Gundappa Viswanath Biography
Gundappa Viswanath remains one of the most loved of Indian cricketers. Be it the heady concoction of bewitchment and finesse in his stroke-play or the simple amiability of his personality, he was the darling of the crowds during his playing days and has remained so ever since.
His career overlapped almost in its entirety with the other little great man of Indian batting — Sunil Gavaskar. They remained the closest of friends, even connected in the family tree with Viswanath marrying the sister of Gavaskar. Many an Indian innings was built on the foundation of these two maestros. And for many, including some serious writers of the game, Gavaskar remained true to his batting position — the head of the Indian team, while Viswanath became the heart that throbbed in the middle.
Gavaskar’s perfection led many an Indian cricket follower to look at his feats with something approaching suspicion. Indian cricketing history was unaccustomed to the trait of consistency. In all his success, there was a streak of ruthlessness about the man which was difficult to identify with.
Viswanath was much closer to the hearts of the Indian public. They understood a man who was an obvious mix of phenomenal talent and palpable human weaknesses. He would carve the most lethal of bowling into artistic masterpieces of innings, and at the same time get out cheaply to curious dismissals and toothless adversaries. Viswanath’s artistry delighted the common man, whereas Gavaskar’s copybook approach held joy more for the connoisseurs of technique; and the former was known to be heroic in the face of disaster.
The square-cuts and the wristy flicks exhilarated all, and seemed to flow with gay abandon when the situations were desperate. Some of his most memorable innings were lone hands played against threatening and dangerous bowling attacks — none more than the 97 not out against a rampant Andy Roberts at Chepauk.
He did not always turn defeats into victories. He did have his share of failures, but always remained the one batsman people loved to watch, for the pure, unadulterated joy it always provided. Viswanath was synonymous with artistry scripted with the willow, whose every movement at the crease carried with it delicious elements of magic.
But, his artistry was also complemented by substance. Viswanath became the first Indian batsman to head the world batting rankings if one retrofits ICC tables for olden days. During mid to late 1970s he remained one of the very best of the world.
His end was hastened somewhat by a lack of discipline, an endearing trait to some but frustrating for the ardent fans who expected some more years of captivating strokeplay. But, by 1982 he was all at sea against the pace and swing of Imran Khan and lost his place in the side.
When he retired after a few brief attempts at comebacks, Viswanath, with 6,080 runs and 14 centuries was second only to Gavaskar in the Indian context on both counts.
However, when it came to sportsmanship, he was second to none. Few acts in world cricket have matched his famous recall of Bob Taylor that led to a defeat in the Jubilee Test.