Saturday, September 24, 2016

Kandiyur Brahmma Sira Kandeeswarar

The Fifth temple in the Sapthasthanam Chitrai Festival
One of the Ashta Veera Temples of Lord Shiva
In the late 9th century AD, a land was purchased at 110 Kalanju of pure gold. The revenue from this land was to go the daily poojas and conduct of the festival at the Veerateswarar temple in Kandiyur!!! A couple of decades later, there was another gift of land to support the sacred offerings during night service.

During the first 35 years of the 10th century AD dating back to the rule of Parantaka Chozha I, there were three significant donations made towards the burning of the perpetual lamp at this temple

In the 2nd half of the 10th Century AD, during the rule of Sundara Chozha there was yet another gift of land, this time the purpose was to feed the Brahmins well verse in Vedas with a sumptuous meals in the temple!!! And in 979 AD, there was a provision made to take care of the food offerings for the Lord. 

Such was the historical importance of the Veerateswarar temple in Kandiyur located 2 kms South of Thiruvayaru on the southern banks of Cauvery. This is one of the eight Ashta Veera Sthalams of Lord Shiva (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2016/09/thiru-kurukkai-verateswarar-temple_13.html). This is the fifth temple in the famous Sapthasthanam festival of Thiruvayaru. Lord Airappar reaches here along with four other Lords from the Sapthasthanam temple in Chitrai for one of the grandest festival in this region.

Taking the view that Brahmma had grown arrogant, Shiva assigned Bairavar with the task of clipping off one of the five faces of Brahmma. However, once he initiated this by scratching it off with his nails, the fifth face stuck to his hand. He was liberated from this dosham here at Kandiyur. Realising the folly of acting arrogant, Brahmma performed pooja to cool the angry Lord Shiva. There is a separate sannidhi for Brahmma and Saraswathi. 

In ancient times, this place was referred to as Kandanapura and Brahmma Puri. The Lord was referred to as Brahmma Sira Kandeesar, Veeratesar and Brahmanathar.

Sathathapa Rishi would visit Kalahasti during Prathosham days. Once when he was stuck here in Kandiyur during that period, he was saddened by his inability to visit Kalahasti and threw himself into the pyre.  The Lord of Kalahasti and Ambal provided darshan to the rishi appearing from the Vilva tree and protected him from succumbing to the heat. In memory of this episode, this place came to be called Athi Vilvaranyam and the Lord as Athi Vilvanatha. There is an idol of Sathatapa rishi inside the temple.

Saint Poets
 Thiru Gnana Sambanthar and Thirunavukarasar have sung verses in praise of the Lord.


Festivals
Sapthasthanam Festival in Chitrai
Brahmotsavam in Vaikasi
Anna Abhishekam in Aipasi
Aruthra Darisanam in Margazhi

How to reach
 Buses ply every 10minutes between Thanjavur old bus stand and Thiruvayaru / Ariyalur. Auto from Thanjavur station to Kandiyur will cost Rs. 150.


When here also visit:

Thiru Othavaneswarar temple ( 4kms away)


Thiruvaiyaru Pancha Nadeeswarar Temple



Hara Sabha Vimochana Perumal Divya Desam, Kandiyur

Sunday, September 18, 2016

TNPL Gokulakrishnan Madanagopal

Brothers come together as coaches to fashion a turnaround victory in the TNPL
Their 'outside' districts pick of Ganesh Moorthy pays off dramatically in the FINAL

Just under five years ago, I decided to write about a budding umpire  J Madanagopal ( former Ranji Trophy cricketer) - http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2012/05/madanagopal-set-for-big-leap-as-umpire.html. And as I landed up one afternoon at the Vivekananda College in Mylapore to do a photo shoot, I saw him talking to a young 21 year old Kaushik Gandhi who was listening with studious intensity. Madanagopal who mentored Kaushik from a young age was also the one who picked him for Grand Slam in the first division league when he was just 17 years old. 
When the players draft was announced a few months back, Kaushik Gandhi was one of the first players Madanagopal picked for he knew that this bat had great potential. And Kaushik Gandhi lived up to that in the TNPL with crucial knocks in each of the critical matches and ended up as the second highest run scorer in the tournament.                      

                                                                   KAUSHIK GANDHI              
Brothers DJ Gokulakrishnan and Madanagopal, who are coming together on the coaching front for the first time in their career also took the big plunge of picking Dinesh Karthik and Abhinav Mukund (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2007/09/cricket-pick-of-month-abhinav-mukund.html) despite running the risk of them being unavailable for a few of the matches ( when many others were wary of picking these two Ranji stars). And really that turned out to be the best pick of the tournament as the two made match winning contributions in both the semis and the Final. 

