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Two of a kind

By S. Dinakar

Eyes fiercely following the course of the ball, mind and body in perfect harmony, the sphere being met from the middle of the willow, and the entire sequence of movement, a fine blend of concentration, purity, and balance.

In his quest for perfection, Sunil Gavaskar constructed an epic monument, a structure that, despite the passage of years, gleams and glitters, much like those wonderfully refined strokes.

Allan Border's methods were less perfect. Survival and not pursuit of technical excellence was the theme running through his career.

The southpaw would cut and pull ferociously, but sprinkled with those rasping strokes, would be nicks and edges. The Aussie's spirit — he would hold firm when confronted by the on-field storms — eventually saw him conquering several peaks.

The odd drive might be mistimed, but then Border seldom got his sense of occasion wrong. Time his performances, he certainly did, much like Gavaskar.

The prestigious India-Australia showdown in Tests is appropriately named the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The footprints of the two are of the kind that will not be erased even by the surging waves casting a blanket over seashores.

Contrasting paths

Their paths to success might have been contrasting, but shining through is the kind of single-mindedness that could slice through barriers, melt down obstacles, and swim through turbulent seas.

Border, with 11174 runs in 156 matches at 50.56, has the most Test runs in history, while Sunil Gavaskar, the first to cross the 10,000-run mark, has 10,122 runs from 125 Tests at 51.12.

The Australian left-hander has scored 1567 runs at 52.23 against the Indians in 20 Tests, including 766 at 51.07 from nine matches — the most runs by an Aussie in India. And Gavaskar has made 1550 runs at 51.66 in the same number of Tests against the men in baggy green, with 630 of them scored at 52.50 in nine Tests here.

In his first Test in India, Border would make 162 at Chepauk, but the host, skippered shrewdly by Gavaskar, would go on to clinch the six-Test series 2-0 in 1979-80; the Indian captain notched up hundreds in the Delhi and Bombay Tests as well.

A year later, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Gavaskar would lead India, fuelled by Kapil Dev's heroics, to a historic series-levelling Test victory on the Australian soil.

Leading by example

The essential Border of that indomitable spirit was visible in Melbourne, 1985-86. The Aussie cause appeared lost while confronting the Indian spinners on a wearing pitch, when captain courageous responded with a 163 in the second innings, rallying with the tail, and saving the Test.

Border steered Australia through a tough phase. Giants such as Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh had left the scene, and a young, largely untested side required the guiding influence of a resilient captain; someone who would lead by personal example, not wilting under pressure.

It was no different with Gavaskar, who at least in the first phase of his career, often had to shoulder an enormous burden — the Indian batting was lacking in depth — while taking on the big fast men, on pitches that were green. Not once did he flinch.

And in the famous tied Test at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in 1986-87, Border rattled up 106 in the first essay, while Gavaskar scored 90 in the second innings; significant contributions in a match that cannot be clouded by the mists of time.

Gavaskar and Border are timeless too...Gavaskar, the ultimate technician, Border, the ultimate fighter.

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