Kalli would have been a perfect One day Cricketer - Venkat
In an interview to prtraveller, spin greats S. Venkataraghavan and VV Kumar talk on Kalyanasundaram (Kalli) and his contribution to the Tamil Nadu team.
Venkataraghavan: First and Foremost, when I think of Kalli, the thing that comes to my mind was that he was a perfect team man. The slight stature belied the pace he bowled at. His forte was accuracy, he could swing the new ball away and he would bowl cutters with the old ball. His contribution to my team during that entire period of 10years was immense and he was a wonderful team man to have.
VV Kumar : The first time I met him was sometime in 1968 after he had just come to Madras from Calicut. Bhaskar, TK Madhavan and Kalli formed a nice trio. Within a year or two of coming to Madras, Kalli improved a lot in all aspects of fast bowling - line and length, control of swing, nip of the wicket.
He was a good listener and learnt the art of fast bowling quickly and translated that learning into the matches. In those days, the quality of cricket was very high and Kalli truly rose up to that level and he could take on the best of batsmen with his pace and swing.
Venkat: As a captain, I could always rely on him, both for containment as well as for taking wickets, depending on the situation of the match. He was the right man for all times.
VV Kumar on his grit and determination: While in some sense, it was unfortunate that he played at a time when Venkat and I were at our peak, not once did he grumble. It did not seem to discourage him one bit that he was not getting as many overs as the spinners. He was a perfect team man. He very quickly understood the reality of the situation and the role expected of him in the team. Whenever Venky threw the ball to him, especially with the old ball, he would give his best as if his life depended on him and more often than not come up with a breakthrough.
In an era dominated by spinners and when fast bowlers were a rarity, Kalli was a true exception. He was an out and out fast bowler who through sheer hard work and persistence earned the respect of all the opposing teams including the strong Bombay, Karnataka and Hyderabad Ranji teams.
Venkat on Kalli missing out Duleep Trophy honours: With Govindaraj and Abid Ali around in Hyderabad, Kalli did not get his due credit at the Zonal level. He definitely had the potential to play Duleep Trophy.
In the present day cricket, he would have fitted in perfectly in the one day format of the game, for he was a great containing bowler as well.
VV Kumar on the lack of Clout: It was a shame that he was overlooked for even the zonal matches(South Zone) despite consistent performances against the best of batsmen. He almost never let Venkat down.
He definitely had the potential to play higher levels of cricket but coming from Tamil Nadu he possibly did not have the so called ‘Clout’ to go zonal and national. And the fact that he was denied what I thought was a recognition he was worthy of was really unfortunate.
Despite being overlooked time and again at the Zonal level at the peak of his form and with strong performances to back him in the early 1970s, Kalli was always cheerful and his combative fighting spirit came through. The fact that he never gave up for over 10years speaks volumes about his positive attitude and his outlook to life.
At the end of the day's play, Kalli would come around and sit with us and chat up for hours on cricket. He was a great character to have in the TN team.
Venkat on the batting bet he had with Kalli: I still remember the amusing incident- the bet I had with him on his batting capabilities. Kalli was a fighter and I challenged him to score 25runs in a Ranji Match. Kalli was so determined to take up this challenge of mine and showed great heart to reach this milestone. However, as luck would have it, I had to declare the innings when he was on 23 or 24. Kalli was quite peeved at my decision to declare. However, later on in another Ranji match, he did cross 25 and I acknowledged that he won the bet. Such was his character- he gave his heart out in everything he did on the cricket field.
VV Kumar on Kalli's selfless character:
Kalyanasundaram fulfilled all the requirements of a Fast Bowler and performed really well in Buchi Babu tournaments, Gopalan Trophy and made significant contributions by picking up vital wickets every time Venky looked up to him. No scorecard or statistics can reveal the value he brought to the Tamil Nadu team. He was one of the most selfless characters I had come across in my playing days, one who never shied away from hard work and gave his best always to the team.
Venkat signs off saying Kalli was much more than just a cricket team mate. To me, more than anything else, Kalli has always been a good and a loyal friend over the last 4decades
Kalyanasundaram played alongside these two legendary spinners for the best part of a decade between 1968 and 1977.