Home > Features > Moments in history >

Gundappa Viswanath’s virtuoso solo act masters might of West Indies attack at Madras

When Gundappa Viswanath's virtuoso solo act mastered the might of the West Indies attack at Madras

Gundappa Viswanath could create works of art in ruins. The 97 not out against the West Indies at Madras was one such innings. File photo © Getty Images

The 97 not out GR Viswanath scored against crushing odds and the fury of Andy Roberts at Madras on January 11, 1975, is considered among the rare gems of Test cricket. H Natarajan explains why this innings is rated among the great epics of the game.

Give our lads a paint brush and they will go to work on the back fence. Give one to a Brazilian and he will make Leonardo da Vinci – Scottish manager Andy Roxburgh after his team lost to Brazil in the 1982 World Cup soccer.

In many ways, Gundappa Viswanath was the Leonardo da Vinci. He painted masterpieces when his team-mates were drawing street wall graffiti. Right from scoring 137 on debut in 1969, Vishwanath performed when others failed. He raised his degree of batting excellence on pitches others found a nightmare; his match-winning 124 out of 255 on another fiery, bouncy Madras wicket against West Indies in 1978-79, and innings of 83 and 79 against New Zealand on a Christchurch green-top in 1975-76 being a few such instances.

But if there is one innings that defined his granite resolve in crisis situation, it was his 97 not out against the rampaging Andy Roberts at Chennai in 1975. West Indies arrived at Madras with a 2-1 lead in the five-match Test series, winning at Bangalore and Delhi. Viv Richards, who made his Test debut alongside Gordon Greenidge at Bangalore, had signaled his arrival on the world stage with an unbeaten 192 at Delhi.

India won the toss and opted to bat, but lost six wickets for 55 runs as Roberts blew the Indians apart with sustained hostility. Even though there were four days to go, the 1-2 series deficit and the shambles at Madras left even the most optimistic of Indian cricket fans to believe that India would lose the Test and the series at Chennai to this increasingly powerful West Indian unit under Clive Lloyd.

But there was one steely customer the West Indians had to deal with – a man who was short in height but not in stature. He single-handedly took control of the situation and shepherded the Indian tail to show why he would be acknowledged as the guru of crisis management.

The degree of difficulty was best summed up by Sunil Gavaskar. “His 97 not out is the finest Test match innings I was privileged to see,” Gavaskar wrote in his book, Idols, published in 1983. “That attack is the best form of defence was amply proved in this innings. From 91 for seven, Vishy helped in carrying the score to 191, and in the end missed his hundred by three runs when the last man in, BS Chandrasekhar, who had defended dourly, surrendered his wicket to Roberts. Vishy’s strokes in that innings were unbelievable. His square-cutting meant that Clive Lloyd had to keep two fielders on the third man boundary, and the way Roberts was bowling that day, it is a tribute to the quality of batsmanship. The moment Roberts bowled on the leg side, Vishy flicked him past square-leg and past mid-wicket. And the moment there was an over-pitched delivery, he drove it through the covers with elegance.”

The last four Indian wickets added 114 runs – Viswanath’s contribution being a whopping 80. He added 21 of those runs with last man Chandrasekhar, who was the worst No 11 in the world. The second highest scorer  in the Indian innings was Ashok Mankad with 19. Viswanath had scored 51.05% of India’s runs and single-handedly defied the fire and fury of Roberts who finished the innings with seven wickets for 64 runs. Roberts followed up with five for 57 in the Indian second innings. It was an innings in which Vishwanth yet again rose to the occasion by emerging as the second highest scorer (46), which was good enough for India to win the Test.

It was a brilliant performance by Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi-led Indian side which fought back from losing the first two Tests to now draw level in the series. As in Chennai, it was Viswanath who ruled supreme with the bat in the third Test at Calcutta, top scoring in both innings with scores of 52 and 139. Viswanath’s century at Eden Gardens came at a time when (barring Farokh Engineer) the rest of the batsmen failed to get into the thirties – most falling to single digit scores.

