India always had the knack of producing great batsmen since the days of Vijay Merchant, and supply line multiplied from the 1970s with the arrival of Gavaskar and Viswanath ,both of whom took Indian cricket to great heights since 1970s with their classic batsmanship. Vishy was an artist and an entertainer and it was worth travelling miles to watch his silken touch and elastic wristwork. His cut shots and onside flicks was a part of Indian cricket folklore which the cricket fans of 1970s were privileged to watch. He was a greatest exponent of late cut in that period. His batting thrived on timing and he was a master at using the pace of the ball to score his boundaries . Probably one criticism of him was that he didnt convert many of his 50s to 100s after dominating the best of attacks, else he would have added many more than his 14 hundreds in 91 tests in which he scored 6080 runs at 41.93 average. He was very comfortable on pitches offering pace and bounce as his returns in Australia (46 average) reflects. He did well in England (avg 39) and West Indies (avg 35) during the great fast bowling era and started wearing helmet much later in his career. Andy Roberts, the carribean fast bowling great went on record stating that Vishy was far more comfortable and versatile on bouncy pitches than Gavaskar, and he himself had a taste of that in the 1974-75 India v West Indies 5 test series in India in which Viswanath scored 568 runs at 63 average including a 139 at Calcutta test (which India won) and a brilliant 97notout at Madras on a fast bouncy pitch which had been one of the modern day classics in that period. Roberts was all pace and hostility as India collapsed to 95/6 ,then Vishy protected the tail and played a dazzling knock , cutting Roberts on the ground and over the slips even after Lloyd kept 2 thirdmans to restrict him and India finally won at Madras (currently Chennai) to level the series 2-2 which finally Windies won 3-2 at Mumbai. His batting vs Thomson in 1977-78 Australia series was outstanding and so was his 100 in India’s record 400 run chase against West Indies at Port of Spain 1976. When a depleted West Indies (without their packet players ) team toured in India in 1978-79, Vishy played a classic at Madras on a minefield where balls were bouncing awkwardly from a good length spot and Sylvester Clarke , who has a reputation of bowling awkwardly quick and injuring batsmen ,was unplayable .With Gavaskar out for single digits in both innings, it was Vishy who scored another dazzling 124 off India’s first innings score of 255 and had it not been for his 100 India would have lost that match and the series , which they won 1-0.
A test debutant centurion against Australia in 1969 at Kanpur , Viswanth scoring 100s in tests is always a good omen for India as our country never lost a test when Vishy scored a 100. The most classic example was at MCG in 1980-81 where Vishy scored 114 in 1st innings but India were staring at defeat and looked dead and buried after their 2nd innings as the strong batting lineup of Australia having Greg Chappell, Hughes, Border and Walters needed just 149 to win the test and the series ,but an injured Kapil Dev used the treacherous MCG pitch to his advantage to bowl India to a sensational win as Australia were skittled out for 83 and India levelled the series 1-1 !!
A very popular cricketer amongst his own team and opposition and subsequently brother in law to Gavaskar, Vishy ‘s sportsman spirit was exemplary . In the golden jubilee test vs England in 1980 ,he recalled Bob Taylor who was wrongly given out and although that decision lost India the test, his sportsmanship won accolades. Vishy always believed strongly in fairplay. A perfect gentleman and from his teammates version a very witty one too.
Vishy had his 71st birthday this week on 12th February. We wish him many more years of happiness and good health.