Sunny and Boycs


There were some truly great opening batsmen who graced test cricket since its advent in the early 20th century. Some of them left an undeniable mark on international cricket. We are truly unfortunate people of this generation who didn’t see their full talent and could not see for ourselves why they were so highly rated. To name a few, W G Grace, Sir Len Hutton, Jack Hobbs and Barry Richards come to mind immediately. Barry Richards was unlucky as he did not play much international cricket due to the ban on South African cricket at the time. However, we are fortunate that we did see some magnificent opening batsmen in our time such as Gordon Greenidge, Matt Hayden, Virendra Sehwag, Bobby Simpson, Graham Gooch etc. But the best of them were sunny and boycs, meaning Sunil Gavaskar and Sir Geoffrey Boycott.

In 1972 Sir Donald Bradman handpicked the rest of the world team to come to Australia and play a test series against Australia. There was a lot of speculation on who he will select as the best players for the World 11. Geoffrey Boycott was a foregone conclusion for the opening slot as he had established himself as the premier opening batsman in the world. But surprise surprise, Bradman’s selection was Sunil Gavaskar. This shocked many cricketing pundits of the time. Sunny Gavaskar had made headlines with a sensational debut against West Indies in their backyard. But just that alone would not have been enough for the cricket’s greatest legend at the time to make the decision. Sunny did not disappoint the Don in the years to come with a career that is second to no one. He scored 13 test hundreds against West Indies who were the greatest fast bowling attack at the time. As if that was not enough he scored 8 test hundreds against Australia which was the second best bowling attack at the time and 5 hundreds against Pakistan which was the third. So if you see his record astonishingly his top 3 aggregate of centuries is against the top 3 bowling attacks at the time and with the highest runs scored against the best attack at the top. This is an incredible achievement and should be considered even higher than the record number of runs and centuries he set in his time. The man just wouldn’t give his wicket away no matter what. People criticized him for being selfish or slow and what not. But he has answered all those questions. His 94 ball hundred against WI in Delhi was a clear indication that he could score runs quickly if required. But he preferred to grind the opposition down with a huge price tag on his wicket. There was another reason for this as well. At the time the Indian middle order was fragile and it was his wicket that used to pretty much seal the fate of the match for Indians. Remember there was no helmet at the time and Gavaskar ducked and weaved through to many centuries against the most ferocious fast bowling attacks of the era. Monumental figure of quality opening batsmanship was Sunny Gavaskar.

Geoffrey Boycott’s was at the end of his career when I had really started understanding test cricket. He became famous later among Indian cricket fanatics for his TV commentary with the Yorkshire accent. I still remember going to splits when he described Courtney Walsh’s batting. He rated Walsh as the world’s worst batsman. He was hilarious as a commentator. What was noticeable through all this was the knowledge of the game. The man is a showcase of technical batting. There is nothing absolutely nothing that has eluded this man about batting. Technical proficiency epitomized in the way he batted and went about building his innings. When Boycott plays a cover drive you can rest assured that it is the best way of doing so. I remember him telling a youngster how to play a forward defensive stroke and he was telling him how to bend his leg in certain degrees and where his chin should be positioned. It was amazing to watch. Boycs absolutely hated giving his wicket away. Sometimes it was said that it cost England in terms of winning the matches, but that is mostly conjecture. England never lost a test match in which Boycott scored a hundred. He was definitely the greatest first class cricket opening batsman of all time. He averaged more than 100 twice in first class cricket in the seventies.

Both Sunny and Boycs think that Boycs was slightly better than Sunny. This thinking mainly comes from Boycott’s technical proficiency but I don’t think so. I think Sunny was being modest after taking a look at his record. Scoring that kind of runs against the best in the world consistently and in their backyard takes some doing. I rate Sunny slightly better than Boycs. Nothing much in it though as Boycs said. 19-20.

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