Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi recalls his experience with G.R. Vishwanath. Three cricketers from the Subcontinent announced their retirement at roughly the same time, and the most lovable of them all (this is from a male heterosexual point of view) was G.R. Vishwanath.
Playing for Hyderabad against Karnataka I saw what appeared to be a short and undernourished schoolboy come in at number four. When he crouched to take his stance with his toes pointing slightly inward, nobody was particularly impressed.
A dozen over’s later. Both the Hyderabad captain and I were convinced that ‘he was the most organized batsman since Manjrekar and the quicker. The more he was introduced to the Test team, the better it would be for India. This was not all that easy since the chairman of the selection committee had never heard of him, but one or two of us were so adamant that he gave in G.R. Vishwanath, who scored a zero in the first inning, and for the next couple of days, the chairman gave me the kind of stare that is deserved for an innocent-looking dog that has just taken a chunk out of one’s calf.
In the second inning, Viswanath scored a faultless 137 and never looked back. The most telling appreciation of his batting, much of which was displayed under the shadow of Sunil Gavaskar, was that many a captain considered him a potentially more dangerous batsman than his brother-in-law; unfortunately, he had a tendency to get out far too often when he was well set; otherwise, there would be at least another 2000 Test run to his credit.
On the field, he was quiet and unassuming, and I cannot recall him ever becoming involved in the more unsavory incidents that had already become part of the game. Away from the ground, he was gregarious with a subtle sense of humor. The BCCI did India a great service (possibly quite unwittingly) by not appointing him captain Viswanath; Viswanath never wanted it, and, in truth, he was too nice a person to have made a success of it.
The only time I found him at a complete loss for words was at Gwalior, where we had been invited to play in a tournament. One evening, Madhavrao Scindia had organized a dinner about 20 miles out of town, and in those days, the road went through some dense forest, the likes of which G.R. Vishwanath and most of the other city-dwelling players had never encountered.
On the way back, we were ambushed by a bunch of horrible-looking dacoits; Prasanna was shot dead, and G.R. Vishwanath and B.S. Chandrashekar were succinctly informed of the fate that awaited them. Fortunately, before this fate befell our heroes, who were now openly weeping, Now that Scindia had turned up and the dacoits (probably his constituents) had dispersed, for the next two hours all G.R. Vishwanath could say was “They’ve killed Pras.”
It really got to a stage where we thought that both Karnataka players were going to have a breakdown, so we produced an alive and kicking Prasanna, and there was a tearful and memorable reunion in Kannada. We understood enough to realize that Prasanna and endless cups of coffee had pacified them. But we promised ourselves to make future pranks less realistic.