From the Archive: Sunil Gavaskar

Throughout our long and colourful history, Somerset County Cricket Club has been the home to some of the finest players ever to grace the game.

Somerset Members and supporters have witnessed some truly great players take to the field at Taunton and in 1980 one of the very best was plying his trade in the West Country.

During the winter of 1979 Somerset began looking to recruit an overseas player after it was announced that Viv Richards and Joel Garner were committed to the West Indies touring team for the summer of 1980.

The Somerset management set their sights high and were able to secure the services of the outstanding Indian batsman, Sunil Gavaskar.

The right handed opener was 30 when he arrived at Somerset and expectations were high.

His maiden First Class game for Somerset was a local derby against Gloucestershire in the Schweppes County Championship at Taunton which saw him make a graceful 75 as his side posted a total of 534. Somerset’s new recruit was rather overshadowed though by Ian Botham who made 228. Despite being forced to follow-on Gloucestershire held out for a draw but the signs for Somerset and Gavaskar were encouraging.

A few days later Somerset made the trip to the Kennington Oval to face Surrey in the same competition but the team from Taunton were dismissed for just 128 in their first innings, with Gavaskar scoring just 15. Batting for a second time, the Indian master showed his true class and made an impressive 138 but he received little support as Somerset were dismissed for 284 in a match they were to lose by eight wickets.

1980 was one of the wettest summers on record and the slow wickets that resulted from this did not suit a player so used to Indian conditions and he found it hard to acclimatise to the damp English conditions.

However, he was back to his best in time for the Weston-super-Mare cricket Festival as he helped himself to 155 not out against Yorkshire at Clarence Park in Somerset’s first innings total of 276.

During his time with Somerset he played 15 First Class matches, scoring 686 runs at an average of 34.29.

He also featured in 16 one-day matches for the County and once again there were flashes of brilliance in an otherwise frustrating season. In the John Player League he scored half-centuries in wins against Glamorgan and Nottinghamshire. In the Benson and Hedges Cup he made 90 against Kent in a nine-wicket win whilst his 123 against Middlesex couldn’t prevent his side from slipping to a narrow one-run defeat.

Sunil Gavaskar’s career record is one of the very best.

He was the first batsman to make 10,000 Test runs and made a total of 34 Test hundreds, a world record which stood for nearly two decades until it was eventually overhauled by Sachin Tendulkar.

Although Somerset supporters didn’t see the very best of Sunil Gavaskar, there were glimpses of what the great man could do during that wet summer of 1980.

CALCUTTA, INDIA: Former Indian cricket captain and opening batsman Sunil Gavaskar gives some advice to Sachin Tendulkar during a fielding practice session at Eden Gardens Stadium in Calcutta, 26 November 2004. DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty Images

Images Courtesy of Getty Images

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