On 75th birthday, Vishy eyes a century

Time to take fresh guard, Gundappa Vishwanath says in jest on reaching yet another ‘landmark’

His legendary square cut
His legendary square cut
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Gautam Bhattacharyya

It was more than a year back that Gundappa Vishwanath, or GRV to legions of his fans, last visited Kolkata with the release of his autobiography Wrist Assured, one of the events on his agenda. On a slightly nippy evening at the lawns of the Calcutta Cricket & Football Club, it was time for the motley gathering of mostly grey-haired fans, lining up patiently with multiple copies of the book to get them signed by their childhood hero.

It was a fanboy moment for me as well, as he obliged and regaled us with his self-effacing personality and wry sense of humour. As the country gives him a standing ovation on his 75th birthday on Monday, Vishy once again showed he still hasn’t lost his touch.

Commenting on his so called landmark birthday, he told Times of India: ‘’We always celebrate milestones. I am grateful and thank God for keeping me going at 75. I’m looking forward to going further because as a cricketer, I always feel once you reach 50 and then 75, you look for the century.

‘’That said, this is the time to work really, really hard to get to that 100. I plan to play as straight as I can. I didn’t do that earlier, probably this is the right time to play straight and safe to stay healthy." That’s quintessential Vishy for you, and no amount of statistics can do justice to the pure joy he brought to viewers across the 1970s and '80s.

Sunny Gavaskar or Vishy? This would be one of the most engaging debates during our growing years with no resolution, except the fact that both these enduring legends have been jewels in the crown for Indian cricket folklore for successive generations. Brothers-in-law by relation, Sunil Gavaskar is five months younger, and much like their playing days, has kept himself relevant in the IPL era with his discipline, energy, and globetrotting TV pundit’s role.

Vishy, on the other hand, has felt no compulsion to do so, but has no regrets. There can be several ifs and buts surrounding his career, particularly since he played his last Test in 1983, and just missed out on what could have been a tilt at India's historic World Cup campaign.

He has, of course, donned a number of hats post-retirement, such as chairman of selectors, an ICC Match Referee, as well as an advisor with the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in his home city Bengaluru.

However, one still gets the feeling that the master could have been used more gainfully for the benefit of the game. Contrary to popular perception that he was naturally blessed with timing and grace, there was a method behind the craft which his biographer R. Kaushik has elicited graphically in his autobiography.


Ask the two masters about each other and they seem to form a mutual admiration society — but Vishy’s comment on Gavaskar’s straight drive in the book is simply priceless.

"Though we are of similar stature, he used to play that straight drive so well, just so well. It didn’t matter to him if it was the first ball of the match, the last ball before stumps, or if he was on 99. If the ball was pitched up and he knew he had it covered, he always played that shot. Always so elegantly, always so beautifully. But then again, I did have my square cut, didn’t I?"

Happy birthday, Vishy. They don’t make men like you any more.

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