The legendary GR Viswanath on Saturday recalled his first meeting with two India stalwarts -- Madhav Mantri and Polly Umrigar -- and spoke about how an advice shared by the former remained with him throughout his distinguished career.
"It so happened that when I played my first big match in Mumbai at the Brabourne stadium, it was a Ranji game between Mysuru (now Karnataka) and Bombay (now Mumbai). When I was fielding (I saw) two towering figures, just above the side screen – there were some familiar faces – that is Polly Kaka (Polly Umrigar) and Madhav Mantri," the Bengaluru-based Viswanath said.
Once he saw Mantri, who is the maternal uncle of batting great Sunil Gavaskar, and Umrigar, Viswanath was keen to meet the duo.
"These stalwarts watching the game... I got a bit nervous. Because that was a big match for me and people like Mantri and Polly Kaka watching, was something else for me. That is when I saw them first and after the day's play, I was planning I must go and meet them.
"When the game ended, I was about to go, but they were already on the ground," he remembered the incident during the 1968-69 domestic season.
The right-handed batter, famous for his square cut, was speaking after inaugurating the Shri Madhav Mantri centenary one-day cricket league tournament at the MCA-BKC ground in Mumbai on Saturday.
"I went up to them and I said it's a great day for me. I always felt that I must meet some greats of Bombay, those who played for India.
"(To which they said) 'You have already started your career and in some time you will be playing big cricket, we heard so much about you. Same time Madhav 'sahab' said, 'whatever happens, you just play your natural, normal game. That will help you and don't throw away your wicket. That really went to my head," recalled Viswanath, who has represented India in 91 Tests.
The 72-year-old, who has also served Indian cricket in various capacities, said that he worked hard on perfecting the square cut.
Viswanath, who has scored 14 Test hundreds, picked his 97 not out against the Clive Lloyd-led West Indies during the 1974-75 five-match Test series at Chepauk as his most "special" knock.
His choice is not surprising as he was up against a fearsome pace attack comprising the likes of Andy Roberts and Michael Holding on a "hard and bouncy" pitch.
"Whatever I tried that particular day, everything came good. That is a really special knock," he said.
MCA president Vijay Patil, apex council members Ajinkya Naik, Nadim Memon, Abhay Hadap and others were present on the occasion.