G is for (G)undappa Viswanath’s artistry vs Sunil (G)avaskar’s mastery in batsmanship – #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterAtoZ 2019

G is for (G)undappa Viswanath’s artistry vs Sunil (G)avaskar’s mastery in batsmanship – #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterAtoZ 2019 

Today’s letter is G and I am planning to bring you an article which is somewhat different from the usual stories of sportspersons that I have been presenting till now. Instead of bringing you the story of one particular sportsperson, in this post, I will compare two renowned batsmen of the seventies and eighties who held the Indian cricket team’s batting together in those days. The two batsmen are none other than Gundappa Viswanath and Sunil Gavaskar. Incidentally, the two are in-laws and Viswanath is married to Gavaskar’s sister.

During my school days, I used to wait for the school bus with other children in the mornings in New Delhi. Most often, Cricket used to be the topic of discussion among us. And in these discussions, we always used to compare the batting skills of Viswanath and Gavaskar, the two greats of those days. I remember that most of the other children were of the opinion that Gavaskar was far superior to Viswanath as a batsman. 

I used to be the sole exception who spoke up for Viswanath. As it often happens with children, the arguments used to turn into shouting matches and being the only person supporting Viswanath, I was grossly outnumbered. This usually led to me being shouted down by the other children. But for all that, to this day, my opinion has not changed. I left school thirty-six years back but even today I consider Gundappa Viswanath far superior to Sunil Gavaskar. 

First, I will present my arguments for this assertion in this article. First of all, let us consider the cricketing statistics of these two batsmen. 

Gundappa Viswanath made 91 appearances for India scoring 6080 runs with an average of 41.93. He scored 14 centuries and 35 fifties with a highest score of 222. He has played 25 ODI’s and has scored 439 runs with a batting average of 19.95. He has only scored two fifties in his ODI career. Now let us look at Gavaskar’s record. Sunil Gavaskar has played 125 matches and scored 10,122 runs with a batting average of 51.12. He has scored 34 centuries and 45 fifties. His top score is 236. He has played 108 ODI’s and scored 3092 runs at an average of 35.13. He has scored 1 century and 27 fifties with a top score of 103.

Neither of them played T20 games. Most people, after reading the above statistics, would straight away ask me why I am writing this article as there appears barely any evidence to support my claim that Viswanath was the better batsman. To such people who go by statistics, I would like to inform you that using statistical records to compare sportspersons in general and cricketers, especially batsmen, in particular, is extremely unreliable. 

Now let me come to the reason I consider Viswanath the superior batsman of the two. In this respect, I would like to take you to the 1974-75 five-match series between West Indies and India. I was a young boy when this series was played, but even at that young age, cricket was my all-consuming passion. All the matches of this series were screened in Chennai’s Safire theatre as a two-hour show after the series was over. My mother bought tickets for the show and I had the good fortune to see both Gavaskar and Viswanath in true form.

This series followed an earlier series played in England which was a complete washout for the Indian team. India started as underdogs. The West Indian side was captained by Clive Lloyd and had batsmen of the calibre of Gordon Greenidge, Vivian Richards, and Alvwyn Kallicharan. Their fast bowling attack centred around the super fast Andy Roberts, Vanburn Holder, Bernard Julien and Keith Boyce. They had a brilliant wicket-keeper in Derrick Murray. West Indies won the first test match and both Gavaskar and Viswanath performed poorly. 

In the second test too both Vishy and Gavaskar scored poorly and West Indies won again. By this time the West Indian pace stalwarts were on a rampage and Andy Roberts, in particular, was absolutely unplayable. A lot was expected from Gavaskar. In the second test, Gavaskar was injured by an Andy Roberts delivery and finally in the third test the only batting maestro India had left was Viswanath.  

The third test was played in Eden Gardens in Calcutta (Kolkata) and in this match, Vishy proved his true brilliance. He scored a half-century in the first innings and a fighting heroic 139 in the second innings which gave enough of a build-up for the Indian spinners to bowl their heart out. India won this match.

And Vishy’s brilliance in that innings of 139 had to be seen to be believed. Andy Roberts was bowling at a ferocious pace and was repeatedly aiming for Vishy’s ribcage. Vishy is of short stature. There was one particular delivery which Vishy defended by raising his bat right up to his chest in a lightning move and the thunderous delivery fell flat harmlessly in front of the batsman. Roberts looked at Vishy in disbelief, shook his head, stared and then smiled. 

The West Indians were leading 2-1 when the fourth match was played at the Chepauk stadium in Madras (Chennai). And the Madras pitch was fast and Roberts was bowling at raging speeds. Batsmen were getting hurt and wickets fell right left and centre. Vishy stood like a rock and scored 97 and remained unbeaten. The second highest score in that innings was 19. This innings was a masterpiece and is mentioned as one of the best innings ever played in the Wisden Almanac. 

It was full of classy strokes and was an exhibition of brilliant play against a rampaging Roberts who was bowling like a man possessed. India won that match as Vishy gave the spinners enough runs to bowl against. And the final match was played at Bombay (Mumbai) and it was played for 6 days. Gavaskar was included in this match and did score an 86 in the first innings. It was basically a pitch that aided batting and Vishy scored 95 and Eknath Solkar also chipped in with a century. Eventually, India lost this match and the series 2-3. 

