Height: 5’ 3”
Age: 72 Years
Wife: Kavita Viswanath
Some Lesser Known Facts About Gundappa Viswanath
Gundappa Viswanath is a former Indian batter known for his elegant wrist work and batting style. His prime focus was more on timing than power and is regarded as one of the brave batters against fast bowling. He is also one of the most loved Indian cricketers known for his true sportsmanship and integrity.
Viswanath’s family moved to Bangalore (now Bengaluru) when he was 5 years old. His interest in cricket rose when he saw his elder brother and neighbor S Krishna playing club cricket. His brother was a great fan of Australian cricket and use to wake Vishy up to listen to the cricket commentary when the Australian team was playing. He played his first cricket match for the Spartan Sports Club in the third division of the Mysore Cricket League. Actually, it was B. N. Chandrasekhar, a cricket promoter who watched him playing at the High School ground in Bangalore. He was completely fascinated with his batting and then told him,
“You come and play for Spartans Club.”
Vishy thought that the man was joking. But ultimately he was given a chance to play for the Spartan Sports Club. At that time, their captain asked Chandrasekhar
“Do you want to kill this poor kid? Don’t you know that our opponents of today possess a couple of good fast bowlers?”
But Vishy proved him wrong and scored valuable 30 runs in his first match. Later that captain apologized to Chandrashekhar for underestimating the young Vishy. From thereon, he became the permanent member of that squad and from hereon his cricket journey began.
He made his Ranji Debut in 1967 while playing for Mysore against Andhra Pradesh at the Municipal Stadium (now Indira Gandhi Stadium) in Vijaywada. He scored unbeaten 209 runs on the first day. On the next day, he went on to score the highest Ranji individual score (230 runs) at that time surpassing V Subramaya’s 213 and George Abel’s 210 for Northern India against the Army in 1933-34. His inning includes 33 fours and five sixes.
His second-best first-class performance came against the same team in 1969 against the visitor New Zealand team while playing for Indian Board President’s XI. His team lost three wickets on the score of 28 runs when Viswanath added 99 runs with Chandu Borde and ended his inning with 68 runs. From there on, he was included in the national side in the playing 15 squads. He didn’t wait much and soon made his international debut one month later against Bill Lawry’s Australians.
Due to his short height, he would face many obstacles in cricket during childhood. Even a Karnataka state junior team selector termed him as “too short” to play cricket. But Viswanath kept on working hard and ultimately bagged the place on the Indian side and celebrated the success by scoring the century in his very first international game. Though, he got out on duck in the first inning of the same test match. After that inning, then team captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi advised him to stay relaxed and composed. As a result, when the Kanpur crowd were bracing themself with another team India’s collapse, similar to the previous test, Viswanath played with confidence against Alan Connolly who troubled him in the first inning. He started his inning with drives on both sides of the ground. On a famous cricket website, it was written,
“That day Viswanath played every stroke as if painting a precious masterpiece on a green canvas. Even a defensive push was a sight for sore eyes. When he drove or flicked, he never hit the ball, but gently guided it on its way. It was while essaying the square-cut that every ounce of his little frame went into the wallop, sending the ball screaming through the crowded point area.”
At the end of the day, Viswanath ended his score on 69 runs taking his team score to 204 for the loss of five wickets. The famous newspaper hailed his inning by saying,
“Hail Viswanath. He is the new star that has arrived to brighten our cricket horizon.”
The next morning he moved to 96 runs without any spot of bother. But for the next twenty minutes, he couldn’t able to score a single run. Then finally, he played a square drive against Connolly and raised up his first hundred in the first test match of his career. In all, he scored 137 runs including 100 runs off the boundaries, and took his side to an emphatic win. Lieutenant colonel VR Mohan who was also an industrialist in Lucknow announced a reward of three gold medals priced at 1000 INR each to Viswanath, Ashok Mankad, and Paul Sheahan for their performances in the Kanpur match. After that inning, it took him quite a while to turn into a permanent member of the Indian team at number four. Later, he got selected in the Karnataka team for the Ranji trophy under the captaincy of Erapalli Prasanna where he scored the double century on his first-class debut.
