Watch: On December 28, 1983, Sunil Gavaskar brought up his 30th Test hundred to go past Don Bradman’s long-standing world record.
The 1983/84 home series against the West Indies had been a topsy-turvy outing for Gavaskar. After falling for 0 and 7 in Kanpur, he had counterattacked his way to a dazzling 121 – the fastest of his Test career – in Delhi. A superb 90 on a treacherous Ahmedabad pitch was followed by a run of 1, 12, 3, 0, and 20. He was booed in the previous Test match, in Calcutta, and things got worse ahead of the sixth Test match, in Madras.
Following the defeat in the World Cup final earlier that year, the West Indies had arrived to prove a point. They swept the ODIs 5-0, and had already taken a 3-0 lead in the Tests. Now, before the Madras Test, Indian captain Kapil Dev appeared for an interview in Chandigarh. There, he reportedly accused some “senior Indian players” of being “only interested in money and not in the game”.
BCCI president NKP Salve had to intervene to sort out any possible differences between Kapil and Gavaskar. Putting to rest every rumour of not playing under Kapil, Gavaskar featured in the playing XI in the Madras Test match.
West Indies posted 313. While Jeff Dujon (62) was the only one to go past 40, seven others went past 20. Anshuman Gaekwad opened batting with a youngster called Navjot Sidhu, for the team management had finally agreed to Gavaskar’s long-standing request of allowing him to bat down the order.
As things turned out, Malcolm Marshall claimed Gaekwad, and off the next ball, Dilip Vengsarkar. Gavaskar had to emerge at 0-2. When the fielders changed after the over, Viv Richards famously quipped, “maan, it makes no difference if you bat lower – the score is still zero.” By stumps, Gavaskar was 36, and India 69-4. That became 92-5 next morning, but Ravi Shastri hung on, and India first avoided the follow-on, then inched towards 200.
Gavaskar, meanwhile, moved to 99. A single took Shastri to 32 and India to 172-5 – and brought Gavaskar on strike. Gavaskar then flicked Winston Davis for the run that took him to the long-awaited milestone.
Watch Sunil Gavaskar create history here:
Shastri (72) fell after a stand of 170. India became 308-8, but Syed Kirmani (63 not out) proved to be stubborn, and India marched on until Kapil declared on 451-8, and the match fizzled out to a draw. By then, Gavaskar had reached 236 not out (425 balls, 23 fours) – five more than Vinoo Mankad’s 231, the highest score in Test cricket by an Indian for nearly three decades. As promised, he gave away the historical bat to Dujon.
Gavaskar went on to score four more Test hundreds. His 236* remained the Indian record until VVS Laxman made 281 in 2000/01.