In the early 1980s, Sunil Manohar Gavaskar was destroying bowling attacks and adding to his enviable batting record. The ace all-rounder was also steering flying cars, becoming invisible when the situation demanded, and ridding the world of baddies.

Sunny the Supersleuth was a short-lived comic book series featuring a superhero modelled on the cricketer. The series ran in 1983 and 1984 and combined cricket, adventure and science fiction. It was the brainchild of Bharat Savur and Shalan Savur. The art direction was by Prabhakar Wairkar and the illustrations by Prabha Wairkar. The comics were published by GV Vasudeo and distributed by India Book Distributors.

In the comics Sunny is armed with customised gadgets that would make James Bond go green. He has a custom-made aeromobile called the Marzuki, jet-propelled shoes that enable him to soar into the sky, ‘sunnyculars’ with which he can see even the back of the moon, a spray that renders him invisible, and the sunnycom, the only computer in the world with a database of every single criminal. He captures hoodlums and delivers them to the police “sunny side up” while humming Happy Days are Here Again.

The comic books make sure to emphasise Gavaskar’s cricketing connections. Sunny’s trademark quip is “Blazing Bouncers!” and he delivers punches as well as powerful cricketing strokes (the hook and the cut). He begins his adventures at a cricket stadium in a neighbouring country, which he saves from a bomb placed by terrorists. How Sunny fakes getting hit by a bouncer and retires hurt just so that he can save the day forms the crux of the story.

While the Indian team in the comics is also inspired by actual cricketers – Syed Kirmani, Ravi Shastri, Sandeep Patil and manager Raj Singh Dungarpur are all there – the neighbouring country is suggestively called Bandookstan and its star fast bowler, seemingly modelled on Imran Khan, is named Usman. In the second issue, the English cricket team is touring India when its star all-rounder, Gotham, is kidnapped and eventually rescued by Sunny.

The trailer for the third in the series intriguingly advertised a professional collaboration between Gavaskar and the actor Sarika (spelt as Sareeka in the book). But when the comic finally came out, the character was called Noon Noon Zen. The two confront the evil king Bhagwan Rangaraj, an early climate change offender who is forcing a team of scientists to generate millions of kilovolts of energy that will melt the snow from mountains caps and drown all of humanity.

A fourth issue was advertised and set on an imaginary island in the oil-rich Gulf region where two sheikhs play a game of one-upmanship on the cricket field. However, the series didn’t take off in the market, and the fourth comic book never came out. The story was serialised in a few newspapers before folding up.

Sunny the Supersleuth might have ended his crime fighting days tamely, but the cricketer continued to play several fabulous innings, retiring from Test cricket in 1987 on a high by making a fighting 96 on a turning pitch in Bangalore even as India lost narrowly to Pakistan. Who says you need a cape to be a superhero?