When Sunny surprised Vishy with a flash party

When Sunny surprised Vishy with a flash party

EVENING TO REMEMBER G R Viswanath cuts a bat-shaped cake to mark his 70th birthday as Sunil Gavaskar and former Karnataka batsman Raghunath Beerala look on in Bengaluru on Tuesday. DH Photos

Nostalgia, good-old banter and anecdotes that you never tire of hearing were the theme of a pleasant Tuesday evening when former Indian cricketers belonging to different eras gathered to celebrate former India captain Gundappa Ranganath Viswanath’s 70th birthday at a city hotel.

It was a surprise party orchestrated by best friend, team-mate and brother-in-law Sunil Gavaskar that brought together a collection of legendary former cricketers who owned over 30,000 international runs and an upwards of 1600 Test and ODI wickets combined. It was a gathering that included three former India captains and as many World Cup winners.

Apart from Gavaskar and Viswanath, the meet was adorned by Anil Kumble, B S Chandrashekar, Syed Kirmani, Roger Binny, Venkatesh Prasad, Brijesh Patel, Anshuman Gaekwad, Bharath Reddy and R Sudhakar Rao. Former Karnataka cricketers Raghunath Beerala, Carlton Saldhana, Sanjay Desai, P V Shashikanth, Avinash Vaidya, AV Jayaprakash and B Vijayakrishna too were present along with Gavaskar and Viswanath’s close family and friends.

The presence of these stalwarts -- several of them informed of the bash at the proverbial last minute -- revealed the respect and love they have for Viswanath – easily Karnataka’s most loved cricketer across generations. A total of 6080 runs in 91 Tests, including 14 centuries, do not do justice to the quality of his batsmanship, but Vishy’s batting wasn’t measured as much by the number of runs as his grace and contribution to victories.   

Until he arrived at the pool-side terrace of the hotel, Viswanath had little inkling of what was in store. While he suspected “something fishy”, he didn’t expect the evening to be of a magnitude that left him emotionally overwhelmed. As he stepped out of the elevator, he appeared visibly surprised by the couple of dozen friends eagerly awaiting his presence. Gavaskar was the first to greet him, and the rest followed suit. When he did get a breather, he admitted it was all a pleasant surprise for him.

“I suspected something fishy looking at the activities at home today, but I had little idea that it would be on this scale. So nice to see so many of my friends and team-mates coming here to wish me and be a part of this gathering,” he said.

While Gavaskar was the life of the function, personally ensuring everything went smoothly and even goading the invitees to shed their inhibitions, the rest of the cricketing fraternity regaled each other by reliving past memories. The event wasn’t all about going down memory lane, though. They also touched upon Bengaluru’s traffic woes, umpiring standards in domestic cricket and the performance of the Indian team in Australia.

After cutting a cricket-themed cake, an emotional Viswanath thanked wife Kavitha, Gavaskar’s sister, and son Daivik. GRV, as he is popularly known, also recalled Gavaskar’s heartfelt advice when his health was failing him a few years back.

“He (Gavaskar) told me, ‘Vishy you have done so much for the Indian team. You have bailed the team out of trouble so many times with your determination. For once, I want you to do that for yourself and take good care of yourself.’ It just instantly hit me, and I told myself that I had to do it for my family and myself,” Viswanath remarked.  

Despite becoming sentimental, Viswanath was sharp enough to keep his wits about him. Looking at the thickness of the bat-shaped cake, former team-mate Brijesh said, “Arrey Vishy, yeh bat to tere bat se jyada mota hai (Hey Vishy, this bat is thicker than the bat you used when playing).”

Quick to pounce on a wide one outside off, Viswanath pulled out his trademark rasping cut. “Haan, yeh hota to aur door maarta (Yes, if this was there, I would have hit the ball farther)!”

It was an evening where old friends were just themselves, uninhibited and informal like friends are in each other’s company. You just wished the night remained young forever.