Fan’s tribute: Evoking a portrait of GRV

‘Vishwanath, a Genius Cricketer,’ the only biography on G. R. Viswanath, is a rare treasure for cricket lovers.

Cover of the book.   -  Special Arrangement

G. R. Viswanath has always enjoyed a loyal fan club. Those who loved his style could never love another. Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar have enjoyed a much greater number of followers but GRV’s fan-following stood out. His fans revered him.

Rajkumar Chopra, a bank employee in Allahabad, was one of the millions of such fans.

It so happened that Chopra got an opportunity to visit the Green Park at Kanpur in 1969 to watch the India-Australia Test. It so happened that a certain G. R. Viswanath made his debut in that match, and crafted a grand 137 after failing in the first innings. It was a breathtaking assault and Chopra, 12 years of then, returned home in a trance. He had witnessed a breathtaking display of pristine batting. Gavaskar had not yet arrived but Chopra had found his life-long idol in cricket.

‘A challenge’

For Chopra, cricket in India started and ended with Viswanath. Thirteen years after first watching the “God of batting” in action, he decided to record his devotion to his idol in the form of a book. He was a regular contributor in some Hindi newspapers in Allahabad but he had wanted to reach out to an audience which would show interest in a book. “That was a challenge,” said Chopra, remembering the good old days.

He did not find a publisher but went ahead and wrote. “I decided to seek Viswanath Sir’s approval. I went to Bangalore with the book, met him at the Chinnaswamy Stadium where the team was having a camp (series against England in 1981-82). I got a couple of bats signed by him and was thrilled when he said he was happy with that I had written. He said I had brought out certain aspects of his batting which he never thought existed,” said Chopra, now settled in the hills near Bhimtal in Uttarakhand.

‘A humble tribute’

Chopra painstaking collected the statistics of Viswanath’s 13-year-old career, until then, and found a publisher in Granth Bharti. “I had never read a book, leave aside writing one. But Viswanath Sir deserved one. We published 1,100 copies and distributed it through AH Wheeler. I was mesmerised by that innings at Kanpur. I saw him hit 25 fours in that knock, great wrist-play. My book is my humble tribute to this great cricketer.”

The book, titled ‘Vishwanath, a Genius Cricketer’, traces his playing career, discusses the finer points of his batting, his natural strokeplay, and has a nice chapter on his role as the architect of India’s batting in Test cricket. Chopra’s book, the only biography on Viswanath, is a rare treasure for cricket lovers, especially those who admired quality. The lovable GRV indeed deserved such a piece of appreciation which the 62-year-old Chopra, a die-hard fan of the former great from Karnataka, gave him 37 years ago.