Sunil Gavaskar: Wanted to be an attacking opener like Rohit Sharma
Sunil Gavaskar, the first man to 10,000 Test runs, was a batting template for an entire generation of Indian cricketers. He’s pleased that the next generation is raising the bar further. In an interview on India Today‘s E-Inspiration series, Gavaskar praised Rohit Sharma‘s attacking style in particular, saying he would have loved to have been a free-flowing opener like Sharma.
Since the start of 2015, Sharma has averaged 62.36 in 97 ODI innings and strikes at 95.44, with 24 centuries during that period. He is also currently the only batsman to have made multiple double-centuries – three – in ODI cricket, and is part of one of the most prolific ODI partnerships in history alongside Shikhar Dhawan. In the last home season, India transitioned him into a Test opening role as well, where he made a boisterous start with three centuries in five games.
Gavaskar himself had a successful career as an ODI opener, finishing with an average of 35.13 in 108 matches. And while a strike rate of 62.26 was not automatically frowned upon during his playing time, he suggested that more belief in his own abilities might have made him score at a faster rate.
“The way you see a Rohit Sharma opening the batting in one-day cricket, Test cricket smashing from the first over,” he said. “That is what I wanted to play. Circumstances and, of course, lack of confidence in my ability did not allow me to do that. But when I see the next generation doing it, I am absolutely over the moon, I love watching the next generation because there you see progress. You see how they are setting the bar higher for the next generation.”
On a related note, Gavaskar said that the current Indian Test team under Virat Kohli is the best they’ve ever had. India are currently third in ICC’s Test rankings, one rating point behind New Zealand, and two behind Australia who are No. 1. They do, however, have a 64-point lead at the top of the World Test Championship standings as they brace for a Test series against Australia at the end of the year.
“I believe this team is the best ever Indian Test team in terms of balance, in terms of ability, in terms of skills, in terms of temperament. Can”t think of a better Indian Test team,” Gavaskar said. “This team has the attack to win on any surface. It doesn’t need any help [from] conditions. They can win on any surface. Batting-wise, there were teams in the 1980s that were pretty similar. But they didn’t have the bowlers that Virat has.”
Much of India’s recent success in Tests, particularly the series win in Australia last year, has been credited to a potent and versatile bowling attack. The fast bowlers have near-identical numbers to the spinners under his captaincy, to the degree that no other Indian captain has ever had. The roster was part of the management’s plan to develop a bowling attack that would work anywhere in the world, and has made India a strong threat in overseas Tests. What’s left now, suggested Gavaskar, is a more rounded batting line-up.
“[…] Without a question, India has got such a varied bowling attack today and that is so essential. There is a saying that if you don’t take 20 wickets, you won’t win a match. We have got the bowling to take 20 Australian wickets on one run less than what India has scored. You need to score runs also. We saw that in England in 2018. We saw that in South Africa in 2017 when we went there. (India lost both series)
“We got 20 wickets every time but we didn’t score enough runs. But now I think we have also got the batting to be able to score more runs than Australians.”