During one of the state junior tournaments, Vishy was not seen at the match till lunch. After lunch, he arrived with news that his pet dog has bitten him. That was the only domestic-level tournament that Vishy missed from the time he started playing professional cricket. He then played some fine innings in the P Ramachandra Rao Memorial Trophy.
He was a member of the side when India won their first test match in England under the captaincy of Ajit Wadekar in 1971.
When he scored a hundred against England at Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai during the fifth test in 1973, England’s captain Tony Craig was so impressed with the stylish stroke play that he lifted him up and cradled him in appreciation. In this match, Vishy scored 113 runs. Before that many critics were fearing that can Vishwanath play the innings as he played in his debut?
One of his best innings came against West Indies at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Madras (now Chennai) on 11 January 1975. Vishwanath scored unbeaten 97 runs out of the total 190 runs in the first innings while batting at the number four position against the bowling of Andy Roberts and Lance Gibbs. He also scored crucial 46 runs in the second inning and took his side to a win by 100 runs. It is regarded as one of the finest performances by an Indian. The Wisden 100 rates it as the 38th best inning of all time and second-best non-century. He also had the century (139 runs) in the previous test match of this series. Interestingly, he had a batting average of above 50 against the lights of Australia and the West Indies that are known for their strong pace attack.
Some of his best batting performances include 112 runs scored at the Port of Spain in Trinidad. It was played on 7 April 1976 against the mighty Caribbeans where India bagged a victory by six wickets. India was chasing the target of 403 runs in the second innings. India lost their first and second wicket on 69 runs and 177 runs. And in walks Viswanath who held a match-winning partnership of 159 runs with Mohinder Amarnath and 56 runs with Brijesh Patel. It was the highest successful run chase during that time. Before that only Don Bradman’s ‘Invincibles’ (in 1948 against England) had chased over 400 to win a Test. Interestingly, it was in this match when lofting to a spinner started. About his inning, Tony Cozier; a Barbadian journalist wrote on Sportsweek magazine,
“Vishwanath looked a complete batsman with an exciting array of shots which he was never afraid to unleash. It was Vishwanath, who was unrelentingly severe on Holding and Julien.”
In another interview with a newspaper in 2016, Viswanath revealed,
“Sunil and Anshuman put on a useful 69. Then Jimmy and I had a good partnership (159) which was followed by some good batting by Brijesh Patel (49 not out). We only accelerated once Clive Lloyd took the new ball. That’s when the runs started flowing and that made us fancy our chances. It was a very fine victory.”
A prominent Indian journalist K. N. Prabhu wrote,
“It was a wise move to send Brijesh Patel ahead of Eknath Solkar. Patel, with his bristling mustache, looked like a Bombay pirate, and he played the part by plundering runs. Everything was grist to the mill – mishits, byes – and there were also some dazzling strokes as Patel and Amarnath raced each other. When Patel pulled Jumadeen to bring up the victory with six mandatory overs remaining, the crowd came racing to the pavilion, and the cheers of the Indian supporters echoed from the Northern Hills which towered over the skyline.”
His other notable test performance came against West Indies on 12 January 1979 at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Madras (now Chennai). In reply to the Caribbean’s 228 runs in the first inning, India lost their early two wickets on 11 runs when Viswanath came to bat. He steadied the ship with a brilliant 124 runs on a bouncy wicket and earned the lead of 27 runs in the first innings. In the last inning, India required 125 runs to win on the last day which they won by losing seven wickets. Although, this West Indian side was considered weaker in comparison to the previous one as many of their players opted to play in the World Series cricket.
He rates his One-day inning at 75 runs of 134 balls as the best memory of his life. This inning came against the fearsome West Indian side during the Prudential Cricket World Cup in 1979 when Caribbeans were at their peak. The day was 9 June. West Indies was star-studded with the players like Gordon Greenidge, Vivian Richards, Desmond Haynes, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, and Joel Garner. They were the defending champions. India was batting first and lost their first three wickets on a score of 29 runs. Vishy held the one end up and along with Brijesh Patel and Kapil Dev took the score to 163 before he got dismissed after hitting seven fours. The intensity of his inning can be estimated from the fact that the next top score in that inning was 15 made by Brijesh Patel. India lost the match by nine wickets.
