barber for him:

In of the strange incidents of his career, Gavaskar once made the umpire Dickie Bird chop his hairs during an ongoing game. Batting against England at Old Trafford in 1974, he found his hair getting in his eyes all the time and asked Bird to trim his hair. Bird had no problems and did so with a pair of scissors he had kept to actually cut threads from the seam of the cricket ball, muttering “the things umpires have to do these days.”

12. Bloody Hell, it’s your 29th:

Gavaskar had a habit of not looking at the scoreboard while batting. This often led to him been unaware about the runs he has scored. One such incident when didn’t know that he had crossed a milestone was when he scored his 29th Test century to equal Sir Don Bradman’s record that had stood for more than three decades. It was the 2nd test of the 6-match series against the touring West Indians. Gavaskar played a wonderful counter-attacking inning against ruthless West Indies fast bowlers and scored 121 runs in just 94 balls, bringing up his 29th century. The crowd erupted in applause but Gavaskar had no clue why they were doing so until non-striker, Dilip Vengsarkar told him “Bloody hell, it is your 29th!” He also passed 8000 Test runs in the innings, and was personally honoured by Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India at the ground.

13. That notorious innings:

Every batsman during his growing years is taught to prize his above all. But, Gavaskar made the saying look like an utter non-sense due to his infamous 36 not out in the 1975 World Cup where carried his bat through the full 60 overs against England. He opened the batting and managed just 36 (not out) off 174 balls (scoring just one four). Courtesy to his knock, India managed only 132 for 3 from the 60 overs replying to England’s 334. Thus, losing the match by 2002 runs.

14. A record-breaking fieldsman:

Gavaskar was also a fine slip fielder and his safe catching in the slips helped him become the first Indian (excluding wicket-keepers) to take over a hundred catches in Test matches.

15. An opening bowler:

Early in his Test career, when India rarely used pace bowlers, Gavaskar also opened the bowling for a short spell on occasions if only one pace bowler was playing, before a three-pronged spin attack took over. The only wicket claimed by him is that of Pakistani Zaheer Abbas in 1978–79.

16. The Actor:

Gavaskar played the lead role in a Marathi movie – Savli Premachi. He also did a cameo in Naseeruddin Shah’s film Maalamaal in 1988.

17. The singer:

Gavaskar has sung a Marathi song ‘Ya Duniyemadhye Thambayaala Vel Konala’, depicting the similarities between a cricket match and real life.

18. The Sherrif:

Gavaskar was appointed the Sheriff of Mumbai in 1994 for a year.

19. Personal life:

Sunil Gavaskar is married to Marshneill Gavaskar (née Mehrotra), daughter of a leather industrialist from Kanpur.

20. Names his son after his batting idol:

He was a huge fan of West Indian cricketer Rohan Kanhai and so he named his only child Rohan Gavaskar after him.

21. A few important records in a nutshell:

Gavaskar was the first Test cricket player to make over 10,000 runs. He is the only cricketer to score 4 consecutive centuries at 2 venues – Port of Spain & Wankhede stadium. Gavaskar was the first cricketer to play 100 consecutive test matches.

22. Honors:

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) named Sunil Gavaskar as the recipient of the Col CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award for Cricket in India in 2012. Gavaskar will receive the trophy, a citation and a cheque for Rs 2.5 million at the BCCI awards function.