However, it was the behind the scenes contribution that Gokulakrishnan and Madanagopal made during the crucial phase when the team had lost three in a row and were staring an early exit that really made the big difference especially in the matches when Abhinav and Dinesh weren’t around. 
Gokulakrishnan has been the coach with the Tamil Nadu teams for almost a dozen years (TN Ranji coach for 5 years and State U19 coach for 5 years on either side of his Ranji coaching stint). Both Madanagopal and Gokulakrishnan have also been each managing a first division side of India Cements for the last few years and their belief in players whom they have been working with for the last few years has really paid dividends in this tournament. 

Apart from DK, Abhinav and Balaji ( who are all players from India Cements), lesser known players such as Aushik Srinivas, Kaushik Gandhi and Ashwin Crist (who too Madanagopal has mentored over the years) have all been coached by Gokulakrishnan and Madanagopal in the last few years.

It was their understanding of the players' strengths that really helped these players when they were seemingly down and out. At that stage when they had lost three in a row, the team could have easily gone the way of the Madurai team. 

It was with that sense of self belief that the team went in for the crucial 5th and 6th matches in the league phase and came out trumps.

Both of them have right through their career kept a very low profile preferring to stay away from the limelight and doing their job in a quiet, unglamourous way allowing their work to do the talking for them. And in line with that, none of the TV commentators throughout the tournament right till the very end made any mention of the coaches of Tuti Patriots while the cameras repeatedly focused on bigger brand names such as Klusenar and Robin Singh!!!!

(Gokulakrishnan and Madanagopal weren't on camera even after the tournament victory preferring to take a back seat and allowing the players to savour the moment)

It was very surprising that even S Sriram (former Ranji bat) who focused most of his time in the commentary box on the technical aspects of the game unlike most of his colleagues there failed to take notice of the contribution of the coaching unit of Tuti till almost the very end of the Final.

There were not even any mentions in the papers on how Tuti came back from the dumps to the knock out (they were right near the bottom after 4 matches having lost three in a row).
   
Belief in Ganesh Moorthy

The two also spotted the talent in a districts’ lower division’ cricketer and gave him the belief that he could be a match winner in this form of the game. Ganesh Moorthy played all but one of the league matches and also bowled at the top of the innings in most of the matches. In the super over finish against Dindigual, he was given the opportunity, despite being raw and unproven, ahead of state bowler Aushik Srinivas. Two rank bad balls in that super over cost Tuti the match.

(Gokulakrishnan had then told this writer to wait and watch and was confident that he would deliver before the end of the tournament for he said that he had the makings of a good spinner)

Despite that shattering blow, Madanagopal and Gokulakrishnan kept the belief in the districts spinner who then repaid this strong belief with a match winning over in the final with 4 wickets in the first over of the huge chase that turned the final completely one sided in the process bagging the Man of the Final award.

Their hard work away from the media glare and their in-depth understanding of their players in a new tournament that overall had an unknown player mix contributed in a large way to the team staying together even in bad times paving the way for the turnaround.

( For the record, in the Semi Final and Final, Abhinav Mukund's 90 and 80 NO and Dinesh Karthik's dashing knocks helped set up a huge score)

It is hoped that the TNCA will take notice of the two coaches and their back room contribution to this tournament victory.

Best Wishes to Madanagopal (he is well regarded as a mentor by many of the leading players of Tamil Nadu) who now turns his focus back to his umpiring career ahead of the new Ranji season. (He is now a TOP 25 umpire in the BCCI Panel). 

Gokulakrishnan will have to wait it out to see if he will be assigned a coaching role by the TNCA this season!!!!)

PS: It was saddening to find our Indian commentators sucking up so much to the foreign commentators. Equal amount of time was spent boosting the image of these former cricketers and their supposed interests in the traditional TN food!!! It almost seemed that we were back to the British Raj. So much time did the production team and our local commentators give to these Aussie commentators that it seemed like they were larger than life (TNPL) characters of the tourney.

Repeated imagery of their restaurant trips and showcasing their presence at the temples making it seem like an exhibition exercise was disheartening. 

I hope our local commentators like Bosskey and Sadagopan Ramesh ( he is as lazy in the box as he was at the crease!!!) will remember that the temple is a sacred place of worship and not a tourist center.  Breaking of coconuts in front of God is not an activity for fun. Presenting and Submitting yourself in front of Lord Ganesha is also not a fun activity meant to test the fitness levels of these commentators. Do these local Tamil commentators realise this when they are on camera or was their mandate to convert this entire series of activities into one of fun and entertainment.

Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, who himself recently told this writer that he has been a regular to the Guruvayoorappan/ Ayyapan temple in the city especially during his low phase in his cricketing life, even went to the extent of calling this a promotion of art and culture of Tamil Nadu. It will do LS a lot of good if he focuses his commentary on the cricketing content which he is good at.

It is one thing to be respecting the overseas cricketers for their cricketing achievement but it is quite something else to be making fashion statements out of them during ongoing LIVE Telecasts. 

(Sriram was probably the sole exception and the lone bright spot as he was there on the dot in terms of technicalities of the game right through the tournament, though he too was swayed once in a while by Bosskey's one liners. He was the only one who spoke about Dindigul's needless changes in the middle of the tournament and the likely impact, the need for placing 4 fielders for Ganga Sridhar Raju's cut shots and the impact of the breeze in Tirunelveli and the choice of ends for key bowlers while most others focused on easier topics of food, beaches and temples)

Star Sports and Vijay TV have made a complete mess of the coverage in their effort to make this a semi entertainment affair and to try and hit the TRPs. Rarely has cricketing coverage touched such a low in the three decades of LIVE coverage that one has seen in India.

 It is hoped that LS and co will learn from this and stick to cricketing engagements in the future.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Thiru Chotruthurai Othavaneswarar Temple

Significant Contributions made from the 9th Century for the conduct of annual festivals, to burn a perpetual lamp and to feed Brahmanas
IT Consultants seek to restore the temple to its ancient glory, to revive centuries old festivals
Two interesting IT industry equipped people are currently engaged in the revival of the huge and ancient Othanvaneswarar temple in Thiru Chotruthurai seen right on the Southern Bank of the Cauvery, one that has inscriptions dating back to the 9th Century AD. This is the only one among the Sapthasthanam temples (other than Thiruvayaru) that has been praised by the three three saint poets. Every here in the month of Chitrai, Iyaravappar of Thiruvayaru makes his way to this temple as part of the Sapthasthana Utsavam.

From IT Industry to this remote temple
Moved by the Lord during one of his annual trips and saddened at the ignored state of the temple, a determined and devoted Agora Shivam Gurukal quit a high paying IT job in Hyderabad and settled at this temple earlier this decade for a three digit monthly salary (Yes, priests performing pooja in remote Saivite and Vaishnavite temples under the HR & CE administration are paid only three and low four digit salaries every month).

Since his arrival, the temple has seen a dramatic transformation with the revival of many festivals that had earlier come to a halt.  The maintenance and improvement of the Nandavanam in the outer prakara is also a redeeming feature at the temple.

Taking care of the temple with a BE, MS…P.hd!!!
Kannan, the trustee at the temple, has an Engineering and a Masters degree in Computer Science and is currently pursuing a P hd from Sastra University. Despite the temptation to move out for greener pastures, he has chosen to settle down here in his hereditary home opposite the temple to maintain and make improvements at the temple.

The two are also involved in teaching young children in the village the entire Thevaram verses. These children help out in the maintenance of the temple with cleaning activities every weekend. It is no wonder that the temple despite very little support from the HR & CE looks totally clean. There were no devotees present but unfazed by this, the Gurukal performed Abhishekam for Lord Muruga, seen in a special posture and Dakshinamurthy.

Jointly and with support from devotees, the two are hoping to restore the temple to its ancient glory and to revive the festivals that were celebrated in a grand manner a 1000 years ago.

The legend
A devoted couple undertook penance here invoking the blessings of the Lord and Ambal seeking liberation from famine. The Lord and Ambal are believed to have provided darshan in Thiru Kalyana Kolam and presented the Akshaya Patram to the couple. Hence this is believed to be a temple to provide relief from financial troubles.
                                             
Indra, Surya, Gautama rishi and Adiseshan performed pooja invoking the blessings of the Lord.

Lord Muruga is seen between the Sannidhis of the Lord and Ambal, with the peacock on the left, a unique feature at the temple.

Soruthaana Canal
In centuries gone by, this place was so sacred that the nearby canal was filled with rice instead of water such was the prosperity and the purity of the people in this region. Hence the canal was also referred to as Soruthaana Canal.

As part of the Sapthasthanam festival in Chitrai, sacred food is sent from here as their special offering for the wedding celebrations of Nandi, the vehicle of the Lord.

