The late cut that mesmerised a nation

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 07, 2012 08:26 hrs

Has it really been 25 years to the day since Sunil Gavaskar late cut Ijaz Faqih for two runs to become the first batsman in Test cricket history to reach 10,000 runs? It had been a barrier that many great batsmen failed to breach despite the proliferation of Test matches over the years. In fact for long it was thought to be an unreachable figure.

Wally Hammond was the first to reach 7000 runs in 1946, Gary Sobers was the first to reach 8000 in 1974 and Gavaskar himself was the first to reach 9000 runs in 1985 but even then the magical figure of 10,000 seemed beyond anyone's reach.

But as Gavaskar stretched his tally to 9500 and beyond the possibility of the 10,000 run barrier being breached came into firm focus. I well remember cricket fans the world over following the India-Pakistan series in early 1987 with more than passing interest because there was a distinct possibility that Gavaskar could well create history.

At the start of the five match series, Gavaskar was 173 runs adrift of the mark. But he was in his 38th year and this could well be his swan song. In the first Test at Madras he scored 91 so that was a good start. But then there was a huge suspense as he chose to miss the second Test at Calcutta in protest against the crowd's abuse in earlier matches ending a record run of 106 consecutive Test appearances since January 1975. Back he came for the third Test at Jaipur but a first ball duck followed by 24 in the second innings meant that he needed 58 runs to reach the five figure mark.

The big moment finally came about in the fourth Test at Ahmedabad on March 7 1987. Incidentally it was at the same venue in November 1983 that he had surpassed Geoff Boycott as the leading run getter in Tests. Now playing his 212th innings in his 124th Test he opened the innings as usual.

India lost two wickets for 46 runs on the third day in reply to Pakistan’s 395 but Gavaskar batted fluently and did not allow the pressure to get to him. The crowd were cheering every run and TV viewers all over the country were glued to the set eager to witness history in the making.

Gavaskar got to his 50 and a little later the figure 9999 was put on the board and the cheering reached a crescendo. Shortly after tea he played the delectable late cut and even as he took off for the first run he was a picture of joy as he raised his bat and the crowd stood as one man to applaud the man and the feat.

What followed was unbelievable. There were spontaneous scenes of joy and a section of the spectators invaded the field to offer felicitations and garland Gavaskar. The prolonged celebrations meant that play could resume only after a gap of about 20 minutes. Gavaskar was out a little later for 63 and summed up the greatness of his feat perfectly by saying "many more might achieve this feat but the one that reaches it first is remembered more."

Gavaskar certainly had a point. We remember the first men to conquer Mount Everest but does anyone remember the eighth or ninth? Indeed eight more have crossed 10,000 runs in Tests since that March day in Ahmedabad. It is still a considerable feat but the names of those followed do not roll off the tongue as easily as that of Gavaskar.

Interestingly enough it was his penultimate Test match. He played the last Test at Bangalore and made his retirement announcement from first class cricket at the end of the Bicentenary match at Lord's in August that year. His tally of 10,122 remained the record till Allan Border surpassed it in 1993 and since then the five figure number is still the achievement all great batsmen aspire for.

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