In the rich history of cricket, there are innings that are etched in our memories forever. One such innings is Gundappa Viswanath’s epic knock of 97 not out against the mighty West Indies at Madras in 1971. This match-saving innings showcased Viswanath’s resilience, skill, and artistry as a batsman. It was a display of sheer determination and mastery over the game, which turned the match and set the stage for one of cricket’s greatest turnarounds.
Early Career and Debut
Viswanath, fondly known as Vishy, made his debut for India in 1969 and immediately made an impact. His scintillating knock of 137 against Australia in Kanpur announced his arrival on the international stage. From that moment on, he became a vital cog in the Indian batting lineup, known for his ability to perform under pressure and in challenging conditions.
The Crisis at Madras
The Test match at Madras in 1971 was a crucial one for India. The West Indies had taken a 2-0 lead in the five-match series, and the Indian team was under immense pressure to make a comeback. Winning the toss and opting to bat, India found themselves in deep trouble as Andy Roberts unleashed a fiery spell of fast bowling. At 91 for 7, it seemed like India was heading towards another defeat.
Vishy’s Resilience and Strokeplay
In the face of adversity, Gundappa Viswanath stood tall. With wickets tumbling at the other end, he took control of the situation and single-handedly guided India to a respectable total. His strokeplay was a sight to behold, with exquisite drives through the covers and his trademark square-cuts that left the West Indian fielders in awe. Despite the relentless pace and aggression of Andy Roberts, Vishy played with grace and precision, scoring boundaries that defied the odds. One particular square-cut off a yorker from Roberts stands out as a stroke of pure artistry.
A Tale of Resurrection
Viswanath’s partnership with the tailenders was crucial in India’s fightback. He found an ally in BS Chandrasekhar, the last man in, who provided valuable support as Vishy orchestrated the rescue mission. Together, they added crucial runs, frustrating the West Indian bowlers and turning the tide of the match. Vishy’s determination to not only save the innings but also challenge the opposition was evident in his shot selection and calculated risks.
Falling Short of a Century
As the partnership built, the crowd held their breath in anticipation of a well-deserved century for Vishwanath. However, fate had other plans. With just three runs short of his hundred, Chandrasekhar was dismissed, leaving Vishy stranded. It was a bittersweet moment for the maestro, as he missed out on a personal milestone but had played a monumental innings that would go down in history.
Impact and Legacy
Gundappa Viswanath’s 97 not out against the West Indies at Madras had a profound impact on Indian cricket. It not only saved the match but also inspired the team to stage a remarkable comeback in the series. India went on to win the next Test and drew the final one, securing a historic result on West Indian soil. Vishy’s innings became a symbol of resilience, determination, and artistry in the face of adversity.
The Artistry of Vishy
Viswanath’s batting style was a thing of beauty. His ability to manipulate the cricket ball with his wrists and execute strokes with precision made him a true artist of the game. Whether it was his impeccable timing, elegant drives, or breathtaking cuts, Vishy’s strokeplay was a symphony in motion. He brought a touch of magic to the cricket field, captivating audiences with his grace and flair.
Vishwanath’s Career Highlights
Throughout his illustrious career, Gundappa Viswanath delivered several memorable performances. His century at The Oval in 1971 played a pivotal role in India’s first-ever Test series win against England. He scored crucial runs against New Zealand, West Indies, and Pakistan, often rescuing India from dire situations. Vishy’s ability to adapt to different conditions and excel against quality opposition made him a force to be reckoned with.
The Gentleman of Cricket
Beyond his batting prowess, Vishwanath was revered for his sportsmanship and fair play. In the Jubilee Test against England in Mumbai, he famously called back Bob Taylor after he was wrongly given out. This act of integrity showcased Vishy’s character and his commitment to upholding the spirit of the game. He truly embodied the values of a gentleman cricketer.
Gundappa Viswanath’s epic innings of 97 not out against the West Indies in 1971 will forever be etched in cricketing folklore. It was a display of skill, artistry, and resilience that turned the match on its head and paved the way for a historic series comeback. Vishy’s strokeplay, determination, and sportsmanship have left an indelible mark on the game. He will always be remembered as one of India’s greatest cricketing legends, a true artist with the bat, and a symbol of excellence in the face of adversity.