Dennis Lillee once called me, ‘little giant man’ and said, ‘ I like your brother-in-law (Sunil Gavaskar), but I like you much more. You are made of steel.’ I think this will clear the perception of everyone about Gundappa Vishwanath who was the greatest batsman in the Indian cricket history in 70s when the Cricket was more professional and played among the highly professional cricketers in a very professional way not like these days with no spirit of playing the game like professionals.
Born in Mysore, Karnataka Vishwanath had played cricket for Karnataka before his playing at the international level. Nicknamed “Vishy” played cricket from 1969 to 1983 for India. While Vishwanath was the part of two world cups campaign of team India 1975 and 1979.
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91 tests 6080 runs 41.93 average with 14 centuries and 35 half-centuries. Now for some people these numbers may not be that good among the current crop of players. But one has to understand that Vishwanath had scored these runs in an era which was completely different from modern day cricket. The rules were different and bowlers were more dangerous. Although the comparison is absurd, one has to believe if a player can score runs at an average of 41.93 against Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. How dangerous he could've been in modern day cricket if he has played in this era.
There are many of his knocks which will stand the test of time but few will remain at the top throughout the coming decades. Vishwanath was the big match player who scored runs against A-list teams like Australia and West Indies who had the most dangerous pace attack in the 70s to 80s. The first innings that comes to mind was his innings against West Indies in 1974-75 at Madras when he scored 97 with the team who had the greatest bowling all-time with the likes of Andy Roberts, Lance Gibbs, Vanburn Holder and Keith Boyce. Team India won the match by 100 runs as Gundappa Vishwanath contributed with bat in both the innings (97,46) where every other Indian batsman failed to score runs. This innings was rated by Wisden 100 was the 38th best innings of all-time in test cricket.
The second best innings was when team India chased down the massive target of 403 runs in the fourth innings against west Indies in their own territory at port of Spain in 1976 against the pace attack which included Michael Holding. The record was held for more than two decades by India. Few other knocks from the Vishwanath was 124 against west Indies in 1979 at Madras. This time around it was in Australia when Vishwanath hammered 114 at Melbourne against the pace attack which included Dennis Lillee. From Madras to Melbourne Vishwanath had proved that he was the player who took the bail of the team in the crisis situation.
While towards the end of his career Vishwanath had produced the best knock of his career when he hammered 222 against England in 1982-83 at Madras. Gundappa Vishwanath was the first Indian Cricketer to score double hundred on his first class debut and century on his debut in test cricket. In his 14 centuries team India has never lost the game. If a cricketer is called an artist it means way more than a normal cricketer Gundappa Vishwanath batting poetry in motion. Vishwanath square cuts and wristy stroke making abilities make anyone his fan and it will remain unmatched.
Video: Gundappa Viswanath - A compilation of Stylish Shots
If a player like Sunil Gavaskar reckoned “For sheer popularity in India, I don’t think there is anyone to touch him (Vishy).” Gavaskar further added “In Bangalore, he (Vishy) is ‘King’ but then the Bombay and Calcutta crowds love him no less. The applause when he walks in to bat is to be heard to be believed. He is aware of this tremendous affection that people have for him and he is always striving to give the crowd a lot of pleasure by his batting”.
Maybe the current generation remembers the players like Sunil Gavaskar were great but at once Gundappa Vishwanath was very ahead of players like Sunil Gavaskar in his times.
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