Thiru Gnana Sambanthar’s praise
At the end of each of the verses, Saint Poet Thiru Gnana Sambanthar concludes with ‘ Chotruthurai Senru Adaiveney’ indicating that he had already started invoking the blessings of the Lord right from the beginning of his journey to this temple, such was his special devotion to this Lord.

Appar’s special praise in all his compositions
This is also the only temple in this region where Thirunavukarasar has sung praise of this temple in all his compositions – Nerisai, Virutham, Kurunthogai and Thandagam. 

All the four Saint poets go on a street procession on their respective Avatharam days every year. An abhishekam also takes place on each of those days.

The temple way back in the 9th and 10th Century AD
During the rule of Varaguna Pandya II, ongoing contributions were made by devotees in the late 9th Century AD to the burning of a perpetual lamp at the temple. From the contribution of 300 kasu to a 100 sheep to 20 Kalanju of gold, contributions poured in and devotees ensured that the lamp burned throughout.

A decade later, in 890AD during the rule of Aditya I, there was a gift of two conches for blowing in connection with Thirupalli Sevai and other services. 

Sacred bath on Sankranthi day
A few decades later, in 930AD, when Parantaka Chozha I reigned the region, there was a gift of 45sheep to provide for Ghee, Milk and Curd for the sacred bath of the Lord on the Sankranthi day. During that decade, there were also gifts of two separate lamp stands.

Brahmanas were fed at this temple
In 954 AD, there was a land endowment for feeding Brahmanas including a lady and yogis in the temple.

A very interesting arrangement
In the last decade of the 10th Century AD, a huge quantity of oil was provided to light 50 lamps during the service in the night. The arrangement was such that 8 people engaged in the maintenance of cleanliness of the temple were assigned the task of lighting these 50 lamps along with four persons who were engaged in blowing the trumpet, one cook and 8 people living in house-sites belonging to the temple.

During this same decade, there was a cash gift made for providing fly-whisk, arecanuts, ghee, curd, gingely seeds, rice and service for the conduct of two festivals. 
Vaikasi Visakam Festival and Lord’s procession
In the year 1000AD, there was a gift made to support the procession of the deity during the Vaikasi Visakam festival.

In the second half of the 12th Century, Kulotunga Chozha purchased a Nattuvakini from Devan Udayanayakan and gave it as Stridhava to his daughter. And thus her husband secured the right of doing service in the temple like other Padiyilar and of enjoying the privilege due thereunto.

Vaishaka Celebrations every month
Also, when Para Kesarivarma Chozha took over the reign, there was a gift of money by a lady for worship and special offerings on Vaishaka day every month. Also there was a list made of gold ornaments with precision stones presented by her including gold handled fly whisk and silver salver.

Plastering the Mandapa
The support for the temple continued well into the 13th century. During the rule of Rajendra III, there was a sale of a house site for purchasing jaggery to plaster the mandapa.

Contribution to new Vahanas??
A new Dwajasthambam has recently been installed and plans are afoot to revive the 10 day Brahmotsavam from Panguni of next year. Efforts are on to build 11 Vahanas ahead of the Brahmotsavam.  Support for four of these is already in place. Those interested to support the building of the balance 7 Vahanas may contact Trustee Kannan @ 99438 84377. 
Historically, as seen above, contributions poured in for the temple to burn the lamp. Devotees interested in supporting the temple with oil for burning the perpetual lamp may contact the trustee or the Gurukal.

Festivals 
Sapthasthanam festival in Chitrai
Anna Abhishekam in Aipasi (full moon day)
Akshaya Trithigai
Theerthavari on Aadi Amavasya day
Margazhi Thiruvembavai festival with dance and music concerts through the month
Celebration of Soora Samharam in Puratasi

Quick Facts
 Lord   : Othavaneswarar
Ambal : annapoorni (Separate Sannidhi in the South)
Saint Poets: Thiru Gnana Sambandhar, Thirunavukarasar and Sundarar

The temple is open between 63am-12.30pm and 430pm-8.30pm. Contact Agora Sivam Gurukal @ 83446 58671

How to reach
Thiruchotruthurai is 4kms from Kandiyur on the Ayyampettai route. Buses ply every half hour on this route. Mini buses also ply on this route.

Auto from Kandiyur will cost Rs. 50 (Auto numbers: 96770 27052/95787 88505).

