Bridgetown (Barbados): Legendary former India opener Sunil Gavaskar revealed on Monday the secret of his phenomenal success against quality West Indian fast bowlers of the 1970s and '80s.
"I guess it was my height - seriously," said Gavaskar, a 5ft 5in batsman, who rose to fame with his amazing run-spree against the West Indies in his maiden Test series in 1971. He was 21 when he compiled 774 in four Tests against Gary Sobers' West Indians with the help of four centuries at a Bradmansque average of 154.80. Thereafter, the little master was just unstoppable as he went on to become the first batsman in Test history to score 10,000 runs before retiring with a world-record 34 centuries. "When I say that, a lot of people think I'm saying it with my tongue in cheek. The fact of the matter is that because the West Indians were quick, every time they banged the ball in short, it would go well over my head." Gavaskar said. "Being short was a real big plus as far as playing the West Indian quicks was concerned," he was quoted as saying. "They (fast bowlers) had to pitch the ball a lot further up to get it to bounce around my throat.
Not every bowler can do that," said Gavaskar, who aggregated 2,749 runs in 27 Tests against the West Indies with 13 centuries. Gavaskar said it was always a challenge to score runs against pacemen of his era and he relished playing against the West Indies. "Those days were obviously special. I've always enjoyed playing against the West Indies. They played their cricket hard and aggressive, but they also played in a gentlemanly manner, with none of the kind of abuse that goes on in cricket today." The West Indies pace attack of the 1970s and '80s was more formidable than that of the present era, with Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marhsall, Joel Garner and Sylvester Clarke making lives miserable for batsmen.
Gavaskar said each fast bowler was different from the other, but he was always more careful especially against Roberts and Marshall. "These two had the ability - not that the others didn't - but these two had the special ability to bowl the unplayable ball even when you are past 150," he said. Gavaskar rated an unbeaten 117 in Barbados and 124 in Trinidad as two of his most satisfying innings of his first tour in 1971. His big deeds eventually inspired Trinidadian Lord Relator to pen a calypso that still revives memories of that famous tour. "It was Gavaskar/ The real master/ Just like a wall/ We couldn't get Gavaskar at all, not at all/ You know the West Indies couldn't out/ Gavaskar at all," the calypso went. "Funnily enough, I had no idea that calypso had been written until 1974," Gavaskar said. "He (Roberts) had it on his tape and he made me listen to it (on India's tour of England). I love it. The lyrics are great. The tune is great. It's very catchy and very popular in India when it's played."