MS Dhoni is known as a pioneer of helicopter shot in modern-day cricket. Very few people know that Gundappa also played a helicopter shot way back in 1979 against West Indies.
RARE GOLD – Gundappa Vishwanath playing a helicopter shot way back in 1979… Look at the second shot in this video and tell me what was it? pic.twitter.com/WCvJCq1RcT
— Navneet Mundhra (@navneet_mundhra) August 31, 2019
He also held the captaincy of the Indian team in two test matches in 1979. Out of these two, one match was lost and another ended in a draw. Interestingly, the latter test was the golden jubilee match against England.
In a match against England when he was the captain, Bob Taylor was given out caught by the umpire Hanumantha Rao which was actually not out. As Bob was walking to the pavilion, Viswanath decided to call him back to the field when their score was 22 for 5. Bob played an inning that helped England to win that match.
“For me, spirit of the game is of paramount importance rather than winning or losing a Test. Obviously, as captain, you play hard to win. But there are times when it’s your inner call that tells you what is right. I really appreciate Dhoni’s decision to call Bell back.”
On 7 February 1981 against Australia at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCC) in Victoria, Viswanath played an inning that took the match from the opposition. In the first inning, he scored almost 50 percent of the team’s runs. India was in a spot of bother having lost Chetan Chauhan and Dilip Vengsarkar on a score of 23 runs. After that, captain Sunil Gavaskar too fell cheaply with a score of 43 on the board. But Vishy continued against the lights of Dennis Lilee and Len Pascoe and end the team’s inning with 237 runs with Vishy contributing with 114 runs off 222 balls. In reply, Australia posed a mammoth 419 runs and took a lead of 182 runs. On the other India batted brilliantly and gave Australia the target of 143 runs. Vishy scored 30 runs out of that inning.
He also held a record partnership with Yashpal Sharma of 316 runs when they battled for the entire day during the test at Chepauk Stadium in Chennai (now M. A. Chidambaram Stadium) on 13 January 1982 against England. This match ended in a draw where Vishy contributed with 222 runs. Recalling that inning, Viswanath told,
“Playing a whole day in Test cricket is a unique achievement and not many people have done it. The two of us playing the whole day was memorable. He was a very good cricketer, hardworking, a team man and I would say a total cricketer. The pitch was a bit bouncy and we lost Sunil Gavaskar and Pranab Roy early on. Dilip Vengsarkar was hit by a Bob Willis bouncer and retired hurt.”
He also revealed that when Yashpal came out to bat, they had a long talk and then decided to play cautiously. He further added,
“He played superbly and it was an attractive innings. He kept egging me on saying, “Vishy Bhai, chhodna nhi, hum dono aaj khelenge (don’t give up, both of us will keep playing). Towards the end of the day, he kept telling me to play the long innings and inspired me by saying, “Ab pura din khelenge (we will bat the entire day).”
He was one of the few Indian batters who fall victim to the Pakistani umpire’s biased decisions. The same happened during a test series against Pakistan which India lost by 3-0. As a result of his poor performance (neglecting the umpire’s biased decision), he was later dropped from the Indian side. He could only manage to score 134 runs in six test matches during the series. In an interview with a newspaper, he told,
“I was very, very hurt when I was dropped. At that time, in all three times [innings] I took the wrong decisions. It is part of the game. But in that [situation] in two innings, if I had scored well, they would not have removed me. Kapil’s captaincy was not announced but it was almost known to everyone. Probably Kapil think they won’t select you, is it ok?’ How do you expect me to say no I am not ok?”
His career decline started in a match against the inexperienced Sri Lankan side. In both the innings, he could manage to score only 9 and 2 runs. He played his last international series against Pakistan in Pakistan when he got out of the inswinging delivery of Imran Khan. This was Imran Khan’s 200 scalp in a test match. Later during the final test in Karachi, he was pushed to number six where he could only manage 10 runs after staying at the crease for one hour and forty minutes. He got out off the bowling of Mudassar Nazar. He was then dropped for the succeeding series against West Indies and never got back into the Indian side.
