Sunday, August 4, 2013

TA Sekar - The fastest Indian bowler of the 1980s


The story of how the tag of the 'fastest bowler in India' went against him at three important moments in his life

In Pakistan, Imran Khan went out of the way to identify the fastest bowler and made him a legend
In India, we had the fastest bowler in front of us and took all efforts to ignore him

‘Sekar was the fastest bowler in the World in 1983’ - K. Srikkanth
‘This lad will kill some batsman with his pace’- Sunil Gavaskar during the SZ v WZ Duleep Trophy match in 1982
 
In January 1983, a tall and lanky 26year old 6footer from Madras got a surprise call in the middle of an overseas series. He neither had a visa (when he was asked to leave the country on an urgent mission) nor foreign currency (even when he landed subsequently in our neighbouring country).

From playing tennis ball ‘test’ cricket over weekends for the ‘Guru’ (Gurumurthy) Team at the Somasundaram ground in T. Nagar as a RKM school student, Thirumalai Ananthapillai Sekar had got the real ‘Test’ call - a moment that he calls his biggest ever in his cricketing life - to play for India against the mighty Imran Khan led Pakistan in Pakistan, a series in which India had already been vanquished by the time he landed in Karachi.

The early days
TA Sekar got introduced into cricket with tennis ball cricket at Somasundaram ground organised by Mr. Gurumurthy (YSCA Trophy fame!!). Those days bowling fast with the tennis ball is what gave Sekar the clear edge with pace years later as he went up the ladder. Having started off with the C team of Gurumurthy (along with Kedarnath- who too went on to play for Tamil Nadu), he quickly moved up. That stint with the Guru team at the Somasundaram ground, where he used to also roll the mat and hit the mat nails, taught him a lot of discipline in addition to teaching him to bowl as fast as he could to beat the batsmen.

There were days when Kalyanasundaram (Kalli), the other great fast bowler of Tamil Nadu who played in the 60s and 70s, would come to watch Sekar bowl at the Somasundaram ground.

In his first match in the TNCA league, playing for Rising Stars, while still at school, Sekar took 4wickets against Milky Way. He played for over 4years for Rising Stars. While in PU (Pre Univ), he toured Mangalore and Kerala with the Tamil Nadu Juniors (Colts) and was the highest wicket taker there.

Immediately after, playing the Ramadurai Tourney in Salem, he took 19wickets in 3matches immediately catching the attention of RT Parthasarathy, who wrote to Sriraman about the need to groom the youngster for the State and as a possible replacement for Kalli (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2011/08/kalli-b-kalyanasundaram.html) , after the latter retired.

(It is another matter that the 'posted letter' from TNCA asking him to report for the Ranji camp never reached him!!!! Much later, Annadurai and Sriraman questioned him as to why he did not report for the camp. We will keep that story- of the letter not reaching him- for another day)

By the time he was 21, while doing M.Com at Pachaiyappas College, he was offered a job with the RBI, a team which was in the first division then. Sekar happily grabbed the offer (discontinued his post grad) in February 1977 and joined at a then princely starting salary of Rs. 595 (the highest for any bank).

TN Debut
A couple of months later, in April 1977, he played his first big match for the state - the Gopalan Trophy match at Chepauk, one that two others remember quite well for very different reasons… Kalli captained TN (in the absence of Venkataraghavan) for the only time for the State.

Kalli says that one could see the potential he had as he pushed back the star studded Ceylon line up early on. I gave him the new ball and asked him to bowl as fast as he could. Despite not picking up wickets and going for a few runs against Roy Dias and Duleep Mendis, he impressed us with his pace and all of us who saw him that day knew he had the potential to make it big.

Kalyanasundaram recalls telling Venkatraghavan after that Gopalan Trophy match in 1977 that Sekar had the potential to make it big.He was a very good batsman too in those days.

For the former TN Ranji Trophy winning captain S Vasudavan http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2007/10/s-vasudevan-tn-ranji-winning-captain.html), this was a big match. He got 5wickets and scored a century, a performance that was to elevate him into the Ranji team in the coming season.

