1. V. Sivaramakrishnan-the most consistent opener for TN and a brilliant close in fielder, who paid special attention to fitness.
2. K. Srikkanth- beat VB through the sheer excitement and tension he gave the spectators. He was also a people’s cricketer and hence had several die hard fans through the 1980s, while VB always seemed to take the other extreme(serious, tough). While the favourite XI is pure performance based, the choice of Srikkanth also has the fans in mind
( while he may have lasted only half an hour on many occasions, the happiness he gave fans during that short period was immense) and hence he scores over VB.
3. WV Raman- A beautiful spin talent of the 1980s like LS, turned into a top order bat and made runs big time for TN for a decade and over. Cannot over look him for the sheer number of runs he scored and the way he contributed to the top order
4. S. Sharath-For the sheer durability and fighting it out time and time again, a 100 times for TN, he finds a place in the XI. For a long while, he seemed to be in the shadow of others…first Robin and WV in the early 1990s, then Sriram, S.Ramesh and Badani. But like Raman, he finds himself a place with the weight of runs scored over a long period of time. And he was always a team man.
5. Abdul Jabbar- The grittiest middle order bat TN has seen. He saved the day for his side many a time. And took some wonderful catches fielding close in. Never really came close enough for National duties but his contribution to TN cricket has been invaluable.( No talk of TN cricket of late 1970s/80s can be concluded without a discussion on V. Shiv and Jabbar losing out on bigger laurels. Hats off to these two men who fought out many a battle for TN. It still seems that TN cricketers are given a raw deal at the national level)
6. Robin Singh- An automatic choice in the XI. He brought freshness into the team and should have changed the face of TN cricket and taken it to greater heights but unfortunately didn’t. TN laid low through the 1990s winning very little on the national scene. However, he should rank as the most aggressive TN cricketer of the last 3 decades- close in and out fielding, running between the wickets, determination when he batted. For all his branding as a one day cricketer, his record in Ranji and Duleep Trophy prove that he was ideally suited for the longer version of the game. Very few took note of the fact that Robin’s best innings’ were always in the longer version of the game
7. Bharat Reddy- TN has lacked good wicket keepers in recent times and Bharat Reddy sees off easily, competition from D. Girish, Babulnath and M. Sanjay, the only other names in consideration
8. S. Vasudevan- This possibly was the most toughest of the decisions along with the 2nd opener slot. Venkatramana and LS donned national colours. Venkatramana had a beautiful action and could turn the ball square and was instrumental in many a win for TN and was a very useful lower order bat. LS was potentially the most talented TN spinner. But for all his potential, LS made very limited impact even on the local scene. Vasu had formed a potent left-right combination with Venkat in the late 70’s, early 80s. For a decade, he held the TN spin bowling together (including when Venkat was away on test duty). And hence finds the 2nd spinner’s spot. Also, he was the TN Ranji winning captain in the late 1980s.
9. S. Venkataraghavan- Captain
The first name that comes to mind when one thinks of TN cricket is Venkat. He was the first TN cricketer to break into the national scene in a big way.He was the one broke the shackles of bad treatment to TN cricketers,not through war of words but through sheer determination and performance on the ground. While VV Kumar had been treated badly in the 1960s and did not play much of Test Cricket, it was Venkat who fought out and came back stronger every time- He was the one day captain under whom Gavaskar scored 36 in 60 overs-he still refuses to be drawn into that controversy-, he was the one who was dropped after being captain in the previous test, he also belonged to the period when there were 3 other famous spinners( not counting shivalkar and goel). And yet, he came back into the national team through performances on the field.
Venkat has been the quiet man of TN cricket.He came up the hard way. He also has stories of cycling 15 kms every day in the 70s to keep up this fitness levels. He set high standards for himself. He was one of the best close in fielders TN has had, though Robin and V. Shiv would run him close on that.
His performances in the 1970s were miles ahead of other TN cricketers and it remained so till Srikkanth burst on to the scene in the early 80s. Given this scenario, it was only natural that most others in the TN cricket scene were in awe of him( the first big national cricketer from TN). Many in the TN cricket circles have quietly questioned his 'contribution' and support to TN cricket after his playing days. That discussion will be reserved for another day.
Here it is suffice to say that Venkat played his cricket hard and professionally and is my choice for the Captaincy.