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Thiru Kurukkai Verateswarar temple

The place where Manmatha was burnt to Ashes by Lord Yogeswarar 
13kms West of Mayiladuthurai in a remote location is the ancient over 1000years old Verateswarar temple in Thiru Krukkai, one of the five ‘kka’ sthalams. Thiru Anaikkaval (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2014/12/thiruvanaikaval-jambukeswarar.html) and Thiru Kodikkaval (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2013/11/thiru-kotteeswarar-temple-thiru.html) are two others. This is a temple praised by Thirunavukarasar ( Appar). There was a separate Sannidhi in the Eastern Prakara for the saint poet that is now in a dilapidated state.

Ancient Name
In the 12th century AD, this place was referred to as Vikrama Chola Chaturvedi Mangalam in Kurukkai Nadu. 
An interesting 12th Century event
An inscription on the Northern wall of the mandapa in front of the Central shrine of the temple dating back to 1169AD tells an interesting story relating to an event at this temple. A piece of land had previously remained uncultivated for over 50years. The assembly of the temple paid the taxes that were due for all these years to reclaim the land. Subsequently once again it remained fallow and taxes unpaid. Hence it was decided to gift the land to the temple. The land was to be cultivated with paddy and with the income generated from it a 100 red lotus garlands (Chengalanur) were to be presented to the deity for mid night service.

It was here that Lord Shiva, who was originally in an East facing direction, opened his third eye, turned west towards Manmatha and burnt him to ashes after the God of Love tried to wake him up from his yogic state by sending an arrow (of Love) directed at the Lord. In memory of the event, the bow is still seen in the Chathura Peedam and the Lord is referred to as Kama Dahana Murthy. 
Saddened by this turn of event, Manmatha’s father Lord Vishnu performed pooja here at this place invoking the blessing of Yogeswarar to bring his son back to life. Rathi too undertook penance here seeking back the life of her husband. Answering her prayers, Manmatha was reborn here. Rathi and Manmatha are seen as procession deities at this temple.

One still finds the place of this historical event a few furlongs south from the current location of the temple.

20 years later, in 1188AD, during the rule of Kulotunga III a gift of house was made to the temple. There was a provision made for bailing of water from adjoining well and for taking water by digging a channel.

Legendary Name        
Theertha Vahu Muni who undertook penance called out for the Ganges to be brought here in order for the consecration formalities to be performed. Suddenly when his hands shortened in this process, it was Lord Vinayaka who provided darshan to him in a similar posture with shortened hands. Delighted at the sight of the Lord, the rishi forgot about the state of his own hands. Hence Pillayar is referred to here as ‘Kurungai’ Pillayar which also became the name of this place. In course of time, Kurungai became ‘Kurukkai’. 
Gift of Paddy to take care of Servants!!!
In early 13th century AD, there was a gift of paddy to meet the expenses of servants of Palliyarai and also for the construction of a cave called Thirunavukarasu Thiru Kuhai for the destitute apurvins who visited it and Mahesvaras who attended the festival of Thiruvai Gasi Thirunaal. Also, there is a record of the recitation of Thiru Thandagam at the temple in 1207AD.

Names of Slaves!!!!
One of the most inscriptions inside the temple is recording of the names of slaves that included both men and women numbering over 100 who were purchased!!!!

Through the 12th and 13th Century AD, there were several ongoing contributions for the burning of the perpetual lamp at the temple. These contributions came in the form of cash as well as gift of land.

There are several such inscriptions dating back a 1000 years. Many of them on the outer walls are intact. However, some of them on the inner walls have lost some of the sheen and are not in a readable state.

Where are the Annual Festivals?
Festivals are a time that bring together people from different locations and was generally regarded as a celebratory time.

In the century gone by, several festivals including Navarathri, Pillayar Chaturthi and Thiruvathirai Nataraja procession were celebrated in a grand manner at this temple with Vahana processions taking the Lord around the streets of Kurukkai. However, all of these have been stopped as a result of lack of funds. There was also a 10 day mahotsavam in Maasi. The Vahanas are still there but the traditional inhabitants have all gone away seeking greener pastures.

Somasundara Gurukal who has been here for close to two decades is the only one to take care of all the poojas and the activities at the temple. He is paid a monthly salary of Rs.500/- by the Atheenam, in addition to some provisions for the household!!!!! 
Dilapidated state of the temple
The temple itself is in a dilapidated state with big cracks on the walls of the madapalli that could come down anytime. The Vimana of the Lord which has several sculptures is also in bad shape. The huge wall at the entrance of the temple next to the Raja Gopuram has also caved in

The previous restoration work had taken place in 1959. Since then, there has been very little repair and maintenance work that has been undertaken and this has resulted in the sheen going off several inscriptions.