“Yes, I remember him opening the bowling with Kalli in that match and he was real quick. I had seen him much earlier in a city college match at the University Union ground in 1972-73, one that I did not play. On that slow Union wicket bowling against the Districts, Sekar got 7wickets. You could see the class in him even at that early stage in his career (he was just 16years old then)”.   

Vasudevan and Sekar also played for the same league team- SPIC- for 5years in the 1980s. ‘He would get the ball menacingly up from a good length’ says Vasudevan and he too considers it unfortunate that a player of his potential did not get to play more international matches.

All through his teenage years, his family was very much against Sekar spending all his time at the cricket field. When once he broke his front foot while landing in a YSCA Trophy match, he was almost scared to go back home with a plastered leg. 
Turning Point – Moving from RBI to IOB
In 1980, when he was practising in the RBI nets watched by his teammate VJ Kumaraswamy, he held the ball loose and found that suddenly the ball swung big. With this new found grip, he was bowling even faster. In the Hindu trophy that year, he took 7wickets including a hat-trick and then took 4wickets in a losing cause against IOB. But that match led IOB to offer him a job which he accepted much to the angst of RBI.

This however was a turning point in his career as 7wickets in the first match that season got him into the Buchi Babu squad where again he picked up 7wickets in successive matches. Against a strong Mafatlal team that included the likes of Ashok Mankad, Sekar captured 5wickets. At the end of that match, Mankad claimed that Sekar was the fastest bowler he had faced in India and that he was test match material.

Wicket with First Ball in Ranji Trophy
That same year, he got a wicket of the very first ball in Ranji Trophy claiming Hyderabad Opener Shahid Akbar.  He took 3wickets in that match watched by South Zone Selector ML Jaisimha. He was immediately, within a month of his Ranji Debut, picked by Jaisimha for South Zone under the captaincy of Brijesh Patel, who too having seen and played Sekar was of the view that he was true test match potential and that he would play for long for India.  Though South Zone lost to Central Zone, Sekar impressed and justified Jaisimha’s decision to back him in his very first Ranji season picking up 4wickets in the 2nd innings in his first Duleep Trophy match.

‘It was a big call from Jaisimha to pick up in my very first season. He really picked me for my potential and believed that I could make it big. I felt happy that I was able to validate his selection in terms of immediate performance’ says Sekar looking back at his first season.

However, with Sunil Valson coming into Tamil Nadu the next season, Sekar was in and out of the squad in 81-82. He was left out of the historic debut match of L Sivararamakrishnan (who took 7wickets and boarded the flight to the West Indies) - the quarter final against Delhi which TN lost.

Duleep Trophy Match against Gavaskar
The next year in the season opening Duleep Trophy match, he was up against the great Sunil Gavaskar on a moist wicket at the Wankhade Stadium in early October. In what he terms as his  best performance, he took 5 for 66 against a strong West Zone team, a performance that earned him an immediate place in the Rest of India squad for the Irani Trophy match and one that was to set the tone for his international selection later that season..


With a Sonex ball in hand, Sekar remembers a bouncer to Gavaskar that he evaded only to find the ball bounce a 2nd time near the boundary (for 4byes). This fast and furious spell of Sekar led Gavaskar to announce that this lanky lad could kill batsmen with his pace, a compliment that Sekar still cherishes after 3decades.

A fortnight later he played under Gavaskar (a match better known for Srikkanth’s belligerent 2nd innings century that helped ROI beat Delhi in a historic 400+ run chase), Sekar bowled really fast but did not take a wicket in the entire match.

Sekar still remembers those motivating words from Gavaskar. He came to me, tapped me on the back and said “You will bowl lot worse some day and pick lot more wickets. Hence don’t worry. You did bowl really well in this match”. Those words gave Sekar a lot of confidence as he went into that season that turned out to be a momentous one for him.

In January 1983, in what looked like a career changing spell, Sekar took 9wickets for 54runs in a 14over spell at Palakkad against Kerala in a Ranji Trophy match. 10days later he was aboard a flight to Karachi to play for India.

