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Sunil Gavaskar becomes first in Test history to score century in each innings on three occasions

When Gavaskar became the first in Test history to score century in each innings on three occasions

Sunil Gavaskar was booed and pelted with oranges by an Eden Gardens crowd because he had not delayed the declaration till his double-hundred © Getty Images

On January 2, 1979 Sunil Gavaskar became the first cricketer ever to register two hundreds in the same Test on three separate occasions. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at yet another batting exploit of the Little Master.

The Kerry Packer tenure meant that West Indies was touring India with a depleted side. They still managed to hold on 0-0 after the first two Tests. The teams moved to Eden Gardens, Calcutta for the New Year’s Test. Sunil Gavaskar, the new Indian captain, had scored a fabulous 205 in the first Test at Bombay, but had fallen to Sylvester Clarke for a golden duck in the second Test at Bangalore.

Gavaskar won the toss and decided to bat on what looked like a true surface. The West Indian fast bowlers (including a certain Malcolm Marshall) bowled well and made inroads in the Indian batting line-up; both Gundappa Viswanath and Dilip Vengsarkar made crucial contributions, and Gavaskar duly reached his hundred towards the end of the first day. Despite his 107 India collapsed to 225 for eight, and it took a whirlwind 82-ball 61 from Kapil Dev for India to reach 300. During the 107, though, Gavaskar reached a thousand runs in 1978, thereby becoming the second batsman after Ken Barrington to achieve the feat twice.

The West Indians responded well, and even managed to take a lead of 27 runs. Basil Williams scored a dodgy hundred, Alvin Kallicharran a fifty, and Sew Shivnarine and Norbert Phillip contributed with crucial forties, adding 83 for the eighth wicket. Chetan Chauhan was unfit and Anshuman Gaekwad opened the innings, but the latter fell before stumps. Vengsarkar was promoted to one-down, and with India at 70 for one after Day Four, the West Indians had probably thought that they had a fair chance after play resumed after the rest day.

Contrary to the typically defensive mindset one associates with Gavaskar and Indian cricket of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Bombay duo began aggressively. The four-pronged pace attack of West Indies (Clarke, Phillip, Marshall and Vanburn Holder) tried their best to restrain them, but both of them batted with uncharacteristic aggression. They had shed their defensive mindsets, and Gavaskar looked intent on accelerating and pushing for a victory.

The two Dadar Union batsmen kept on piling runs. Gavaskar reached his second hundred of the match in the process, and became the first batsman to achieve this thrice (the earlier occasions were 124 and 220 at Port-of-Spain 1971; and 111 and 137 at Karachi 1978-79); he was shortly followed by Vengsarkar, who registered his maiden hundred in his 17th Test.

The batsmen were relentless; both of them reached their respective 150s, and Gavaskar finally declared with the score on 361 forone. The two had added 344, with Gavaskar unbeaten on 182 and Vengsarkar on 157. West Indies were set 335 for a victory in just over a day – and, inexplicably, when he walked out after the innings, Gavaskar was booed and pelted with oranges by an Eden Gardens crowd because he had not delayed the declaration till his double-hundred.

Gavaskar scores a record 1014 Test runs in 78 days

The innings also meant that Gavaskar had scored a staggering 1,014 runs at 101.40 in a 78-day span from 16th October 1978 to 2nd January 1979. This eclipsed Walter Hammond’s existing record of 1,000 runs in a 124-day span.

It was, however, a bold (and very un-Gavaskarish) declaration, given that the conditions favoured batting even on the late fourth day. Though Williams was injured, David Murray and Kallicharran resisted, and at 133 for 2, the game seemed meandering towards another predictable draw.

Despite a few wickets fell, India still needed to take five wickets for a victory when the mandatory overs began. It was then that Karsan Ghavri struck, removing Williams, Phillip and Holder in quick succession. Sewnarine batted sensibly, and Marshall hung around. Viswanath dropped Marshall in the slips, which delayed the fall of the ninth wicket by four overs.

The light deteriorated rapidly (Calcutta typically has very early evenings in winter), and Gavaskar did not have an option but to bring on his spinners. Viswanath dropped Marshall in the slips, and when Bishan Bedi finally removed him, it was perhaps a tad too late. The crowd came into the act, lighting torches in the stands to provide light to the ground, but it was all in vain. Against all odds, Clarke played out eight balls; Shivnarine kept on (as perhaps anyone would have done) wasting time; and when the umpires removed the bails with 11 balls to spare, the conditions were really not conducive for batting.

Brief scores: India 300 (Sunil Gavaskar 107, Kapil Dev 61; Norbert Philip 4 for 64) and 361 for one declared (Sunil Gavaskar 182*, Dilip Vengsarkar 157*) drew with West Indies 327 (Basil Williams 111, Alvin Kallicharran 55; Srinivas Venkataraghavan 4 for 55) and 197 for nine (David Murray 66; Karsan Ghavri 4 for 46).

(A hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobiac by his own admission, Abhishek Mukherjee is a statistical analyst based in Kolkata, India. He typically looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – not necessarily as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the game with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a rather steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers the sport has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks and googlies in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in)

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