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Vishy was a genius!

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No batsman not truly accomplished was able to play a characteristic Vishy innings; it was well nigh impossible. Doubting Thomases said he did not have concentration and endurance of a Geoffrey Boycott or a Gavaskar. How untrue. Vishy had, in the face of dire need, played defensively with as tenaciously and as severely a principled skill as the two commanded at their dourest.

It may not be out of context to quote Neville Cardus's pearls of wisdom in Vishy's defence. 'Endurance and concentration, admirable factors of human nature in their proper place, don't inevitably add to the graces and allurements of any game, not even to its highly specialised technique,' said the Englishman.

Some carping critics had the temerity to say that Vishy lacked the mysterious virtue called temperament. If Vishy had been lacking in mental toughness, he would not have saved India from the jaws of humiliation and actual defeats from time to time by batting like a champion under trying circumstances on the most treacherous of pitches. Nevertheless, it was another way of acknowledging that he was an artist who gave pleasure to the enthusiasts.

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    An innings by Vishy was never ever planned. Rather it would just happen, like Vivian Richards' or Brian Lara's, but in a different manner altogether. He played a string of little but superbly heroic innings, which gave viewers their money's worth, during his glittering career.

    "I'd go miles, and pay, to see even Vishy's 20 for the sheer beauty of it," said Ravi Shastri.

    Shastri was only echoing the feelings of many like him, including scores of Indian and foreign cricket writers. In fact, in spite of the presence of Gavaskar and other stalwarts from across the globe, most young Indian cricketers grew up idolising Vishy in the 1970s. They included Kapil Dev, Shastri, Mohammed Azharuddin, Yashpal Sharma, Ashok Malhotra and a host of others.

    No sooner did Vishy return to the greenroom without scoring in his maiden Test innings against Australia at Green Park in Kanpur in 1969-1970 than the Cassandras prophesied that he would not last long in the heavyweight division of cricket. Came India's second innings and Vishy silenced them with a masterly 137 studded with 25 fours -- yes, twenty-five hits to the fence.

    Imagine the monumental pressure under which he had to bat. He was only 20, India was not in a good position as Australian bowlers and fielders had made things difficult for frontline batsmen, he himself was on a pair in his very first Test and he was probably haunted by a secret fear about his future if he failed again.

    But he emerged triumphant against all odds and the Test ended in a draw. Each of his 25 fours had class writ large on it. If this was not temperament, what was it?

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