His Test Debut – The trip to Pakistan - January 1983
Sekar replaced an injured Madan Lal in the same week that Mudassar Nazar and Javed Miandad had given India a belting with a world record 451 run partnership (which at that time equalled the best ever in test – that of Ponsford and Bradman).

He landed in Karachi not knowing how to reach his destination and without having the Pakistani currency. No one welcomed him at the airport!!! Shockingly, the Indian team including the captain Sunil Gavaskar were not aware that Sekar was joining the team.

Managing to speak in broken Hindi, he picked a cab (after convincing people that he was there to play for India!!!) to the hotel room where he met a surprised Gavaskar. The very next day he made his international debut at the fourth one-dayer of that series.

Looking back at that match, he says, “Gavaskar did not want to disclose too much of me and wanted to save me for the forthcoming test. He shielded in that match (bowling only 4overs) where India were once again demolished by Zaheer Abbas.” 

Sekar made his test debut in the 5th test of that 6 test series a match. Despite being wicket less, Srikkanth who also played in that test believes Sekar bowled well. “He was quick and was clearly the fastest bowler on view.” And you may not have said that of any Indian bowler till Sekar came on the scene.

In the final test of that series (one that is also known for Ravi Shastri’s century as an opener- he replaced Srikkanth!!) and one that turned out to be the last for Sekar, Dilip Vengsarkar dropped 3catches in the slips of TA Sekar’s bowling as Mudassar, Mohsin and Javed Miandad made merry at Sekar’s cost. If those three catches had been taken at slip, Sekar’s career may have taken a different turn and one for the good, for he was rated by all as the fastest bowler seen from India until then. Unfortunately as fate would have it, Sekar was never to bowl again in tests.

The story goes that  clearly  there were sections within the bowling department of the Indian team that were overwhelmed at the pace of TA Sekar and hence were not in favour of someone who had the tag of the ‘fastest Indian bowler’.

Following the Pakistan tour, Madan Lal was chosen again (even though he had not recovered from the injury). It was also the period when the mantle of captaincy moved from Gavaskar to Kapil Dev!!! As you would see later in this piece, Sekar’s international come back later that decade was also ruined in the same way it had happened in the early 1980s.

K Srikkanth knows him as well as anyone from those days for the two played together in three important matches during that 4month period - the season opener - Irani Trophy match, the big Duleep Trophy match against West Zone and Sekar’s debut match in Pakistan.

After having faced the world’s best bowlers during in the first half of 1983 - Srikkanth had faced Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz on green tops in Pakistan and Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Joel Garner on moving wickets in England (1983 World Cup), Srikkanth says with confidence that Sekar was the fastest bowler in the world, not just in India, that year.

‘He had a fantastic debut series in terms of the way he bowled. I was the one standing at Forward Short leg and I watched the batsman’s feet as they were ready to face Sekar and you could see that they were worried at the pace he generated. That Pakistani team had great batsmen and they were truly impressed with Sekar’s pace. If only the catches had been taken in the slips in that test when Sekar made the world’s best batsmen like Javed Miandad and Zaheer Abbas jump on to their toes, his career may have taken a completely different turn. I am certain if he had those three top wickets in that match at the top of the order, he would have gone on to play for a much longer time for India.”

Sekar bowled 11overs at a stretch and had everyone hobbling. Zaheer Abbas felt uncomfortable as Sekar would constantly pitch short at a face pace, much to the legendary batsman’s dislike.

The story goes that Imran Khan wondered (as did Lala Amarnath – for Sekar had hit his son Mohinder on the helmet earlier that season beating Jimmy for pace) as to how India did not have Sekar in the original squad for that tour.  

The early tests of that series were played on green tops where India was bundled out by a fiery Imran (supported by Sarfraz Nawaz). With his pace and bounce, Sekar would have proved more than handy on those green tops where India only had the slow pace of Sandhu and Madan Lal.  