The temple is under the administration of Dharmapura Atheenam.

The temple is open between 730am-12noon and 5pm-8pm. Contact Somasundara Gurukal @ 94435 27044.

How to reach
Buses ply every half hour from Mayiladuthurai bus stand to Manalmedu. Get down at Kondal Junction (about 10kms). From there, take an auto to the temple (3kms).

From Mayiladuthurai bus stand, one can also reach the temple by taking the Kallanai road and turning right towards Ponnur, Pandur to reach Kurukkai (10 kms).



Thursday, September 8, 2016

TNPL

Gokulakrishnan beats his mentor VB at Natham
TNPL - A concept that cashes in on the flavour of the season - Everything quick and now
Brothers Gokulakrishnan and Madanagopal, coaches of Tuti Patriots

Tuticorin Patriots’ coach J Gokulakrishnan and Thiruvallur Franchise Owner (cum coach) VB Chandrasekar (VB) - http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2016/06/vb-chandrasekar-tnpl.html
have been almost inseparable for well over two decades. In the early 90s, Gokulakrishnan was one of the first players VB sought for after he took over the captaincy from V Sivaramakrishnan at India Cements.  In one of those one off moments in his life, VB (and Dr. Natarajan) reached out to Gokulakrishnan  at the latter’s residence in Guindy to ‘seek’ his signature for India Cements and actually rolled out an offer letter as well (such was the regard VB had for Gokulakrishnan’s bowling).

Since then, the two forged a strong partnership and played together for several years for India Cements winning many tournaments and championships (with VB using Gokulakrishnan as his strike bowler) and for Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy. When VB moved to Goa, he took Gokulakrishnan along (a phase where Gokulakrishnan came close to national selection).

A few years ago, VB worked together again with Gokulakrishnan as the coach of Tamil Nadu team.

For the first time since the early 90s, the two have come face to face against each other after Gokulakrishnan quite surprisingly rejected a coaching offer from VB (he had never rejected any offers from VB in the past two decades!!!) and went to the Patriots with his younger brother J Madanagopal -http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2012/05/madanagopal-set-for-big-leap-as-umpire.html
(the coming together of the brothers was a first in their career for the two never played for the same league team at the peak of their career and have rarely done things together in the cricketing arena!!!).

Over the last many years, in addition to focusing on umpiring, Madanagopal has earned himself a lot of respect amongst cricketers in the state with his coaching and mentoring. While other franchisees boast some big international names, the Tuticoring Patriots have gone for the brothers who have done a lot of work with the local cricketers over the last decade.
A lot was at stake last evening in the beautiful setting at the NPR Ground in Natham. Tuticorin was under extreme pressure in a must win match for they had lost three in a row. Their star player and captain, Abhinav Mukund was struggling in the T20 format. Dinesh Karthik was missing again but Balaji was back after an injury.

Mentor vs Mentee
Gokulakrishnan was up against his mentor whose offer he had just rejected a couple of months ago. There was added pressure with TNCA President and Managing Director of India Cements N Srinivasan settling into his seat at 6.30pm to watch the match from just over their shoulders (NS was at the hospitality box above the players’ area).

As VB’s family entered the ground from the VIP entrance on the Western side a tad late to the loud beating of the drums, they were welcomed with Balaji’s double strike in two balls that left Veerans tottering at 30/3.

Ganesh Moorthy, an unknown left arm spinner from the districts, had the biggest moment of his life a couple of days back when he was surprisingly entrusted the task of bowling the super over for the Patriots with the TV cameras zooming on him from all angles, something that would have been previously unthinkable for a player from the districts. He failed that night and once again this evening his overs cost a lot for the Patriots. But it is the kind of opportunity that has sprung up for completely unknown cricketers from remote districts and towns in Tamil Nadu including Tirupur, Krishnagiri and Palani.

The quality of cricket and trying to bring in professionalism within the teams has caused frustration for some of the coaches in the TNPL. But they are hoping that as matches go by, these unknown players will learn from their mistakes. Many may fall by the way side unable to cope up with the pressure but there may be a few who could rise.

Performances here in the TNPL could also set up hot competition amongst first division clubs next season who could grab some of the performing players from here. Relatively unknown players like Vijaykumar, Rajkumar and Natarajan have become the cynosure of all eyes. There are many new players for whom this is a great platform to showcase themselves.

