Gundappa Vishwanath was one of the finest batsmen India ever produced, and in fact he was one of the finest batsmen the cricketing world had ever seen during his time.
A Brief Overview on Vishwanath
Gundappa Rangnath Vishwanath played for Karnataka and India in the 1970s and the early 80s. He was born on the 12th of February 1949, in Bhadravathi in the state of Karnataka. He played for India in 91 tests and 25 ODIs, between 1969 and 1983.
A right-handed batsman and a wristy stroke player who could play both spin and pace bowling with equal mastery, Vishwanath was crucial to many of India’s wins in the 1970s. In fact, he is one player who could rightfully claim that none of his centuries ever came in a lost cause.
His Cricketing Career
Vishwanath, known as Vishy to his team mates and fans, debuted against Australia in Kanpur in November 1969. He scored a century in his debut match, but not in the first innings. He was out for a duck in his first innings, but got a century in his second innings. The match ended in a draw.
Vishwanath played in the same era as Sunil Gavaskar. While Gavaskar was the more acclaimed batsman of the two, Vishwanath was no less valuable to the team when it came to winning or saving matches. He scored a total of 14 centuries in his career and not one came in a match that was lost. This reputation had fans praying for a century from him when the team’s fortunes were down.
His Special Knocks
Vishwanath had the knack of bringing out the best when the chips were down. It was not just his centuries that helped the team cause. In fact, one of his most commanding innings was against the West Indies in 1974/75 on a bouncy first day pitch in Madras.
On that pitch, the West Indian pacer Andy Roberts ran through the Indian top order to leave the team in shambles at 76/6. Vishwanath managed to stitch partnerships and shepherded the tail-enders, adding 114 runs to the scoreboard, his own contribution being 97 not out. India went on to win the match.
Another of his most memorable centuries was against the West Indies, this time in Port of Spain in Trinidad. This was during 1975/76. India was set a target of 403 to chase down in the fourth innings. The team then set about accomplishing this task with centuries from both Sunil Gavaskar and Vishwanath.
While Gavaskar set up the platform, Vishwanath stayed till the end, scoring 112 and steering the team to victory. Gundappa Vishwanath seemed to have a penchant for playing on difficult pitches. His knock of 128, again on another fiery pitch in Madras again against the West Indies, this time in the 1978/79 series, and scores of 83 and 79 on a greentop in Christchurch, New Zealand, were awe inspiring performances.
His Career Highlights
Along with Gavaskar, Vishwanath was a lynchpin in the Indian batting lineup of the 70s. His flair for scoring runs in difficult situations saw India through on many occasions, and his centuries always ended in a win for India or a draw.
He holds the Indian record for playing the most consecutive number of tests since his debut and he was also the first Indian batsman to score a century against all the Test playing countries.
Vishwanath was known for his innate sense of fair play and one incident that stands out was during the Golden Jubilee match against England, in 1979/80. He was then the Captain of the Indian Team, and he recalled the English keeper Bob Taylor after he was given out withdrawing an appeal for a catch as he believed that the ball had not carried.
His Awards and Post Life Retirement
Vishwanath won the Arjuna Award in 1977/78 and in 2009; the BCCI honored him with the C.K. Naidu Lifetime Achievement Award.
He retired in 1983. Later, he served as an ICC Match Referee, from 1999 to 2004. He served as the Chairman of the National Selection Committee, as a coach in the NCA and also served as the manager of the Indian Cricket Team. He is married to Sunil Gavaskar’s sister Kavita and has a son.