In 1983, he played his last international game against Pakistan and later retired from all forms of the game. He then served as the match referee from 1999 to 2004. After that, he became the Chairman of the national selection committee and later served as the manager of the Indian cricket team.
His career ended with 6080 runs in 155 innings he played out of 91 test matches with an average of 41.93. it includes 35 fifties and 14 centuries. He had the most successful batting career against England where he scored 1880 runs with an average of 37.60 after playing 30 test matches. His highest score of 222 runs came against this side. Apart from the Indian sub-continent, he is most successful in England with 858 runs out of 13 test matches. 1979 is his most successful year in terms of runs scored (1388 runs). He played under Bishan Singh Bedi, Sunil Gavaskar, MAK Pataudi, S Venkataraghavan, and Ajit Wadekar.
Talking about his One-day International career, he played 25 matches and scored 439 runs with an average of 19.95. He never scored a century in this format and managed to score two fifties. One against West Indies and another against New Zealand. He has one duck in his entire ODI career that too against Pakistan. He scored most of his runs in England (190 runs) followed by Australia with 149 runs. He played under four ODI captains same as his test captains. In ODIs also, he is most successful at the number four slot where he scored 402 runs. He took 66 catches in his entire international career.
He is the joint shortest Indian cricketer till date with a height of 5.2 feet along with Parthiv Patel. Overall, he is the 5th shortest in terms of international cricketers after Kruger Van Wyk from New Zealand (4.9 feet), Tich Cornford (5.0 feet) from England, Tich Freeman (5.2 feet) also from England, and Mushfiqur Rahim from Bangladesh (5.3 feet).
He went to Gavaskar’s house on a regular basis and there he fell in love with his younger sister Kavita. Then after a few meetings, they both decided to tie a knot. Viswanath waited till the time Kavita attained the age of 18.
There is a constant debate about who is the better batter: Gavaskar or Viswanath. Responding to this critic, many former cricketers came to pose their opinions. Fast bowling greats like Dennie Lilee and Andy Roberts rates Viswanath better than Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar as a batter. Viswanath himself told,
“I think it is very wrong for anyone to compare me and Sunil now. How can I comment? I finished my career a long time ago. I see no need to be drawn into discussing it now or to have my performance compared to anyone else’s. How can I say I am a better player than anyone else?”
Former Indian cricketer Eknath Solkar said,
“Sunil Gavaskar and G R Vishwanath were two different batters. One was an opener, the other played in the middle order. Naturally, their techniques were different. Gavaskar’s technique was more solid. He had more concentration and was a very difficult batsman to beat. Vishy was an aggressive batsman. When in touch he could destroy the best of bowling attacks. He was an elegant batsman who had a full range of shots like the square cut and the flick and was very good to watch. Both were very good batsmen. There cannot be any comparison between the two. On paper, Gavaskar has scored more Test runs than Vishwanath. Otherwise, both were top-quality batsmen.”
First ODI captain of India Ajit Wadekar said,
“Viswanath was a person to look at. He could produce all types of strokes. Sunil Gavaskar was like Bradman; he just went on with his business of accumulating runs for himself and the team. Vishy was a charming batsman and would play shots that you will not find in the books. He was very good to watch when in full flow. Gavaskar’s concentration was very good; he just accumulated runs. Once he reached 50, he would try for a hundred. After reaching 100, he would try to get 150, and would just go on. If he had been born outside India, he would have been regarded as [highly as] Bradman. His batting was risk-free and he would only go for the loose balls. A comparison cannot be drawn between the two as both were equally talented and both produced runs when needed most by the team. Their brilliant batting helped me win many Test matches. I am really thankful to both.”
Dilip Vengsarkar said,
“Sunil Gavaskar and G R Vishwanath were equally good. It would be unfair to draw a comparison between them. Gavaskar had great determination, his concentration was good. Vishy was a fine stroke player, he was very wristy. He was an artist. He played some brilliant strokes.”