Hari Nishanth, an opener from Coimbatore, starred last evening and held the innings together and was instrumental in Veerans posting a challenge tally of 140. However, a majority of his shots were on the leg side, calling into question the quality of the stroke play. An experienced bowler like Aushik Srinivas played into his hands by bowling the middle and leg line that assisted in his leg side swipes.

It was heartening to find Abhinav finally giving up his opening spot to more attacking players in his team. Right from his school days, he had never given the opener’s slot to anyone so much so that when once his school team came up against a minnows in school cricket, he was asked to present an opportunity to lesser ranked players in his school. But when the coach was away for a few minutes from the dressing room, he padded up, went to bat and notched up a big score for himself, leaving the coach furious.

With the openers giving a rollicking start, Patriots reached 70 at the half way mark, exactly half the tally of the opposition. The entry of Abhinav Mukund slowed things dramatically and with the dismissal of Washington through a much expected run out, the asking rate had climbed to almost 10 with 3overs remaining. Abhinav played the perfect brand of cricket that he is so known for and in the way his father coach TS Mukund had taught him to play. In his entire innings, he did not play a single lofted stroke and played as straight as possible.

Abhinav slows things down
He is just not made for T20. He did not learn cricket that way. And his mindset just does not allow him to play shots that are suited for this brand of cricket. It is one more reason as to why he should focus on longer version of the game. At the end of 17 overs, VB seemed confident while there were different reactions at the opposition team’s’ enclosure – one coach was continuously throwing the ball from one hand to another while the other did not seem too happy at the way the game was heading. A third one was seen scratching his head.

3 overs and 29 runs to win was a needless situation that Patriots had got into.  His running between the wickets leaves a lot to be desired. 

It was SP Nathan ( yet another player from the districts who had made a big impact in lower division cricket a few years ago with his big six hitting) hit Rahil Shah out of the ground bringing a bit of smile back into the Patriot’s dressing room. As Abhinav walked down the pitch, he seemed to ask Nathan to go for the big one again. And as the junior partner, Nathan obliged only to find a slower well flighted ball beat his swing and rolled on to the stumps.

Abhinav made up for the slow batting in the previous overs with three cleanly struck fours – a square drive of a widish delivery, a straight drive along the ground and a flick to square leg sealed the win for the Patriots. The TV camera zoomed in on VB at the most inappropriate time in the last two overs as the two big screens showed his anger at letting go the boundaries when their team had pushed Patriots to the corner in the 2nd lot of 10 overs.

It was an important match for Gokulakrishnan in more ways than one and it was the first big battle between the mentor and the mentee, one that Gokulakrishnan won on the night as his team survived and kept their hopes alive in the TNPL.


The Coach Point of view
‘Sweety’ Suresh, former TN Captain under whom the State reached two successive Ranji Finals is now the head coach of the Kanchi team. He is disappointed with the amount of leg side play that has crept in and believes that this could have serious long term repercussions 'There is an immediate course correction required to develop overall stroke play lest they get found out in longer version of the game. Those who play well under pressure and succeed are likely to be noticed and will go up the growth ladder and could get picked in the U19/U22 sides.'
For all of us, it has been a new experience. Very few have been involved in T20 cricket in Tamil Nadu in the past. ‘Picking the right mix of players has been a challenge for the teams. Only over a period of time will this evolve. Performing in front big crowds and under the scrutiny of the TV cameras will boost the confidence for those who do well.’

Abhinav Mukund and T20 cricket
Despite his seemingly winning knock, Abhinav’s innings on Wednesday evening showcased yet again as to why he is not suited to this form of cricket. When as a Ranji captain and coming off from a century in the Duleep Trophy he should have helped his team coast to victory, he made heavy weather of the chase coming as he did at a time when his team were in a strong position.
                                                                                                    
This section had written many years ago about the need for him to focus solely on the longer version of the game and to stay away from T20 cricket.
                                                                    
He has started in rich vein this season in Duleep Trophy and it would be good if he focuses on making his way back into the Indian Test team instead of continuing to have an eye on the IPL. 

It takes great courage to accept one’s limitations and I hope Abhinav this season will finally accept that he is not made for T20 cricket. He has some fundamental shortcomings there including a mindset that focuses on not getting out. 

While he did not play any T20 shots last night, his style of play could have easily sent Patriots out of the tournament from a winning position.

He has age on his side and he has it in him to make a contribution to the test team but that may require undivided attention to focus on the challenges of longer version of game.

