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July 10, 1999

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The Rediff Special / Celebrating Sunil Gavaskar

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'The best opener India ever produced'

Bishen Singh Bedi

Bishen  Singh Bedi My heartiest congratulations to Sunil Gavaskar on his 50th birthday. I pray to the Almighty that he goes on to score the three-figure knock, which he scored which an amazing amount of ease on the field.

I have many profound memories of the man. Though we have never been the best of friends, I still rate him as the most compact Indian batsman I have ever played with. During those days, I think Sunil and Vishy (G R Vishwanath) enthralled the world with their batting.

The fact that Sunny went on to score 10,000 runs is a tribute to the manís enormous talent. His amazing concentration was the key to his success. The zest in him to succeed against any opposition -- that is what I like best about the man. The belief in his ability, that he was better than any opposition, was what got him to create records which Indians at one stage only dreamt of.

Bishen  Singh Bedi That was the reason for all the runs that he scored against the fearsome Windies pace attack. The number of centuries he hit off the best pace quartet is proof of the manís calibre.

His technique was infallible and his concentration level was unbelievably high. He was a great back-foot player. A perfectionist -- thatís what I always thought of him. Very correct and compact, typically in the English mould.

The way he played his cricket, it appeared that his upbringing was English and not Indian. There have always been comparisons between Sunny and Vishy -- but for me there could never have been a comparison. Vishy was an artist, he made it look so simple, he seemed to enjoy the game so much.

Bishen Singh Bedi While Sunny believed in grinding the opposition, Vishy looked to dominate. He always seemed to be a source of entertainment. I especially treasure the West Indies tour of 1971 when Sunny scored 700-plus runs. I remember we went to Australia after that and I was his room-mate. I always wanted to know his batting. What I mean when I say that is, I always had a lot of queries about his batting. I was intrigued by his batting talent.

We had very little in common, since Sunny was his own man. There has always been the general feeling that Sunny was the best opening batsman ever. Well, I remember a conversation I had with the late Vijay Manjrekar, and he believed that Vijay Merchant was leagues ahead as an opening batsman. He strongly impressed upon me very adamantly that Merchant was the best opening batsman India ever produced. Maybe I donít agree with that too much, though I must admit that I have never seen Vijay Merchant bat. So I still hold the view that Sunny was the best opening batsman India ever produced.

Bishen  Singh Bedi Though I had my reservations about Sunny as a captain, I must say that he is a very proud Indian. He wore the Indian colours on his chest with pride and aplomb -- a man who was unruffled in testing times.

I pray for his long life and hope that he goes on notching more birthdays.

As told to Faisal Shariff

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