The Indian batting of that time relied heavily on the genius of Gavaskar and Viswanath. Gavaskar missed the third and fourth Tests because of an injury, which places Viswanath’s match-winning knocks at Calcutta and Chennai in proper perspective.

Gavaskar returned to the side for the final Test at Bombay – the first ever at Wankhede Stadium – to score 86. And Viswanath continued to torment the West Indian pacers by falling five short of a third century in successive Tests. However, West Indies won the match and with it the series.

Indian cricket is all about romanticism. Though the team lost the series, the memories of Viswanath’s back-to-back hundreds and the brilliance of the Indian spinners in helping India fightback will forever be talked about.

(H Natarajan, formerly All India Deputy Sports Editor of the Indian Express and Senior Editor with Cricinfo/Wisden, is the Executive Editor of CricketCountry.com. A prolific writer, he has written for many of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. A great believer in the power of social media, he can be followed on Facebook at facebook.com/H.Natarajan and on Twitter at twitter/hnatarajan

India tour of England 2014

Sep 2, 2014 (15:00 IST)   at Birmingham

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Sep 2, 2014 (13:00 IST)   at Harare

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Sep 4, 2014 (13:00 IST)   at Harare

India tour of England 2014

Sep 5, 2014 (15:00 IST)   at Leeds

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Sep 5, 2014 (19:30 IST)   at Kingstown, St Vincent

More

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 31, 2014  at Harare

Zimbabwe won by 3 wkts

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 30, 2014  at Dambulla

SL won by 7 wkts (D/L method)

India tour of England 2014

Aug 30, 2014  at Nottingham

India won by 6 wkts

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 29, 2014  at Harare

South Africa won by 61 runs

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 27, 2014  at Harare

South Africa won by 7 wkts

Photos

Australia vs Zimbabwe, ODI tri-series at Harare

Videos

Misbah disppointed with Pakistan's performance

Australia’s losses to minnows in limited-overs cricket

India tour of England 2014: Who is Jason Roy?

Zimbabwe’s 12 most memorable victories in international cricket

Zimbabwe vs Australia, 4th ODI: Highlights

Elton Chigumbura-Prosper Utseya partnership takes Zimbabwe to historic win over Australia

Australia Australia and South Africa in Zimbabwe 2014 Australia vs Zimbabwe England England vs India England vs India 2014 India India tour of England 2014 India vs England India vs England 2014 Pakistan South Africa Zimbabwe Zimbabwe Triangular Series 2014 Zimbabwe vs Australia

Sourav Ganguly: England have mental block playing spinners

BCCI official: Tough for board to host Annual General Meeting this month

Javed Miandad, Abdul Qadir question mindset of Pakistan players

Aditya Verma: Happy with Supreme Court’s decision not to reinstate N Srinivasan as BCCI president

Misbah-ul-Haq shouldn’t lead Pakistan any more, feel former players

Myth busting – Ranji, CB Fry, Sussex and the fertile mind of Neville Cardus

Duncan Fletcher’s heroics and Zimbabwe’s first win over Australia

Archie MacLaren’s amateurs fell Warwick Armstrong’s mighty Australians in one of cricket’s greatest fairytales

David Bairstow: A champion claimed by depression

Should Michael Clarke cut down on playing time ahead of ICC World Cup 2015?

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

668 Posts | 6 Fans

Yuvraj Singh's ton against MCC

Shah Rukh Khan to start shooting for Fan and Raees next year!

NGOs pursue education for all

Sony SmartWatch 3 and SmartBand Talk leaked ahead of September 4 launch

Xiaomi Redmi 1S on flash sale on Sept 2, will Flipkart crash once again?

9 blood cancer signs and symptoms you should know

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Motorola Moto G successor will also be called Moto G, leaked photo from Flipkart warehouse suggests

Revealed: Celebs you might see in Salman Khan’s Bigg Boss 8

Sourav Ganguly: England have mental block playing spinners

How to plan a home birth

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here