Over the last few years, Indian cricket fans have been passionately discussing whether Virat Kohli is better than Sachin Tendulkar. However, in this discussion, they have forgotten another great Indian batsman who has a solid claim to being better than both of them.
That batsman is none other than the former India captain Sunil Gavaskar. Youngsters, especially millennials didn't have the privilege and honour of watching the great icon of batting in action. For people born in the 1990s and later, Gavaskar has mainly been a commentator prone to losing his temper.
But almost everyone who has played against him and who saw him closely is willing to swear by his greatness. So, it is a perfectly legitimate question: Is Sunil Gavaskar, and not Kohli or Tendulkar, the greatest Indian batsman of all time?
Well, like most questions of this nature, there can't be a definitive answer. But what we can do is present the case for considering the original Little Master to be regarded as such. Here are three reasons which can be cited for considering Gavaskar as better than even Tendulkar. See for yourself if it convinces you.
Playing in the golden era of fast bowling
Tendulkar has faced legendary fast bowlers in his career. From Donald, Pollock, Ambrose and Walsh to Akram and Waqar, Sachin dealt with all of them and succeeded. But even the hazy 90s were no match for the sheer high-quality of pace bowling in the 1970s and 80s – the period when Gavaskar was active.
Just think about the number of legendary, all-time great pacers that were active in that era – Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thompson, Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee, Ian Botham, and Bob Willis. And these were the best of the best. Many other highly capable seamers like Sarfaraz Nawaz were also difficult on their day.
The former India captain faced all of them and managed to average over 50 and score 34 Test hundreds. What's more, he was at his best against the toughest opposition of the time – West Indies. His record against them is incredible – 13 centuries in 27 matches at an average of 65.45.
Now, Sachin Tendulkar also did extremely well against the best side of his generation, Australia. But the sheer relentless nature of West Indian bowling in Gavaskar's time is unmatched in history. Yes, some of his hundreds came before the famed pace quartet came together but even with them in action, his prolificity didn't go down. This is a strong point in his favour.
Now, facing the greatest fast bowlers of all time, that too those who bowled at higher speeds than anyone else in history, and succeeding, is in itself, incredibly difficult. But to do so without anything protecting your head and face is something that the rarest of the rare can manage. This is exactly what Gavaskar achieved.
And if you think he and his contemporaries didn't know what they were up against, you are wrong. Players of that generation had seen one of their predecessors – Nari Contractor – came extremely close to dying because of being hit by a bouncer in West Indies during a Test match.
In spite of that, the Little Master went out, faced the likes of Roberts and Thompson without helmet and succeeded. Sachin hardly ever batted without helmet against extremely fast bowlers. This does not detract from his greatness but it certainly is an advantage that he had compared to his illustrious predecessor and idol. This too is a strong point in favour of the 70-year old.
Greater hunger for runs
One of the very few shortcomings in the career of Sachin was his inability to score 500 runs in a series. He did come close but never reached the prized landmark in any of the series he played. Sunil Gavaskar, on the other hand, scored 774 runs in his debut series itself!
This is something that distinguished Gavaskar during his time. When he got going, his hunger and insatiable appetite for runs knew no bounds. He scored more than 500 runs in a series as many as six times! Now that is simply incredible. What this signifies is the fact that when he was on song, the Mumbai batsman would not let go of his hold on the opposition.
In the latter half of his career, Sachin too became more tenacious in series that he played. However, by that time, the quality of bowling attacks had deteriorated. Still, the Master Blaster couldn't manage to pile 500 runs in one series. Gavaskar's achievement remains unparalleled in Indian cricket history. This too is an argument for him to be regarded as India's greatest batsman.