Gundappa Viswanath was one of India’s greatest and most talented batsmen in their Test cricket history. A stylish, wristy right-hander, Viswanath was an aggressive and attractive stroke-maker who tormented some top quality bowling attacks all over the world playing some memorable knocks for India. He played 91 Tests for the country in which he aggregated 6080 runs at an average of 41.93 including 14 hundreds and 35 fifties.
On his 72nd birthday, we look back at three of his finest batting performances in Test cricket.
1. 137 Vs Australia, Kanpur, 1969 - Test Debut
It was the second Test between Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi’s India and Bill Lawry’s Australia in 1969. The match was evenly balanced after the first innings with the visitors replying with 348 to the home team’s score of 320. Gundappa Viswanath was making his Test debut and did not get off to the greatest of starts and was dismissed for a duck in the first innings. He came into bat at 94 for 2 in the second innings with India just in a spot of bother.
Even as wickets tumbled at the other end Viswanath defied the likes of Graham McKenzie and Alan Connolly from the other. He was the pivot around which the Indian second innings amassed a total of 312 before making a declaration. Viswanath had produced a sublime match-saving 137 batting for 354 minutes hitting as many as 25 fours in the innings. The match ended in a draw but if not for Viswanath’s hundred, India would have been staring at defeat. A star was born for India!
2. 112 Vs West Indies, Port of Spain, 1976 - The Third-Highest Chase in Test cricket history
India had conceded a big first innings lead which had left them to chase 403 in the fourth innings against the West Indies in the third Test at Port of Spain in Trinidad in 1976. Only once before had any team in the world chased down a target of above 400 to win a Test in cricket history. The odds were heavily against India against the World Champions West Indies in their own backyard. No one gave them a chance.
Sunil Gavaskar and Anshuman Gaekwad gave the visitors a solid start adding 69 for the opening wicket. Gavaskar then added a hundred stand for the second-wicket with Mohinder Amarnath before he was dismissed for a splendid 102. In came Gundappa Viswanath and with Amarnath defied the great West Indian bowling attack led by Michael Holding to put together a match-winning stand of 159 for the third-wicket. Viswanath was finally dismissed for a magnificent 112 which included 15 fours but not before he had taken India to 336 on the verge of a historic win. Amarnath was also run-out after a dogged and defiant 85 spending 440 minutes at the crease just 11 short of the target.
While Viswanath was aggressive and hit a number of boundaries, Amarnath was like a rock at the other end defending beautifully tiring the West Indian attack. India went on to win by six wickets in what is regarded as one of the greatest chases in Test cricket history.
3. 114 Vs Australia, MCG, 1981 - India Drew Level From Behind
India were 0-1 down in the three-match series Down Under in 1981. Put in, they were in early trouble having lost Chetan Chauhan and Dilip Vengsarkar with just 23 on the board. The great Sunil Gavaskar also exited with the score at 43. Viswanath, batting at number 4, realised that he had to take control and take the attack to the Australian bowlers. Even as wickets fell from the other end, Viswanath continued to defy the likes of Dennis Lillee and Len Pascoe from the other and produced one of the greatest hundreds by an overseas batsman in Australia.
His 114 of 222 deliveries was almost 50% of India’s total of 237. It kept India in the match and the series. The second-highest score in the innings was 25 by Syed Kirmani. While all the big guns failed around him, Viswanath stood out and produced the defining knock of the match. India went on to win the match by 59 runs and levelled the three-match series at 1-1.