Bengaluru: Contrary to popular belief, the square cut was not Gundappa Ranganatha Vishwanath’s most favourite shot.
Nor was the wristy thwacker impressed when batsmen boasted about playing pace. “They are totally lying.” scoffed Vishwanath, but conceded that mastery over fast bowling was necessary at the international level.
These and many other anecdotes were shared by the legendary cricketer with ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta in an hour-long Off The Cuff session at Bengaluru’s M. Chinnaswamy Stadium.
The occasion was the release of the elegant batsman’s autobiography, ‘Wrist Assured’.
As fabled as Vishwanath’s wrist strength was the power in his forearms. When asked how he managed that, Vishy – as he is popularly known – said it was all because of a piece of advice from the legendary Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi.
“Pataudi watched me bat in the Ranji Trophy and asked what I did to build my forearm strength. He advised me to take two buckets, fill them up with water and lift. I thought he was joking, but I did it later. It helped, and buckets became my dumbbells,” Vishy said.
‘Concerned about Kohli’s form’
Vishwanath was all praise for former skipper Virat Kohli, whom he described as an all-round player. But his present form was of concern, Vishwanath said.
“I met Kohli recently and advised him to relax. He just needs one big score and he will be back,” Vishwanath said, marvelling at Kohli’s batting prowess.
Vishwanath also spoke fondly of Pakistan captain Babar Azam, terming him another “complete player”. “Azam has all the shots and plays with confidence and authority,” Vishwanath said.
When Vishy had tears in his eyes
As the celebrated cricketer looked back on his illustrious career, he expressed his admiration many times for brother-in-law and fellow cricketing legend Sunil Gavaskar.
Vishwanath recounted several incidents involving Gavaskar, whom he called “the master of straight drives”.
But one innings of the Little Master, his last in Test cricket, left Vishwanath in tears.
“His 97-run innings in Bengaluru was one of the best I have ever seen. The way he batted was unbelievable. I knew it was going to be his last innings, and he got out with a few runs short of a century. That was the only time I had tears in my eyes,” Vishwanath said.
Vishwanath also admired Gavaskar for being a great human being. “When I was hospitalised, Sunil Gavaskar reminded me of my achievements and determination shown as a matchwinner for India. That helped me quit drinking,” he recounted.
Favourite shots, and breaking the ‘jinx’
Gupta asked Vishwanath his view about the cricketing superstition that a batsman who hits a ton on Test debut struggles to score again.
“It took me a long time to break that jinx.” Vishy said.. “I played my first Test in 1969-70 (he scored a century against Australia in a drawn match in Kanpur). And then the second hundred came in 1972-73 in Brabourne Stadium in Bombay against England,” he said.
But it was not the hundreds he cherished most. His 97 not out at Chepauk (M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai) against the West Indies was a bigger feat than any of his 14 centuries, he said. Interestingly, India never lost a match when Vishy scored a ton.
The Indian batting legend also bowled a googly during the conversation. “Everyone says the square cut is my best shot but I love playing the square drive. It’s beautiful,” he said, remembering how bowlers strategised to stem his runs square off the wicket. The great timer of the ball said both shots were very productive for him. “I scored nearly 4,000 of my 6,000 runs that way.” he added.