In an interview with famous sports journalist Boria Majumdar, it was asked Vishy that whether he can play the T20 format? To which he replied,
“To be honest, I do. And I think I would’ve done well in this format. I was a stroke player all along and this is a format that encourages stroke play. Not everyone needs to be an (Andre) Russell or a Lynn. Look at how Shubman Gill is playing. He is executing cricket shots to perfection and yet scoring at a strike rate of more than 150. Take the cases of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Both have scored a lot of runs in this format and have done so playing conventional cricket shots. How many times have you seen Kohli play cross-batted slogs? While I enjoy seeing players like Lynn and Russell, I think conventional batsmen also have a place in the T20 game.”
When Vishy was asked about the disappointing phase in his career. He revealed,
“When asked if there has been any disappointing thing about his career, he replied, ‘Yes, when I had to leave Test cricket. My tour of Pakistan in 1982-83 was not good. But this tour was not good for some other players. I wanted to take a short break from international cricket, but that short break became a permanent break for me.”
In 2013, a book was released named “The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption, and the Turbulent Rise of Modern India” which embarks on a cricketing journey of Gundappa Viswanath.
Former Indian Wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani picked the greatest eleven cricketers from Karnataka and Vishy was picked as the number four batter. His playing Karnataka XI are Venkataraman Subramanya (Captain), Roger Binny, Rahul Dravid, G R Vishwanath, Brijesh Patel, Syed Kirmani (Wicketkeeper), Sunil Joshi, Anil Kumble, EAS Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrashekhar, Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad.
During the time when he was the selector. In an interview, it was asked to him the difference between watching a match as a player and as a selector. He replied,
“During the initial stages of my career, I used to watch every ball of a match. That was my attitude for the first 30 or 35 Test matches. Then slowly I started to move around and began to watch only when something dramatic was happening or when somebody was building up a big inning. After becoming a selector I am watching every ball. Initially, I found it a strain. But soon I began to enjoy it. I think it is worth it. Watching 600 and 700-run innings, I got used to it.”
He is a member of the Indian Cricketers’ Association (ICA). ICA is an official association for retired first-class and international cricketers in India for both males and females.
A sports journalist Vijay Lokapally once wrote,
“If ever God gave me a boon I would want to bat like GR Viswanath. Yes. There was a certain magic about his presence at the crease. I just could not take my eyes off Vishy Sir when he walked from slip to slip at the end of the over. He would be immersed in his thoughts and settle down into his position with precision marking his movement. He was a delight on the field.”
Sunil Gavaskar named his son Rohan Jaivishwa after three of his favorite cricketers- Rohan Kanhai, M.L Jaisimha, and Gundappa Viswanath.
Viswanath condemn when Indian spin stalwart Anil Kumble was appointed the coach of the Indian team for only one year. He said,
“Anil to me is a very good choice. He is a good student of the game and that will help him in his new role. I have seen Anil from his younger days. He has been a great player for India and he has it in him to be a good coach, which he has proved with his mentoring roles in the IPL. However, it is a bit strange that he has been appointed for only one year. It is not much you can do in that much span.”
After Yashpal got expired on 13 July 2021, Viswanath said,
“The news is very shocking for me. I had never heard anything from anyone that he was unwell. So I am still not able to believe that he is no more. My condolences to his family and I hope they can bear through this pain.”
Talking about the World Test Championship final match between India and New Zealand at The Ageas Bowl in Hampshire (England), he told,
“Both the teams will be playing at a neutral venue. It will be a good contest. New Zealand is a good side. India can’t take them lightly. The atmosphere will be different. India has an edge over New Zealand. It will be an exciting clash. Winning in Australia and vs England will be a confidence booster for India in the WTC final. It will be India bowlers vs the New Zealand batsmen in the WTC final. India’s bowling is super strong right now. Look at Shami, Bumrah, Siraj and Ishant. They all are in good touch. Siraj did a wonderful job in Australia. I am sure he will do the job for Virat in the WTC final too.”
Talking about his hero Neil Harvey, he said,
“Well, my hero was Harvey. I have never seen him play, but I knew about it through my brother who used to write about it. He told me, that when he [Harvey] first came to India, he moved halfway across the pitch to hit Subhash Gupte through the covers.”