The Master Entertainer

The Enthralling Vishy
By Vimal Kumar

"The great artist is the simplifier" - Henry Frederic

The classy Gundappa Vishwanath’s batting was more than art, which made batting looked so easy. His sheer elegance with the unique wristy touch was enough to enliven the crowd.

Vishy hailed from that school – which never cared for personal records. Instead, country and people always came first for him.

Vishwnath made his Test debut in 1969 against the visiting Australians. In the first innings, he had scored a naught. After first innings disastrous experience, Vishy was desperately eager to make his mark. And he did so in a style, only the greats can do. A breathtaking innings of 137 that contained 25 mesmerizing boundaries. Thus, he became, one of the few Indian Cricketers, scoring a century on their Test-debut.

Along with Sunil Gavaskar, it was Vishy who earned enormous respect from the opponents, for his courage and technique while handling quickies.

Invariably, he was often compared with sunny. Of course, Sunny’s record is better but old timers will still say, on their day, there was hardly anything to chose between the two. ‘The whispering death’ – Michael Holding rated Vishwanath as the most difficult batsman to get out. Even Sunil Gavaskar himself believes that one of his biggest fan. Late, Vishwnath married to Kavita – Gavaskar’s younger sister.

Vishy has a unique record. India never lost a Test match when he scored hundreds. During the Caribbean tour in 1975-76, when India won the Port of Spain Test by chasing a World-record 406 in fourth inning, Vishy produced a brilliant 112. But, the innings of 97 not out, on the first day of January 1975’s fourth Test against Windies at the Chepauk, was perhaps the finest innings played by Vishy. Clove Lloyd looked helpless, when despite having 7 fielders on the offside, Vishy was still able to play his royal square-cut.

Apart from being a great batsman, Vishwnath was also a great gentleman. And it did reflect in his sober approach to the game. In 1980-81, he called back Bob Taylor during the golden Jubilee Test against England, when he thought he didn’t catch him neatly. Later on, Bob along with the giant Ian Botham shared a huge partnership to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.

Then, Vishy got a lot of flak from the press. But, he was unfazed by the unwarranted criticism. He always believed in fair play. Unfortunately, this quality is lacking abundantly in present generation of Cricketers.

Vishwanath played 91 Test matches for India, in which he scored 6086 runs with an average of 41.93. His 155 innings for India produced 14 hundreds. His highest Test score was a superb 222 against the English team of 1981-82 at Madras.

But, as they say, statistics tell only the half-story. It holds true for Vishy. He was far better batsman than his average suggests. More importantly, he was the kind of a player who always played to give an extra joy to the paying public. Infact, Vishwnath was an institution in himself.

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