On Sunday, India handed Bangladesh a crushing defeat winning by an innings and 43 runs with two more days left to play, thereby clinching the series 2-0.
In the first Day & Night Test match played in India, the hosts bundled out Bangladesh for 106 in the first innings and then declared their innings at 347 for nine. India then managed to break the back of Bangladesh’s batting line up by picking up six wickets before stumps on Day 2. Pacer Umesh Yadav took just four overs to wrap up Bangladesh’s second innings as India extended their lead at the top of ICC World Test Championship.
Following the victory, Team India captain Virat Kohli who scored his 27th Test hundred, praised BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and thanked him for establishing a winning culture. He said, “The idea is to establish yourself in the middle and we have learnt to stand up and give it back. It all started with Dada’s team and we are just carrying it forward.”
However, Kohli’s comments reportedly did not go down well with former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar. He hit out at the current captain reminding him that India used to win even in the 1970s and 1980s.
Speaking at the post-match show, Gavaskar said, “This is a fantastic win but I would like to make a point. The Indian captain said that this thing started in 2000 with Dada’s (Ganguly’s) team. I know Dada is the BCCI President, so maybe Kohli wanted to say nice things about him. But India were also winning in the ’70s and ’80s. He wasn’t born then.”
Gavaskar further mentioned that unlike what many might think that cricket began only in 2000s, India had also won away from home 30 years back. He said, “A lot of people still think that cricket started only in 2000s. But the Indian team won overseas in the ’70s. The Indian team also won away in 1986. India also drew series overseas. They lost like other teams did.”
Now, if you look at both the comments of Kohli and Gavaskar, you might think what Kohli is saying is right, but Sunil Gavaskar has a point here too. It might be true that during Dada’s tenure as captain the Indian cricket team found a new identity and zeal to win matches on foreign soil, however, you cannot completely ignore the contribution of the previous generation of cricketers towards the development of the game.
Although, India was not a great force to reckon with in the 70s and 80s, but the team also had to face numerous challenges. First of all, BCCI was not a powerhouse back then and India’s cricketing infrastructure was not as great as it is today. Still we cannot forget that it was India under the leadership of Kapil Dev won the cricket World Cup in 1983 defying all odds.
Moreover, one cannot ignore the quality of the pacers back then. West Indies and Australia dominated world cricket thanks to their towering fast bowlers whom today’s generation would think twice before facing them. The pitches were also a crucial factor. Back in the 70s and 80s, the cricketing pitches favoured the bowlers more making it difficult for any batsman to score runs, let alone centuries after centuries. The West Indies had some of the most fearing fast bowlers such as Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall and not to forget the “Whispering Death” Michael Holding.
It is important to note that following his debut in international cricket in the West Indies, Sunil Gavaskar immediately made an impact, scoring a total of 774 runs for the series and helping India to a 1-0 series win, their first ever win over the West Indies. Gavaskar formed the nucleus of India’s strongest Test team in the era with established greats like Bishen Bedi, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, Erapalli Prasanna and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar. This win over the Windies was followed by home and away wins over England in 1971 and 1972-73.
In 1985, India won the World Championship of Cricket in Australia as well followed by a Test series victory in 1986 in England. The “Little Master” became the first batsman to accumulate 10,000 runs in Test cricket, that without helmet, and went on to register a record 34 centuries, surpassed only by Sachin Tendulkar.
It may be mentioned that today’s generation of cricketers have the luxury of top class facilities provided by the BCCI and no doubt they have taken the level of the game to a different level altogether. However, you cannot make a sweeping statement such as Virat Kohli’s especially when you are the captain of the team.
For a man who is widely regarded as one of the greatest Test batsmen and best opening batsmen in Test cricket history, Sunil Gavaskar is absolutely right when he said that India was also winning in the 70s and 80s. It is a very ‘uncaptain-like’ statement coming from somebody like Virat Kohli who completely ignored the team’s past performances. With his statement, Virat not only insulted former cricketing greats but also completely whitewashed the contribution of former captains in taking forward the Indian cricket.