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Sunil Gavaskar still doesn’t know why he was axed as Test captain after winning against West Indies

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Sunil Gavaskar, writing in his column for Mid-Day, recalled the time he was replaced as India’s captain immediately after leading the team to a series win over West Indies in 1978/79.

India had managed to win a six-Test series against West Indies 1-0 on home soil, after which they were to visit England for the ODI World Cup and a four-Test series. However, Gavaskar, who top-scored with 732 runs and led the side to a series victory over the then-world champions, was replaced by S Venkataraghavan as the captain.

“That tour of England (1979) was where I was replaced as captain despite India winning the series against the West Indies (1978/79) and in which I got more than 700 runs,” Gavaskar wrote. “I still don’t know the reason for it, but can only surmise that it was because I had been pretty open about the offer to join Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. However, I signed the BCCI contract before the selection, thereby proving where my loyalties lay.

“What that episode showed was just like in world cricket, despite BCCI riches, the real influence is with the ‘old powers’ so also despite Mumbai being the champion team, the real power lies elsewhere in Indian cricket. Imagine a player being dropped as skipper despite leading his team to a series win and scoring more than 700 runs too.

“One can totally understand the captain being replaced as used to happen then when India lost a series, especially overseas, but to replace a winning skipper was perhaps a first in Indian cricket.”

Gavaskar was reinstated as the captain after the England Test series, where he finished as the top-scorer with 542 runs. India, however, went down 1-0 in the series.

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