Dravid pays tribute to Gundappa Vishwanath
By: Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid pays tribute to the batting great who turns 60 today
So much has been said and written about GR Vishwanath that it is with some care that I even begin this exercise. Those who have played with and against him are in an ideal position to talk about his batting. I never had that privilege, but I was fortunate to experience Vishy's light touch at different stages of my career and it's a pleasure to recount some of the personal interactions.
When you are growing up in Karnataka with cricket on your mind it's difficult to think of Vishy as anything but an icon. In the backyard games of make-believe Test matches that I played with my brother it was always Vishy or Gavaskar who scored centuries. When I moved to more serious cricket, under-15s and then under-17s inevitably the managers of teams were people who had played with Vishy. You never went long without hearing of the little boy from Bangalore who took on the fiercest and the best in the world.
I was in the stands when Vishy played for India but then I was a distracted little boy and unfortunately I can't form a clear picture of him batting in a Test. Of course there are distinct recollections of how he handled bowlers in league cricket at a time when it really meant something 5000 people would turn up to watch a game played on matting.
What I remember vividly is going to keep wickets at the Karnataka Ranji nets when I was in the under-15s. It was Vishy's last Ranji season and it was such a thrill to be part of the training sessions. Even then, when I was just a little kid Vishy had such warmth and friendliness. It left a lasting impression. He was approachable, generous with his time and quick with humour to make you feel at home it typifies the man
It was Vishy, as chairman of selectors, who picked me to play the Ranji Trophy from the under-19s and presented me my cap in Pune. At that time he was also travelling with the team as manager and this resulted in some of my fondest memories. We used to take a lot of long train journeys and as the night wore down Vishy would be enjoying his favourite tipple and the hours flew by as he and the likes of Kirmani talked cricket.
What a player: Anshuman Gaekwad and Yashpal Sharma lift Gundappa Vishwanath on their shoulders after India's win over the West Indies in the Chennai Test of the 1978-79 series.
Rubbing shoulders with them and listening to those conversations left a lasting impression. It's no coincidence that a batch of us who grew up under Vishy's tutelage went on to play regularly for Karnataka, win the Ranji Trophy and then some onto higher honours as well.
Over the years, when I've travelled abroad, especially to places like Australia I've bumped into some former cricketer who heard I was from Karnataka and asked, "Oh, from the land of the little man, how's he doing?" There's a genuineness to the friendship and huge respect that people feel for Vishy all around the world especially the way he played fast bowling â that has to be seen to be believed.
From the first time I met him, till today, it's always a pleasure to meet Vishy. There isn't the slightest trace of bitterness in him, he's happy with the person he is and never looks back at the past in a negative way. He hardly ever talks about himself or his cricket and in some ways that's a shame because there's so much we can all learn from him.
I clearly recall a time when he walked up to me, after I'd just played a few Tests, and had a quiet chat. "After every Test you should go back and think about the game you just played, and learn from it. Only then does it become experience. Just by playing a number of matches you don't become experienced," Vishy said, and to this day it's one of the best pieces of advice I've received. A lot of people think the game just came naturally to him and that he just went out there and batted brilliantly, but he's also someone who thought a lot about his game. Vishy was chairman of the national selection panel when I was picked to play for India after the 1996 World Cup, and inevitably there were some doubts raised about whether I was the right choice. I just hope that I haven't let him down. The lifetime achievement award is a deserving recognition of little big man from Bangalore.
Happy birthday, Vishy!