The twelfth instalment in our new series where we compare two legendary cricketers from the same generation. Rather than necessarily settle the debate on who is ‘better’, this series attempts to illustrate who had a greater say in dictating his country’s cricketing fortunes. Along the way, you may also find a few facets of these players that are not necessarily discussed in conventional media.

This edition focuses on the two greatest batsmen India had produced before Tendulkar and Dravid.


Sunil Gavaskar vs Gundappa Viswanath

A batting comparison in Test cricket


PARAMETER Sunil Gavaskar Gundappa Viswanath Maximum or
Highest (100%)
Number of Tests 125 91 Sachin Tendulkar (200)
Runs Scored 10,122 6,080 Sachin Tendulkar (15,921)    
Batting Average 51.12 41.93 Don Bradman (99.94)
Batting average in wins and draws 59.30 51.07 Don Bradman (125.91)
Average runs per match 81 67 Don Bradman (135)
Percentage of team runs scored 18% 15% Don Bradman (25.32%)
Batting Impact 46 45 Don Bradman
Runs Tally Impact 59 51 Don Bradman
Pressure Impact 39 78 Peter May
Batting Impact in wins (min. 20 Tests) 57 77 Don Bradman
Batting Impact in draws (min. 10 Tests) 80 57 Don Bradman
Impact at Home (min. 25 Tests) 42 59 Don Bradman
Impact Away (min. 15 Tests) 44 31 Don Bradman
Impact in Subcontinent (min. 15 Tests) 45 58 Cheteshwar Pujara
Impact against WI (min. 10 Tests; b/w ’70 and ’95) 97 70 Graham Gooch
Impact in Aus/SA (min. 8 Tests) 75 99 Don Bradman
Impact in Eng/NZ (min. 10 Tests) 54 43 Don Bradman
Failure Rate (min. 50 Tests) 36% 43% Steven Smith (24%)
Number of Series-Defining performances 2 (once every 62 Tests) 3 (once every 30 Tests) Inzamam-ul-Haq and 
Rahul Dravid (8)
Number of high impact performances 15 (once every 8 Tests) 10 (once every 9 Tests) Ricky Ponting (32)
Most dominant period in career December 1976 – September 1979 December 1978 – February 1982 n/a
Number of years as highest impact batsman 1 (1971) 1 (1981) Arthur Shrewsbury Snr. – 3
(1885, 1886, 1893)
Jack Hobbs – 3
(1912, 1914, 1926)
Len Hutton – 3
(1938, 1950, 1954)
Garry Sobers – 3
(1958, 1959, 1966)
Highest impact batsman in a match 23    13 Kumar Sangakkara  
(29 times in 134 Tests)
Highest impact batsman in a series   3 (in 31 Test series) 5 (in 21 Test series) Kumar Sangakkara 
(13 times in 56 Test series)

1) All parameters from ‘ Batting Impact ’ till ‘Impact in Eng/NZ’ are expressed on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the maximum for any player in Test history in that parameter. A player’s impact in a particular parameter is then expressed as a percentage of it.
Example: Don Bradman has the highest Batting Impact in Test cricket history. So he denotes 100 for that parameter. Sunil Gavaskar’s and Gundappa Viswanath’s Batting Impact are then expressed as a percentage of Bradman’s Batting Impact .
2) From ‘Batting Average’ till ‘ Pressure Impact ’, a minimum of 50 matches is considered as qualification. For all other parameters, the qualification is mentioned alongside.



While there is a massive difference in their aggregate runs and batting averages, Gundappa Viswanath is just marginally behind Sunil Gavaskar when it comes to Batting Impact .

Gavaskar was the more prolific run-scorer. He was also more consistent than Viswanath. In fact, he remains the most consistent batsman in India’s Test cricket history (min. 50 Tests).

Viswanath scored tough runs (while wickets fell around him). In fact in India’s Test history no batsman (min. 50 Tests) has absorbed the pressure of falling wickets better than Viswanath. He also has a considerably higher impact in wins for India which means that his contributions had a larger say in India’s victories.

Viswanath also played a more defining role in series results – he has three series-defining ( SD ) performances compared to Gavaskar’s two, and required fewer matches to register them. However, Gavaskar was unlucky on this count. With a little support from his teammates he would have had two more SDs (The Oval, 1979 and Bangalore, 1987). It would have meant that he would have been neck and neck with Tendulkar on impact.

It is interesting to compare how their careers ended. While Viswanath failed in 9 of the last 10 Tests he played, Gavaskar produced one of his finest knocks (96 in the second innings following his 21 in the first; the second highest impact batting performance of his career) in his last Test in Bangalore in 1987.


While Gundappa Viswanath is considered a great batsman and almost had the same impact as Sunil Gavaskar, he is still not placed in the same league as his brother-in-law. Gavaskar’s hallmarks were his propensity to score big runs coupled with phenomenal consistency . Viswanath’s forte was his ability to score tough runs. He also had a bigger impact in match and series victories for India. Remarkable for a man considered by many to be the most stylish batsman India ever produced.


Nikhil Narain

Illustrations: Vasim Maner