Teenage Vishy hits a double-ton on debut

Gundappa Viswanath Getty Images

Mysore v Andhra, Vijayawada, 1967-68

I was 18 and not really expecting a call-up that season, but it just happened. In the state junior's tournament, just like the Under-19s, I scored 60s and 70s, but couldn't convert any of them into a century for two years. So, I was there in the reckoning but I never expected to get into the team so early.

None of our top players, like V Subramanya, the captain, EAS Prasanna, BS Chandrasekhar and Budhi Kunderan played because that was the last game of the season. The selectors must have thought of giving youngsters an opportunity. We had at least five debutants as far as I can remember. Apart from me, there was Nagbhushan, S Natraj, Vijayakumar and Subramanya's brother, Ramadas. YB Patel captained the side in this game and Kiri [Syed Kirmani] had made his debut one match earlier. He was the keeper. Since we were all youngsters, and since we had played together, we felt at ease, but there were the usual butterflies in the tummy when we went out to bat.

We played on a matting wicket in Vijayawada. After we lost early wickets, I went in to bat at No. 4. This match took place right after West Indies' tour to India in 1967, where Wesley Hall and Charlie Griffith played. Here similarly, there were two fast bowlers - big guys - Pratap [Rana Pratap Gupta] and Venkata Rao. The local press and crowd called them Hall and Griffith.

They were genuinely quick and since we played on a matting wicket, there was some sort of help for them. I survived initially and then played all the shots, including my trademark square-cut, to score a double-century. When I went in to bat, the first new ball was being used. When I walked back at the end of the day, I was unbeaten on 209; I eventually got out leg before off the third new ball. After a few years, when I went to the same ground, I realised how small it was. No wonder I scored 200 in one day.

Later on, after Venkat Rao became a promiment BCCI official he told me: 'When Pratap and I saw you, we thought yeh bachcha hai, usko de dega bees run [he is a kid, let's give him 20 runs].' I was quite slim and had no physique then. After that Venkat said, 'okay, he's crossed thirty. Let him score a fifty.' Fifty became a hundred and finally I ended up making 200.

After I was out for 230, our manager C Nagaraj, who for many years was KSCA secretary and board secretary, got a new 'Chakravarti' bat and took signatures from both sides who played in that match and presented it to me. I was told later that it was a record for the highest first-class score by an Indian on debut. After I scored 200, I felt I had managed to settle into the state team. Playing for India, however, didn't cross my mind at all.

That knock may have fast-tracked my selection to the national team. More so, it was a good thing that MAK Pataudi started playing for Hyderabad, so he had an opportunity to watch me bat from close quarters.

As told to Arun Venugopal