Gundappa Vishwanath’s Wrist Assured review: Square-cutting to fame and glory

The stylish Gundappa Vishwanath reminisces on his long innings in Indian cricket

Updated - June 03, 2022 08:20 pm IST

Published - June 03, 2022 12:03 pm IST

Poetry on the field and humility off it always defined Gundappa Vishwanath. Short in height but high in stature, Vishwanath blended aesthetics with a steely resolve and his square-cuts and some epochal knocks have gained a classical aura.

To be at a ground or any venue in Bengaluru and see the awe he generates, is a pointer to that eternal truth — respect is earned. Through his exploits with the bat and his endearing conduct, Vishwanath, Vishy or GRV to his fans, has an enduring presence in India’s cricketing history.

His is a story that needed to be told but there was a problem. Vishwanath is famously reticent, he would rather say a ‘hello boss’ and focus on other cricketers rather than speak about himself. Among his circle of friends, he can light up long nights but would prefer limelight to dissipate instead of lingering on him.

Candid picture

Seen in that light, a book, Wrist Assured, from him in association with senior cricket writer R. Kaushik, is nothing short of a miracle. And credit is due to Kaushik for nudging Vishwanath to mine his memories and the result is a literary endeavour that throws light on not only a great batter but also paints a candid picture of the willow game in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Equally, Vishwanath shares his inputs on players ranging from his brother-in-law Sunil Gavaskar to Virat Kohli with many national and overseas stars making a mark in his wondrous list.

Hailing from Bhadravathi before shifting to Bangalore, Vishwanath initially tried his hand at tennis ball cricket before moving onto the red cherry while turning out for Spartans and later State Bank of India in the local league. With Chandra Shetty being an initial patron, Vishwanath was never short of support.

A Ranji century on debut, a double ton at that against Andhra, marked him out for bigger achievements. The transition was smooth and helping him along the way was the then Indian skipper Tiger Pataudi. Yet in his first innings for the nation at Kanpur, Vishwanath was dismissed for a duck. “I didn’t know if I would play for India again,” he writes.

However, a dream wasn’t about to die and Vishwanath struck the Aussies for 137 priceless runs in the second innings. A Test hundred on debut and this after Pataudi told him: “You will get a hundred. Don’t be tense.” A star was born in 1969 and with Gavaskar joining the ranks in 1971, India had two incredible batters.

Close to his heart

Through the book, Kaushik draws upon Vishwanath’s clear observations and dry humour, and that allied with the maestro’s sense of wonder, makes it a lovely read. The highs of 1971, his stunning unbeaten 97 against the West Indies at Madras, the famous incident of recalling Bob Taylor at the Jubilee Test in Bombay, the science behind his jaw-dropping square-cuts, the notes about another shot closer to his heart, and the eventual twilight during the Pakistan tour of 1983, are all there across the 267 pages.

This is a fine book and having earlier penned 281 and Beyond on V.V.S. Laxman, Kaushik has become the official chronicler of batters, who are pleasing on the eye and cause hearts to flutter.

Wrist Assured; Gundappa Vishwanath with R. Kaushik, Rupa Publications, ₹595.

vijayakumar.kc@thehindu.co.in

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