Sunil Gavaskar was the first global superstar of Indian cricket. Till 70’s India used to be considered as minnows in world cricket and although we had great players like C. K. Nayudu, Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare, and Polly Umrigar no one could create the aura like Gavaskar from the very early days of his career.
In his debut series against West Indies, Gavaskar scored 774 runs and never looked back. With his solid technique, discipline and dedication Gavaskar rewrote many batting records of the history of the game. At the time of retirement, Gavaskar held the record of highest test aggregate runs with 10,122 runs and the record of highest number of test centuries with 34.
Before the 1978-79 West Indies tour of India, he was assigned the responsibility of captaining India for the first time. Just before that series, India toured Pakistan and during the third test at National Stadium, Karachi Gavaskar became the first Indian batsman to score centuries in both the innings of a test match twice. He earlier achieved this record during his debut series.
During the West Indies series, Gavaskar already scored a double century in the first test. The New Year test started on 29th Dec 1978 at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. The West Indies team was depleted by World Series Cricket but still had bowlers like Malcom Marshall, Sylvester Clarke and Vanburn Holder in their ranks. India won the toss and Gavaskar decided to bat. Gavaskar was as solid as ever but India kept losing wickets from the other end in regular interval. Gavaskar reached his century in the evening session but when he got out India were 220 for 6. He did not get much support from other batsmen except Gundappa Viswanath and Dilip Vengsarkar. Some useful hitting from Kapil Dev at the end took India to 300. West Indies responded well and based on Basil Williams’ century eventually got a lead of 27. In their second innings, India reached 70 for 1 by the end of the third day with Gavaskar and Vengsarkar on the field. After the rest day on 1st January, teams were back to the ground on 2nd January and both Mumbai batsmen presented a rare aggressive mindset and attacked West Indian bowling. Both of them displayed their range of shots and reached their centuries easily.
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With that hundred, Gavaskar became the first batsman in the history of test cricket to achieve the record of scoring centuries in both innings of a test match three times. It was a great testimony of Gavaskar’s appetite for runs and the responsible way through which he used to carry Indian’s batting in ’70s and 80’s.
By the time Gavaskar declared for 361/1, the pair added 344 runs in the partnership and both remained unbeaten with 150+ scores. In fact, a part of Eden crowd was unhappy that Gavaskar did not carry on towards his double century.
Gavaskar wanted to push for a win but it looked unlikely as only 5 wickets fell till the start of the mandatory overs. But suddenly the scenario changed as Karsan Ghavri struck, removing Williams, Phillip, and Holder in quick succession. Marshall was dropped once and by the time he was gone India did not have enough time to push for a victory. The West Indian number eleven Sylvester Clarke resisted 8 balls in fading light and umpired had to call the end of the day’s play keeping India away from a famous test victory just by one wicket.
Till now, only Ricky Ponting and David Warner have achieved the record of 3 instances of twin hundreds in test matches post-Gavaskar.