Vishy displayed his ‘class’ in his debut Test : Dispatching the ball to the boundary and/or beyond have always been due to the ‘power stroke’ of the batsmen. But a few batsmen, who ruled the world of cricket, have gone to prove that ‘a flick off the wrist’ could also get the same benefit.
One of those flamboyant, ‘flick of the wrist’ batsmen, who shouldered the burden of Indian batting has been the diminutive Gundappa Vishwanath.
Vishy emphasized timing rather than power and his elegant square cuts and wristy shots translated into big runs, more often than not.
Having featured in 91 Test matches, Vishy ended his Test career with a tally of 6,080 runs, scored at an average of 41.93 with 222 as his individual best. He also had notched up 14 centuries and 35 half-centuries in the process.
It has been irony that Vishy and Gavaskar having played in the same era, Vishy was clearly shadowed by Gavaskar. Inspite of that Vishwanath was admired for his batting exploits.
The second Test match of the five-match series against Australia played at Green Park, Kanpur, between 15th and 20th November, 1969, saw the young 20-year old Gundappa Vishwanath make his Test debut under the captaincy of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.
Winning the toss, India elected to bat.
Opening the innings alongwith Farookh Engineer and Ashok Mankad, India was soon reduced to a situation of 167 runs for the loss Engineer (77) and Wadekar (27).
The young debutant Vishwanath walked down to the middle to give company to Mankad. However, with just four more runs added Mankad departed after scoring 64 runs, caught and bowled by Ashley Mallett, leaving India at 171 runs for the loss of 3 wickets.
As the skipper, Pataudi walked in, Vishwanth, without troubling the scorers further, nudged a catch to Ian Redpath off the bowling of Alan Connolly without even opening his account.
Soon criticisms started flowing in even before Vishy stated his long walk back to the pavilion.
Supported with a rearguard action by Eknath Solkar (44) and Erapalli Prasanna (22), Indians ended their first innings with 320 runs on the board.
The young Vishwanath clearly failed as a batsman in the first innings and lost a golden opportunity to show case his talent.
Australia replied with 348 runs aided by a well made 114 runs by Paul Sheahan and another 70 runs by Ian Redpath. The visitors had taken a lead of 28 runs in the first innings.
Commencing the second innings, Indians lost the wickets of Engineer (21) and Wadekar (12) with 94 runs on the board.
At this situation the young Vishy walked for his second assay and joined Mankad in the middle.
Leaving behind the disappointment of the first innings, Vishwanath brought in all his First Class experience and went after the bowlers. He added 31 runs for the third wicket with Mankad (68), 22 runs for the fifth wicket with Ashok Gandotra (8), a whooping 110 runs for the sixth wicket alongwith Solkar (35) and finally 49 runs for the seventh wicket alongwith Venkatraghvan (20).
After registering his maiden Test century in his debut Test, Vishy departed, dismissed by Ashley Mallett, leg before wicket. He had notched up a very well made 137 runs, aided by 25 fours in an innings that lasted 354 minutes.
Backed by Vishy’s ‘dream innings’ India put up 312 runs in their second innings, leaving a target of 285 runs for the visitors.
The match, however, ended in a draw.
With his grand knock, Vishy had clearly silenced his critics and also announced his arrival on the international arena in his own style. He thus became the first cricketer to score a duck and a century on debut Test match. Only Andrew Hudson, of South Africa, repeated this in 1992, and Mohammad Wasim, of Pakistan followed suit in 1996.
The stylish Vishy produced two of his most memorable performances late in his career. In India’s 1978 tour of Australia, he played a memorable innings at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, hitting 114 runs against the likes of Dennis Lillee. On the familiar turf back home, during England’s tour of India in 1981-82, he notched up his career-best knock of 222 runs in Chennai (then Madras).
After his debut Test in Kanpur, in a career spanning 14 years, Vishy, featured in 90 more Test matches and notched up 13 more centuries.
The high point of these performances has been that India never lost a Test match when Vishy scored a century. This could be sort of a record.