Another instance when Vishy truly showed his class was in the match in Madras against Alwyn Kallicharan’s West Indian team in the 1978-79 series. The pitch was a fast grassy pitch and the pace bowlers were having a field day. Sylvester Clark and Norbert Philip of the West Indies were bowling like madmen. Vishy stood up to them in the final innings and score 124 runs and India romped home as victors. Gavaskar failed in this test.

Now to my other arguments. Vishy is an artist, who simply played for the joy of playing. To him, the game had to be played in the right spirit. Sportsmanship was extremely important to him. Many great fast bowlers like Andy Roberts, Denis Lillee and several others rate Gavaskar a batsman with limitations. Andy Roberts, in particular, considers Vishy superior to Gavaskar. Of course, Vishy lost form during the later years of his life and had some problems with his eyesight too. 

His skills deserted him and eventually, he retired. But mostly old-timers like me who have seen both of them play fast bowlers as well as spinners in their prime, feel Vishy is no less than Gavaskar if not a better batsman. Gavaskar was by no means a poor batsman. He had fantastic powers of concentration and he was India’s regular opening batsman for years and years. But Viswanath was an artist. Many of my readers might have heard of Donald Bradman who is considered the best batsman the world has ever seen. 

He has a batting average of 99.99. But the great Bradman was a failure in the body-line series of 1932 when Harold Larwood was aiming the ball at the batsman at outrageous speeds, with the intention of hurting them. The comparison between Viswanath and Gavaskar is like the comparison between Victor Trumper and Donald Bradman. When it came to the sheer artistry of batting many people consider Trumper superior.

Gavaskar studied the game and developed great skills while it all came naturally to Vishy. If anyone could flick an Andy Roberts delivery moving away from the off-stump at lightning speed and despatch it to the boundary line, it had to be Vishy. I guess there are a lot of people who will disagree with me, but I stick to my guns and assert that Vishy is truly better than Gavaskar, just like I did thirty-nine years back with my school friends.

Tags – #BlogchatterAtoZ 2019 #AtoZChallenge 2019

26 thoughts on “G is for (G)undappa Viswanath’s artistry vs Sunil (G)avaskar’s mastery in batsmanship – #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterAtoZ 2019”

  1. I'm going to agree with you here. I somehow feel that in the era of Gavaskar until Azhar, Cricket was dominated by Maharashtra lobby and they always got more opportunities than they deserved . If the rest of India got similar chances, we would have more players from East and South in the team then. Great post Jai

  2. I will agree with you here. My Uncles used to have the same debate going. They always said 'Gavaskar played for himself' and 'Vishy never got his due' . Loved the different style of your post today, Jai.

  3. You don't need to argue your case at all, Jai. Gavaskar ended the debate when he quoted that Gundappa Vishwanath was the best batsmen of his times, period. That being said, a well argued post with salient statistics and historical events pulled up. Your best of the series so far.

  4. Thats a long standing debate Jay and I agree with all your points. Your best in this series till now as may be you got the argument going on between two big G's

  5. Reading your posts I think I am definitely getting old. I second your view though I am not a great fan of comparisons but they played more or less in the same era with Vishwanath being senior. As much as I have seen old videos and tales from my father – he has the best wrists in the game before Azhar arrived. I am a fan forever. While comparing Don n Victor… I would like to highlight one name which most people of this generation didnt hear of, Jack Hobbs – he scored more than 61000 first class runs but never got that recognition. Awesome post.

  6. To be honest, I never saw him playing but yes I have seen Gavaskar on the field and have always loved him. When my father and Uncles used to discuss about Cricket, I have heard about this brilliant cricketer often. Thanks for writing about him. I would have surely shared your posts my with dad if he was alive. These pieces are absolute gems for the sport lovers. Keep them coming, Jai.

  7. Yes, other cricket zones in the country have always complained that Maharashtra is given a bit of preference. Thanks for visiting Sonia.

  8. Thanks for visiting Mayuri. Yes, several people are of that opinion and as far as the style of the post is concerned I thought I would try something different for a change.

  9. Yes, most people have not watched the two of them playing. Gavaskar of course has been active in cricket even after retirement. Vishy also writes some columns in certain news papers but not as active as Gavaskar.

  10. Oh! I heard that Gavaskar did say something like that somewhere when my sister mentioned it way back but I was not very sure what exactly he had said. Thanks for visiting.

  11. Yes, this question has been debated by a lot of people for a long time. Opinion is divided. What I have said in the post is my personal opinion.

  12. Comparisons are indeed dicey but thee I am an ardent fan and there is a tendency to work out relative merits. Yes, I remember Jack Hobbs. He retired much before my time. Supposed to be one of the best batsmen in the world. He made it to the Wisden All Time World Eleven and the only player in that team was Tendulkar.

  13. Thanks for visiting Vartika. Yes, I guess most people from today's generation have only heard of him. He was a great player. Thanks for calling my posts gems. And happy to know that your late father would have loved them.

  14. Sunil Gavaskar is a very good personality. I haven't seen him playing because we are from Tendulkar era 😀 I didn't knew much about Gundappa Vishwanath but after reading this post I know better 🙂

  15. Sunny Gavaskar is indeed a living legend, example personified of sportsmanship and expertise. The Jai-Veeru jodi of Indian cricket. Love his baritone when he imitates West Indians /-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.