India Today

Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar: How Mumbai maidans made the modern day greats of Indian cricket

On October 17, 2008, in Mohali against Australia, Sachin Tendulkar broke Brian Lara's record to become the highest run scorer in Test cricket and the first to cross 12,000 runs. Tendulkar had promised me an interview to mark the momentous occasion. We had also contracted Gavaskar for expert comments on the series. Which is how one evening during the Mohali Test I came close to achieving cricket nirvana as Gavaskar and Tendulkar sat down together to talk cricket: Gavaskar dressed in a traditional collared shirt, Tendulkar in a more casual polo neck T shirt, their sartorial differences reflecting the generational shift.

Gavaskar and Tendulkar, two short men with tall achievements: 85 Test hundreds between them, and more than 26,000 Test runs. They are the twin towers of Indian batting, one is the classicist, the other the more versatile; both all time greats. More than the sheer volume of runs, it is what they represented to two generations of Indian cricket fans that sets them apart: if Gavaskar gave

Tendulkar eventually went past Gavaskar's records but a pure statistical comparison isn't easy. They both averaged more than 50 in Test cricket, but Gavaskar was an opening batsman, Tendulkar played at number four. One was nurtured in the pre helmet era, the other had the benefit of batting with a helmet. Gavaskar played for a long time with the knowledge that the entire Indian batting performance was dependent on him while Tendulkar had the benefit in the latter half of his career of being part of a rare assemblage of Indian batting stars from Sehwag to Dravid to Laxman in one team. Gavaskar was reared in an age where there was a premium on defensive batting; the Tendulkar period saw a transition to the more attacking game. Gavaskar scored only one limited overs international century whereas Tendulkar hit an incredible 49 one day centuries. Like all great players, they could adapt to any situation. Tendulkar once batted with grim determination for more than 600 minutes to make an unbeaten double century against Australia at Sydney in 2004 without hitting a single off drive in anger. Meanwhile, Gavaskar changed gears on his way to a double century at the Oval in 1979, attacking the English bowling and taking India close to an incredible last day win.

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