Farewell to Derek Underwood: Sunil Gavaskar’s Rivalry

Derek Underwood: Legendary England Spinner Known as ‘Deadly’ Passes Away at 78

MUMBAI: Derek Underwood, England’s most prominent spinner in the post-World War II era, renowned for his ability to dismiss legendary opener Sunil Gavaskar, has sadly passed away at the age of 78.

The left-arm spinner, affectionately called ‘Deadly,’ left a remarkable legacy by claiming 297 wickets in 86 Tests, the highest by an England spinner, during his illustrious 16-year career from 1966 to 1982. His excellence extended to his 24-year first-class career, where he clinched an impressive 2,465 wickets.

Underwood’s prowess on the field was characterized by his exceptional speed and precision, making him a formidable opponent for batsmen in an era of uncovered wickets in England and beyond. Notably, he engaged in numerous battles with India’s renowned batsmen from 1971-82, claiming 62 wickets in 20 Tests against them.

One of the standout performances by Underwood was during the infamous Oval Test in 1971 when India secured victory by chasing down 173 runs. Underwood’s spell of 3/72 in the second innings posed a significant challenge, eventually overcome by India.

In the 1972-73 series in India, Underwood made a mark by dismissing Sunil Gavaskar, the celebrated opener, four times in 10 innings. Gavaskar, who managed only two half-centuries in five Tests during that series, fell victim to Underwood’s craft on multiple occasions.

Throughout his career, Underwood achieved a remarkable feat by dismissing Gavaskar a total of 12 times in Tests, establishing a record for the most dismissals by any bowler against the legendary batsman. The 1976-77 series further showcased Underwood’s dominance, where his 29 wickets in five Tests played a pivotal role in England’s 3-1 triumph in India, with Gavaskar being his prized wicket on six occasions.

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Reflecting on Underwood’s legacy, Sunil Gavaskar and former Indian captain Dilip Vengsarkar, who faced him during the 1981 series at home, expressed their deep admiration for the late spinner.

In an emotional quote, Gavaskar lamented Underwood’s passing, acknowledging his exceptional talent and warm personality. Gavaskar also recalled Underwood as one of the toughest bowlers he faced during his playing days, alongside Andy Roberts.

Vengsarkar emphasized Underwood’s precision and accuracy, reminiscing about their battle during the 1981 series, where Underwood’s ability to tie down batsmen with his accuracy and quick pace left a lasting impression. He lauded Underwood for mastering the art of left-arm spin, showcasing a combination of nagging line and length delivery.

The cricketing world mourns the loss of Underwood, a true maestro of the game whose skill and sportsmanship will be forever cherished.