On the great occasion of Kannada Rajyotsava, the state of Karnataka is rejoicing and the yellow and red flag of the state is waving from every important building in the capital city of Bengaluru. There are many ways in which this day is celebrated.
We are going to do so by listing some of the greatest sportspersons produced by this province. These men have achieved great success at the international level and have contributed immensely to the growth of Indian cricket.
One of the most underrated Indian greats, Javagal Srinath was the successor to Kapil Dev as India's leading paceman. Able to generate high speeds and get the ball to swing, Srinath shepherded the Indian bowling attack through a difficult period in the 1990's. In that decade, Indian Test team was hopeless abroad and relied on dusty wickets and Anil Kumble to win matches at home.
Despite this, Srinath was able to carve his own niche and remain relevant. When India defeated South Africa at home in 1996, it was he, along with his fellow Karnataka pacer Venkatesh Prasad who emerged as India's main bowlers. In his career, Sri, as he was known by his teammates, picked up 236 wickets in 67 Tests and 315 scalps in 229 ODIs. He retired after performing splendidly in the 2003 World Cup.
One of the finest exponents of the art of off-spin bowling, Erapalli Prasanna played in an era of tough batting opposition. That was a time when the doosra was not even a concept and the carrom ball too exotic. But what Prasanna had in abundance were the traditional skills of a finger-spinner – flight, drift, dip and lots of revolutions on the ball. He also had the arm-ball which curved away like an out-swinger.
He raced through to 100 Test scalps and ended his career with 189 wickets in just 49 Tests with a very impressive average of 30.38. The late Tony Greig, when asked 'who was the most difficult spinner he played in his career, named Prasanna.
A spin-wizard unlike any other, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar turned his polio-affected right-hand into a devastating spin-producer and led India to many victories. It is said that his wrists were so flexible that even he often didn't know whether he was letting go a normal leg break or a googly.
Whenever he got on a roll, wickets used to tumble like nine pins. This is what happened at The Oval in 1971 when his spell of 6/38 gave India its first series win in England. Well before Abdul Qadir bamboozled batsmen with his googlies or Shane Warne weaved magic with his bowling, it was Chandra who carried the flag of leg-spin bowling on the world stage.
With 242 wickets in 58 Tests, he was the most prolific member of the fabled Indian spin quartet.
Stats do not do justice to the greatness of Gundappa Vishwanath. He was to Sunil Gavaskar what Rahul Dravid was to Sachin Tendulkar – a true legend in his own right but overshadowed by the master. Just watch a clip of his cut shot and you will know the greatness of the man. It was said that this legend from Karnataka could cut the ball anywhere from third man to extra cover.
6080 runs in 91 Tests at an average of 41.93 is a very impressive record. But it was in his great knocks that the greatness of the man became fully visible. The way he dealt with the great West Indian bowlers of the 1970's left everyone in awe of him. That's how good he was.
A man who picked up 619 wickets should have been the terror of batsmen around the world. Unfortunately, for Anil Kumble, he played in the same era as Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan. Still, Kumble carried the load of Indian bowling in the 1990s and bowled his team to multiple victories on friendly pitches.
For a long time, many people considered him a dustbowl bully. That changed since the tour of Australia in 2003/4 where he picked up a bucket full of wickets. Since then, he didn't look back and became India's leading strike bowler. It didn't matter what the conditions were, Kumble knew how to get wickets and retired in 2008 after captaining the team for about a year. Nobody was as big a match winner as 'Jumbo' for India during his playing days.
'The Wall,' that's how the world and people of this country know him. He is, most certainly, among the top-5 greatest batsmen this country has produced. Some may even place him at second position, behind Sachin Tendulkar.
Endowed with the most impeccable technique, Dravid exemplified perfection. His defence was the most impenetrable in the entire world when he was playing. But it wasn't just his defence that made him great. His cover drive was the most aesthetically-pleasing thing anyone can see. He was also the man who would rescue India from difficult situations.
Add to his cricketing virtues handsome looks, smart personality, high intellect, and the character of a thorough gentleman and you have the perfect role model for this country. He is one of the greatest sons of Karnataka.