10. T.A Sekhar- The quickest fast bowler TN has produced, tall and lanky, he was a big fast bowling hope for TN cricket. Alas, the Indian slip cordon (and may be politics) let him down. And he never made it big on the national fast bowling scene
11. B. Kalyanasundaram- For the sheer energy and effort he put into fast bowling at a time when TN was not known for ‘FAST’ bowling. He beats Bharat Kumar and B. Arun to the final bowling spot
Those that missed out
VB Chandrasekhar- He has possibly been the most influential cricketer in TN in the last 15 years or so. And was also arguably a better opener and captain than Srikkanth. I first tracked him in the early-mid 80s during his CIT days. His century in the Irani trophy match (against Gopal Sharma and co) that won the match for TN will remain etched in everyone’s memory for ever. However, for sheer excitement and tension value(not necessarily the number of runs), one would have to include Srikkanth, though he did not play that many matches for TN because of his international duties. While VB has been possibly the best TN captain and the most influential player in recent times, Srikkanth scores over him for ‘early excitement’ and the freshness he introduced to opening batting in early 80s. It must be clarified that VB was no less brutal in his attack of opposition quickies.
His arrogance may have let him down on many occasions. Once while playing for Chemplast in a YSCA Trophy match at the RKM ground in T. Nagar ( this was a very popular summer tourney and that evening there was crowd in excess of 1000 watching, VB made a remark to the crowd watching the match from the road on the Eastern side that stands etched in memory for the wrong reason ' Only Vettis come and watch cricket. You are jobless and have nothing else to do. That is why you are here watching this match'.
(VB had just returned from NZ after failing in the one dayers earlier that season. It was a pretty damning statement from an international player)
** While on the topic of openers, I must make a mention of VV Sankupani, a cheeka replica in local cricket. He never made it to the top grade.
CS Suresh Kumar- For a while in the 1980s( when Srikkanth was away) the left-right combo of V. Shiv and CS formed a most formidable opening pair. However, V. Shiv’s consistency over a decade and his outstanding catching abilities meant that CS had to miss out.
TE Srinivasan- Possibly the most technically correct batsmen of his time in TN, TE could have played several more international matches than he ended up playing.(Like VB later, he was chosen for a very difficult international tour (Australia-NZ) and never again played for India. He loses out to WV Raman in this squad for the sheer number of runs scored by the latter. WV, who began as a bowler, became an all rounder and ended as one of the most prolific scorers for TN at the top of the order in the 1980s-90s. For the number of runs he scored and the way he converted himself into a top order batsman, one could not afford to miss out on WV.
PC Prakash-Solid batsman in the late 1980s. Lent stability to the batting order. Loses out in a strong middle order of WV, Sharath, Jabbar and Robin.
R. Madhavan- My favourite TN players of the early 1980s were the two Madhavans- NP and R. NP played a lot less than he should have for TN but the bearded left hander was a heavy scorer in the 1980s for a couple of seasons and was possibly a little unlucky to lose out on international duty. And for a batsman, quit cricket quite early(late 20s) to pursue his career.
M. Senthilnathan- During his school time in Udumalpet, I had opined that he would play for India. Such was his power and stroke play. At the U19 level, he was seen as a big find. And he was a brilliant fielder. But he disappointed. Like UR Radhakrishnan in the mid 80s, was a good cricketer from the districts.
D. Vasu- Brilliantly committed cricketer loses out to the other Vasu on the spin front and to allrounder Robin on the all rounder spot- Possibly the unluckiest and undeserving loser (of a place) in this XI. He would be the first reserve, should someone drop out. Could have figured as the 2nd fast bowling option(as he started as a fast bowler) but Kalli as an out and out quickie and a No. XI beat him to that.
L. Sivaramakrishnan- Still remember him featuring on the cover of Sportstar ( early 1980s) with a ‘leg spinner’s grip on the red cherry( he was still a school boy then) after having shot to instant fame in 1982. Who can forget his ball to dismiss Javed Miandad in WCC 1985 Finals. But for TN, he flattered to deceive and loses out to Vasu. Leg Spinner would have been nice for the team and he was a good fielder and a solid bat but his overall bowling performance for TN in the 1980s meant he did not find a place. Have heard many interesting stories of why he did not fulfil his potential but that’s for another story.
D. Girish- Could have played a lot more than he ended up playing. Was a good wicketkeeper batsman. Guess injury ended his Ranji career early
K. Bharat Kumar
M. Santosh Kumar
No player(debut in the last 15 years or so) except Sharath figures in this list and that shows the downhill TN has been through in recent times.
* VV Kumar did not figure in the time period…else would have obviously figured in the team