Will he listen?
The crowd at the ground
One of the favourite jokes I encountered as I sat with the transistor in the 70s and early 80s was the constant query from my uncles whom I visited during vacations ‘How many goals did Kapil Dev and Gavaskar score’? It was an indication as to how far away from cricket were people living in remote villages in India. Cricket meant little to them. 

By 730pm, all the stands at the NPR ground were full. In a first of its kind, there seemed to be even an exclusive stand for women or rather a bunch of over hundred young girls with their teachers made it to a particular stand. There were many senior citizens who came in with their grand children. It did however seem that most of them knew very little of cricket. They were probably roped in through one mode or other to make up the crowd. 

With TV cameras constantly zooming in on the crowd, there is a lot of noise and general entertainment. They dance to the cameras. Several selfies were taken with Bosskey after he completed the mid innings interview with Hari Nishanth. But there was very little of the so called ‘knowledgeable crowd’ that TN is so renowned for.

While the cricketers and coaches and team owners have been positioning this as a platform to groom talent and unearth ‘unknown’ cricketers, the officials and the TV programmers are playing to the gallery positioning this as ‘entertainment’ for the evening with semi clad women, mixing overseas cricket experts with the Tamil language and food.

In its urge to promote TNPL, it is important that NS and Co do not fall prey to the temptation of making this as a ‘masala mix’ with a bit of everything for everyone in the evenings.  Hope at least from a positioning point, they focus on the cricketing aspects and not the 'masala entertainment'.

Quality of Cricket


The coaches and teams themselves are getting to terms with the lack of quality. Within the first fortnight, there is already talk of sponsorship of players ( bats and kits and the like). A couple of good performances is converted to stardom and distractions start creeping into the lives of the young cricketers many of whom have not yet scored a century in league cricket or taken a five wicket haul!!! It is important to inculcate very early on in their cricketing career the need to not get swayed by one or two star performances and to focus on working towards the long term success.

The Good News - New Opportunities for many

Debut as Fourth Umpire
My league team mate from the 1990s and a very serious and committed cricketer Dharmaseelan made his debut as the fourth umpire yesterday. It was a big day for him – He is likely to umpire more matches during the TNPL and a just reward for him.From one who won many league matches for his side with his gritty batting and continues to play in the TNCA league, it is a great recognition of his long standing efforts to be given this opportunity at the TNPL

Long Standing service with the TNCA
Gururajan, who has been a TNCA umpire since 1984 has been performing the role of the Venue manager at Natham and Tirunelveli over the last fortnight  including managing the food arrangements for several hundreds of officials on the day of the match working from 7am to well past midnight each day of the match. He did not take a seat through a 12 hour period yesterday moving between one corner of the ground to the other to ensure that everything was in place and that every official at the ground including the drummers had their stomachs filled.

He also ensures that several ball pickers are placed outside the ground at Natham to fetch the balls hit out of the ground especially on the Eastern side. However, given the quality of cricket, none seemed to go even remotely out of the ground despite 60/65 yard boundary (depending on which wicket they are playing on). His work extents late into the night much after the completion of the match and he is the one ensuring the cleanliness of the ground/stands. 
BCCI umpire Rajesh Kannan has got on field posting as an umpire for several matches and that is a nice leap for him, especially the experience to be in front of the cameras and to be interacting with the third umpire which would then stand him in good stead for the upcoming domestic season. 

The Not so Good Part

Positioning this as a family outing ‘An evening entertainment’ – Loud Music is played between each ball making communication between players in the field difficult

Dance show at the end of each over is clearly avoidable. It is not a direction you want to take cricket to

Anchor / Announcer at the ground with very little cricketing background - he got many names wrong

Prescribe a dress code for the lady anchors in the TNPL. Clearly what we are seeing is undesirable

Former Aussie stars have been brought in for their expert views on Cricket. Getting them to speak in Tamil and unrelated subjects on the large screen is not a way to impress the cricketing audience

K Srikkanth's commentary:-)

Two Wheeler Parking in the College Garden (NPR) crushing the plants in the process

Cricketers as 'Entertainment models' on Ads - Badri, the serious cricketer, cannot be dancing on the streets to promote TNPL

Favourite dish and gadgets in personality intros can be replaced with favourite grounds and more cricketing related activities

It is also hoped that TNCA under NS will not create too much hype about this being a grooming platform, leveraging on T20 as the flavour of the season. It will be good if they bear in mind the oft made remarks from Cricketing greats 'Test Cricket is the ultimate'. It will also be useful to remember at the back of the mind the favourite remark from the past of one of the franchise owners 'Do you call this cricket'