Dubbed India’s ‘running machine’ and the original ‘little master’, Sunil Gavaskar elevated the country’s cricket with his batting skill and professionalism against the greatest opponents, succeeding in the pre-helmet era against the fast bowlers of the West Indies of the 1970s and 1980s. and the great Australian teams led by Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.
March 7, 1987 will, however, be considered a special day in Indian cricket, when one of the most important milestones in the history of the game was achieved – Gavaskar became the first to reach the summit of cricket’s Mount Everest. 10,000 career trials.
The half-hidden face under his panama hat, bat and other gloved hand raised in jubilation as he ran towards a couple, led to a photo and TV clip that will forever be special to Indian fans. He knew he had reached that special milestone the moment he connected a delicious late cut against Ijaz Faqih on the third man, running two.
Gavaskar, entering his 124th Test, needed 57 to complete 10,000, and for months talk in Indian cricket circles was all about him becoming the first to hit the magic five digits . The fact that he came against India’s biggest rivals Pakistan – it was the fourth Test of the series and Gavaskar would only play one more Test before announcing his retirement – with the rivals cheering made it all the more special for everyone.
Thousands of fans in dusty Ahmedabad rose to salute the achievement, with scores running onto the pitch and harassing him. He had already surpassed Geoff Boycott’s world record for Test aggregate and Don Bradman’s world record for centuries (29) – Gavaskar finished on a then world record of 34.
But 10,000 belonged to the highest league.
“Today we saw uncontrolled elation, did something snap at this time?” the television interviewer asked Gavaskar in the field. “No, I thought, it’s just the fact that 10,000 runs is something I never imagined I would score in my life. I think that’s 9,000 runs too many. I would have been very happy with 1,000 races in my test career. That’s over 9,000 races for me, so it’s just a moment of pure joy. I guess there are times when you can’t always control his emotions.
At that time, it was old Gavaskar, in complete control. But he was exhausted. “There was no mental preparation as such. It was just that I knew I had to go out there, do a few errands, give the team a go and then the required errands would come. I just played like I was opening in another test. But I was very keen to do it quickly because it really touched me, everyone meeting me saying 10,000, 10,000. So I was really happy that it was over now.
It was almost the last act of a glorious career. In Bengaluru (then Bangalore) in the final Test of the series, he retired – but only after producing a monumental 96 on difficult ground in the narrow defeat to India.