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The 700 club: Yashasvi Jaiswal looks to join Sunil Gavaskar in elite group

Sunil Gavaskar made more than 700 runs in a series twice and to this day he remains the only Indian to have achieved the feat

For fans of an older vintage well-versed with Indian cricket and its landmarks, 774 is a hallowed figure embedded in memory. In a sport that’s fixated with stats and records, Sunil Gavaskar’s colossal volume of runs as a 21-year-old in his debut series against West Indies in 1971 is more importantly a benchmark for greatness — a grand arrival on the big stage if ever there was one, and also the kindling of a long-standing love affair between the opening batter and the Caribbean.

Yashasvi Jaiswal has been in tremendous form in the ongoing series against England

More than five decades later, that benchmark still stands. It is entirely to Yashasvi Jaiswal’s credit then that he has a small chance of breaching that barrier. He’s still 120 runs away from surpassing that tally with the final Test against England in Dharamsala remaining, but if you are not putting it beyond the left-handed opening batter, it’s an ode to the series he’s had so far.

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In four Tests, he has racked up 655 runs at an average of 93.57 with two double centuries. It’s the sort of run that already places him in a venerated league alongside Gavaskar, Virat Kohli, Dilip Sardesai and Rahul Dravid as the only Indian batters to amass more than 600 runs in a Test series. No Indian has scored more than 700 runs in a series other than Gavaskar, whose greatness is illustrated by the fact he did it twice against West Indies (1971 and 1978-79).

In 1971, in a series comprising four Tests, Gavaskar had only one failure — he was dismissed for 1 in the first innings of the third Test in Barbados. His other scores were 65, 67*, 116, 64*, 117*, 124 and 220, embodying the work ethic and ‘khadoos’ mentality of Bombay batters who would seldom give away a start.

Gavaskar often reserved his best for that invincible team, which a record of 2749 runs in 27 Tests at an average of 65.45 underlines. Gavaskar belonged to an era where helmets and high-quality protective gear weren’t available, and yet churned out big scores against the fearsome West Indian quartet on a regular basis, armed as he was with a defensive technique right out of the coaching manual.

If Gavaskar was the poster boy of the conventional Bombay school of batting in the 1970s and 80s, Kohli symbolises the multiple avatars of the modern-day batter, equally adept at piling up a big hundred or double hundred in a Test and bashing the ball into the stands in a T20. Kohli is second to Gavaskar for most runs scored by an Indian in a Test series, which shows what India have been missing lately. Kohli made 692 runs in four Tests in Australia in 2014/15, overpowering a Mitchell Johnson-led Aussie pace attack that was on a high after its exploits in the Ashes a year earlier.

Remember that Kohli had gone into this series on the back of a wretched tour of England, returning 134 runs in five Tests at an average of 13.4 owing to a tendency to flirt with balls outside off stump. His contrasting returns that year also bring into focus the double-edged sword that a long series can be. While it is true that a large volume of runs is possible only where there are four or five Tests to play, a duel of that duration can also expose frailties in a batter’s technique that a short series simply can’t.

This is also why Don Bradman’s legacy transcends generations — of the 34 instances of a batter scoring more than 700 runs in a series, he features as many as five times. Bradman’s best is an unrivalled 974 runs in five Tests at a staggering average of 139.14 with a top score of 334 on Australia’s tour of England in 1930.

So frustrated were England’s players with the sight of Bradman by the end of the series that skipper Douglas Jardine came up with the infamous ‘bodyline’ tactic merely to combat the great Australian for their tour in 1932/33. They were successful, in that they won the series 4-1 and confined Bradman to “only” 396 runs at 56.57.

The devious ploy rightly brought a restriction to the number of fielders behind square on the leg side, and normal course resumed as Bradman compiled 810 runs at 90 in 1936/37. Some of the other batters to score more than 700 runs in a series include Wally Hammond, Viv Richards, Gary Sobers and Brian Lara, all undisputed greats of this game.

Among active players, Steve Smith features twice, having hoarded 774 runs in four Ashes Tests in 2019 and 769 against India in a four-match series in 2014/15. It seems to highlight that only a certain rank of players can achieve such a feat. If Jaiswal can join this elite group during the Dharamsala Test, it will provide further affirmation of his extremely bright future.


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