The ‘Trishul’ Of Indian Cricket Excellence

November 15 is a date on which a certain cricketer made his Test debut for India and Indian cricket has not been the same since then. He was not an immediate sensation, no century in his first Test for him. In fact he was out for just 15 but even then it was clear that he was in racing parlance a stayer and not a sprinter. He was destined for greatness but what was not expected was the eye rubbing and mind boggling record he ran up when he finally retired almost to the day 24 years later.

Yes, November 15 is a date which is bracketed with two other dates on which two other all-time greats made their international debut. On March 6 1971 Sunil Gavaskar walked out on the field to play his first Test against West Indies at Port of Spain. On October 16 1978 Kapil Dev ran in to bowl his first ball against Pakistan at Faisalabad. And November 15 1989 is remembered by Indian cricket fans with fondness for a certain Sachin Tendulkar made his debut against Pakistan at Karachi. At 16 he was the youngest Indian cricketer to play his first Test but his selection had been widely welcomed. There was not one cricket follower who felt that he was not just ready for the rigours of Test cricket. Indeed he was straightaway drafted into the playing eleven and in only his second Test innings notched up his maiden half century. The rest as the cliché goes is history.

It was much the same with Kapil. He was 19 and his selection too was hugely welcomed. He too didn’t have much success in his first Test finishing with match figures of one for 96 from 28 overs. But he did however rattle Sadiq Mohammed with a bouncer which made the opening batsman signal for a helmet – a pivotal moment in the history of Indian cricket for it symbolized that India had at last unearthed a fast bowler and that the opening attack could no longer be treated with disdain as it had been earlier. Kapil of course went on to become the highest wicket taker in Test cricket arguably the proudest moment in Indian cricket considering that the opening bowling was largely a joke and a farce until he came along.

Gavaskar of course fared slightly better than Kapil and Tendulkar in his first Test. Not only did he get 65 and 67 not out he also played a notable role in India’s first- ever victory over West Indies. And considering that India were the whipping boys of international cricket in the fifties and sixties Gavaskar’s arrival saw a metamorphosis in India’s fortunes thereafter. He ran up the kind of batting feats that were unheard of before in Indian cricket and matched the feats of his great contemporaries from other teams. The fact that he was the first to break the 10,000 run barrier in Tests would still be his greatest achievement and one of the greatest in Test cricket history.

Yes, Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Tendulkar - the three greatest cricketers in Indian cricket. Whichever order they are placed matters little and will be a personal choice. The three represent the `trishul’ of Indian cricket excellence.