In the series that immediately followed in the West Indies, Madan Lal who had still not recovered was called back (though he did not play in the first three tests of that series- Incidentally Venkat was recalled for that series and L Sivaramakrishnan made his first overseas tour) with Sekar, the man who had replaced him in Pakistan losing out after having impressed most experts with his spells in the two tests.

Had Sekar made it to the West Indies on the back of his performance in Pakistan, he would have had the opportunity to bowl on one of the fastest wickets in the world in those times in the first test of that series at Kingston, Jamaica (a match that ended dramatically on the final evening). Instead India went in with Sandhu (who of course had his moments)!!!

Later that year, having missed the WI tour, he was up against the great West Indian team post their World Cup loss in their return series in India. And once again, the venue was his favourite Hyderabad and once again he was playing alongside Srikkanth. Playing for South Zone, he scalped Viv Richards and Gordon Greenidge in that match.

Compliment from WI fast bowling greats
He still cherishes another big compliment that came his way at the end of that match: Malcom Marshall and Michael Holding asked why Sekar, who according to them was as quick as the WI bowlers of that series, was not playing for India.

Memorable Moment- 24000 boo Sekar and leave the ground
Two months later, came one of his most memorable moments in his cricketing career. In the first Ranji match of that season (83-84) at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore, 25000people came to watch day 1 of the Ranji match  between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Almost all of them were there to watch the great GR Vishwanath bat. They were disappointed on day 1 as TN batted through the entire day. With TN batting out a large portion of day 2, the crowd began to become restless.
For the 3rd day in a row, the 25000people returned this time hoping to enjoy GRV from ball 1. Before the end of the 1st over, he had come and gone for Sekar had bowled GR Vishwanath in the 1st over of the day. After booing Sekar for spoiling their morning as he came back to fine leg,  24000people left the stadium. Despite disappointing the entire crowd, this moment of knocking the stumps back of the great Vishwanath with sheer pace, Sekar rates as one of his prized scalps in cricket.

January 1985 - Getting David Gower twice
The 1984-85 was one of mixed fortunes for Sekar. Twice in three weeks he got the wicket of David Gower. But it also turned out to be the last international season for Sekar.

Srikkanth also remembers the two matches the two of them played on either side of Pongal. “I remember that match in Hyderabad distinctly. It was just before Pongal. I captained South Zone and scored 90 on the first morning. When England came into bat, I gave Sekar the new ball. It was a brilliant spell from him. He even had the normally fleet footed David Gower hopping around and finally got the England captain out.”

Later in the same month, in a rain restricted 15over one day match, bowling fast on a wet pitch in Chandigarh, he got Gatting and Gower (again) for his best ever one day spell taking 3 for 23. 

“You had to see him bowl that day to see how quick he was” says Srikkanth looking back at that short spell.

After Imran Khan and Zaheer Abbas in Pakistan a couple of years earlier, now Gatting and Gower were all praise for the pace of Sekar and they too wondered as to why he was not in the test squad.

After the performances against England in January 1985, Sekar had high hopes of making it to the WCC to be held the coming month in Australia immediately after this 5th one dayer against England. And once again in overseas conditions that may have suited his bowling. Unfortunately, his hopes were shattered when he was not picked for the WCC.

And alas, the Chandigarh match turned out to be his last.

Later in the decade, Sekar met with Lillee (through S Srinivasan of SVPB) and immediately impressed him with his pace. He moved on to play for MP that year where he used all the learning he had from Lillee.

International Comeback in 1989?
Motivated by Lillee’s comment that Sekar was still quick enough and good enough to be in the Indian team at least for a couple of years (at the end of that decade), he was knocking on the doors again having performed well for Madhya Pradesh and Central Zone. He had an impressive season and was once again in the considered set (provisional squad) for the Indian team that was to tour the West Indies in 1989. He was unofficially told that he would be on the trip to the Carribean. 

However, once again and for one last time, he was kept out. The same reasons (mentioned above)  that kept him out of the 1983 WI tour and the 1985 Australia tour kept him out this time as well. And now there was no more energy left. That decision to leave out him out finally punctured his enthusiasm and a year or so later he decided to hang his boots from first class cricket to focus on coaching.

