Sadanand Viswanath: 12 facts about the Indian cricketer whose life has been a rollercoaster ride

Born November 29, 1962, Sadanand Viswanath is a former Indian cricketer who played 3 Tests and 22 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) for the country between 1985 and 1988. As fiery behind the stumps as in front of them, Viswanath gained recognition as a wicket-keeper batsman during the height of India’s ascendancy in world cricket in the mid ’80s. Inconsistent performances at the international level and the rise of Kiran More and Chandrakant Pandit meant his career was curtailed much before its time. Viswanath has since had a rollercoaster ride in life and now coaches young cricketers and has also taken up umpiring. On his birthday, Chinmay Jawalekar looks at 12 facts from the life of the player whose professional career was marred by unfortunate circumstances on the personal front.

1. Early days

Viswanath was raised in the central part of Bangalore, where he studied at St. Joseph’s School, which is also Rahul Dravid’s alma mater. He joined the Syndicate Bank at around 17 or 18 years of age and started playing in the local league. Soon he was a part of the State Ranji team, which had players like Brijesh Patel, Roger Binny and Syed Kirmani as his team-mates.

2. First-Class debut

Viswanath made his First-Class debut in the Ranji Trophy match against Andhra at Bijapur during the 1980-81 season. Though he didn’t succeed with the bat, scoring just 1, he picked up 2 catches. Two matches later, he made his Duleep Trophy debut against Central Zone at Kanpur, where he picked up 6 catches in the innings out of the 8 wickets to fall.

3. First impact

It took Viswanath two seasons to establish himself in domestic cricket. His two back-to-back fruitful seasons, where he scored 408 runs at an average of over 58 with 17 dismissals and 530 at 40.76 with 18 dismissals, prompted his selection for the ODI team.

4. Tragedy I

In 1984, a few months before he made it to the Indian team, Viswanath’s father committed suicide following financial problems. This was a big blow for the youngster, who somehow managed to cope up with it and focus on his career. But little did he know then that another calamity awaited him.

5. ODI debut

Viswanath scored 6 not out on his ODI debut against England at his hometown Bangalore. In his next match, his 25-ball 23 not out coming in at No. 9 helped India win the match.

6. The World Championship in Australia

Sunil Gavaskar, who had been announced as captain for the World Championship in Australia, insisted that Viswanath be picked for the series. The man from Bangalore vindicated his captain’s decision by finishing the tournament with 9 catches and 3 stumpings from 5 matches. It was then an Indian record for an ODI tournament with 5 or less matches.

In the second match of that series, Viswanath finished with 3 catches and 2 stumpings to become the fourth wicketkeeper (after Rodney Marsh, Guy de Alwis, and Kirmani) to effect 5 dismissals in an ODI. The feat has subsequently been equalled by Indians but not surpassed. India won the Championship and years later, Gavaskar wrote in his book One-Day Wonders that one of the main reasons for India winning the Championship “was the presence of Viswanath behind the stumps.”

7. Rothmans Cup

Immediately after the World Championship in Australia, India also won The Rothmans Cup, the first tournament ever in Sharjah. Viswanath shone once again and was suddenly the most talked about young cricketer in India. Cricket fans religiously remember that famous sight of Viswanath whipping off the bails after Laxman Sivaramakrishnan foxed Javed Miandad in the final.

8. Tragedy II and the beginning of the end

After two successful tournaments and just before the tour of Sri Lanka, Viswanath’s mother underwent open-heart surgery and never recovered. That was the beginning of the end for him. Subsequently, a broken finger hampered his wicketkeeping and, though he picked up six dismissals to equal the Indian record in his last Test against Sri Lanka at Kandy, he never played a Test again. He made sporadic appearances in ODIs till 1988 but missing the 1987 World Cup at home was a terrible blow to handle. A failed relationship and a battle with alcohol followed next and eventually resulted in his giving up cricket.

9. The gulf stint

Having quit the game, Viswanath moved to the Middle East on a 14-day visa to find a job. Though he got offers, he was hesitant to join. He finally took a job with just two days before his visa expired. His enjoyed his first salary of 4,000 dirhams with a bottle of Johnnie Walker. But after a point, he started longing for India and returned back to the country seven months later and rejoined his bank job. The year was 1991.

10. Lead an anonymous life

For next four years, Viswanath lived a relatively anonymous life. But in 1995, he quit the bank when they transferred him out of Bangalore. His finances dried up and he moved out of his rented house into a hotel room, at a monthly rent of 2500 rupees, where he lived for five years.

11. The second innings

Thankfully, life gave Viswanath a second chance, and that too in what he loved the most, cricket. He cleared the umpiring examinations held by the Board of Control for Cricket in India in 1995 and has gradually made it to the Elite Panel of Indian Umpires and officiated in domestic matches till 2008-09. He has also stood in Women’s international matches, including a World Cup match in 1997-98.

12. Sadanand Viswanath Cricket Academy

Viswanath now runs the Sadanand Viswanath Cricket Academy in Bangalore and nurtures future talent. He also keeps officiating as an Umpire from time to time. He dreams of officiating at the landmark venues like Lord’s, Melbourne Cricket Ground (where he won the 1985 Championship) and Colombo, where he made his Test debut.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricLife and CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)