It meant that the fastest Indian bowler of the decade had played only 2test matches despite impressing international greats like David Gower and Mike Gatting of England, Marshall and Holding of the West Indies and Imran Khan of Pakistan. The early 80s was a phase where he impressed Sunil Gavaskar too with his genuine pace.

Kalli bemoans ‘You gave Chetan Sharma an ideal opportunity in England in swinging conditions in 1986. Sekar never got that.”

Twice there were opportunities to tap his talent and the country could have benefitted. After a terrific spell in Pakistan in Jan-Feb 1983, there was the fast and bouncy pitches in WI ( March-April) where he would have been useful. And he could have followed that up with the World Cup tour to England ( June 1983). And after impressing against the Englishmen in India in 1985, there was an immediate tour to Australia for the WCC one day tourney, where again conditions would have suited him.

Kalli believes that even if Sekar had been given 1/10 the chance that other India ‘medium pacers’ of his generation got, Sekar would have achieved big. “On his day, no one could play him. He was intimidating for most batsmen and with his height the ball would come from a height of 10feet+ at a pace that was too hot to handle.”

While Srikkanth is normally not the one to mince words, he chose to be more cautious on this one terming the ‘shortened’ international career of Sekar as ‘Unfortunate’. He said, “Let’s not get too much into those reasons. Let me just say it was ‘Unfortunate’ and leave it at that.”  Srikkanth also added that irrespective of how many tests he played, Sekar is a great human being and has been a very nice person all along.

Conclusion
 The tag of the ‘fastest Indian bowler’ did not go well with ‘you know who’ and that sounded death knell for Sekar that decade.  In the time that has since passed, India has had  some genuinely quick bowlers playing Test Cricket (Sekar had a role in that as well - to be seen in a story that will follow shortly). But till the end of the 1980s, Sekar had been the fastest bowler to have ever played for India. However much a compliment that may have been, unfortunately, that tag went against him. And thus Thirumalai Anantha Pillai Sekar ended up playing too few international matches than what he genuinely deserved.

PS: As the comment below says, in Pakistan, Imran Khan identified Waqar Younis from no where and made a cricketing great out of him. In those early days, the message from Imran was clear.. Do not bother about wides. Bowl with Pace and we will bowl opposition out ( it does not matter if you are expensive). Imran's contemporary here may have done exactly the opposite. He had Sekar right beside him - someone who could beat the opposition with pace... Sunil Gavaskar playing for West Zone was testimony to that. And yet,  it was ensured that Sekar was no where near the ' international' circles.
Best Moment : Being selected to play against Pakistan and bowling to the likes of Javed Miandad  and Zaheer Abbas
Most prized scalp : Bowling GR Vishwanath in front of 25000people at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in a Ranji  match
Most Cherished performance: 5wickets against a strong West Zone team in 1982-83
Best Batsmen bowled to: Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath, Sandeep Patil and Srikkanth (he was the first batsman to hit over the top)
Best Fast Bowlers played with/against: Kapil Dev/ Malcolm Marshall
Best figures                     : 9/54 against Kerala
Life after Playing days - To be continued………………….

22 comments:

Shruti Balaji said...

Brilliant. Very well researched :)

PRabhu S said...

Madam,

Thank You for reading and your kind words.

Prabhu

Anonymous said...

Good...I keep seeing him, but now know his accomplishments...
Sadly, a man of this potential did not make an international cut which befits his stature...God give him great health and happiness....
Cheers

Anonymous said...

Fantastic Insights, thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, looking for the continuation.

Anonymous said...

Lot of information that I did not know.

Mukund said...

Excellent article Prabhu. Highly rated fast bowler unfortunate not to play more games for India. Humble,courteous,simple,easily approachable and above all a nice human being.

Mukund

Anonymous said...

good read..chronological study ....

i used to follow his cricket, given i was from besant nagar and he was n adyar..he used to come jogging with v. shiv in early 80's..might ave been plagued by injuries and those days no specialists advise were rendered probably..sore test for many was playing him n matting!

he had kind words for me..used to go in his bullet bike after steamy nets at cheapauk and viveka n mid 80's..

eventually after peeling a ton at his side's expense(playing for PORT VS MRF N MARCH 90') HE invited me to play for MRF N 1992-93..encouraged me to play n pacey pitches of MCC school,where i went till 95-96!

good man,sekar!

Pat R

Anonymous said...

I do not understand how spinners (Read:Madan Lal!!!) can replace fast bowlers (TA Sekar).

Anonymous said...

A well crafted article.

I join the group in feeling bad for a genuine fast bowler being left.

It is the country’s loss more than that of sekar.

You may like to compare how waqar younis was picked up by imran that resulted in pakistan’s gain as against india’s loss of sekar.

Thanks for the article.

tnv

Anonymous said...

A book can be written on TN players who have not played tests because of regional selection bias in olden days.

RS

dinesh said...

Nice insight on T.A. Sekar. I did not know very much about him. I think I started following TN cricket after his time.

Anonymous said...

Very gud article I didn't know he was such a talent n all i knew was he was a gr8 tn bowler who now works for delhi dare devils

Anonymous said...

Interesting read, did not know much about one of india's fastest bowler

Anonymous said...

Quite interesting and sometimes unbelievable to know that a player from tn could bowl so fast.

Great compliments from players like gavaskar and other greats of the game.

must have been truly fast and terrorising!!!!

Badri

M said...

Dear Mr.Prabhu,

Mr. TA Sekhar is a fine bowler and a wonderful, multi-talented person and while I enjoyed the many aspects of his early cricketing career brought out by you, I beg to disagree on a lot of your viewpoints. TAS simply did not have the numbers to warrant a national recall. Perhaps he worked too hard in the 70s which impacted his fitness, but he really could not hold his own against his competitors in post-1982. The likes of Madanlal, Chetan Sharma, Prabhakar and some more domestic pacers consistently topped the bowling averages leaving TAS behind. Atleast Madan and Chetan won an abroad Test each in England. One wonders why TAS with his famed pace could not be more fruitful in the wickets column, whereas the Delhi pacers often played better quality opposition(Bombay, Karnataka, etc) in the final rounds of the Ranji each year. Take a look at this:

1983-84
BS Sandhu 30w @23.83
C Sharma 28w @21.14
S Valson 28w @25.39
Madan Lal 24w @16.66
RR Kulkarni 21w @23.80
P Sunderam 19w @30.73
TA SEKHAR 14w @32.00

1984-85
Madan Lal 27w @10.66
RP Singh 25w @21.64
RR Kulkarni 25w @26.52
TA SEKHAR 20w @24.00
NR Yadav 17w @19.17

1985-86 (TAS - missed the season)
P Sunderam 26w @18.69, Madan Lal 21w @22.33, S Valson 20w @13.20, NR Yadav 20w @23.80
1986-87 (TAS - missed the season)
P Sunderam 30w @21.76, NR Yadav 19w @36.10, RR Kulkarni 15w @20.93, RGM Patel 15w @24.20, BS Sandhu 15w @24.53, M Prabhakar 14w @23.50, Madan Lal 12w @23.00

1987-88
Madan Lal 19w @24.00
S Valson 19w @24.68
B Arun 18w @27.05
P Sunderam 14w @18.21
M Prabhakar 12w @25.66
TA SEKHAR 3w @13.33

1988-89
M Prabhakar 39w @13.17
SA Ankola 27w @20.18
Madan Lal 26w @23.88
TA SEKHAR 22w @20.54 v Rajasthan, Rlwys, Vidarb, UP, Maharash
C Sharma 22w @21.27
S Sensharma 22w @29.63
B Arun 21w @24.19
NR Yadav 20w @17.50

1989-90
AS Wassan 39w @14.07
ST Banerjee 29w @14.58
RR Kulkarni 29w @24.41
J Srinath 25w @25.08
D Vasu 21w @19.95
P Sunderam 14w @24.35
TA SEKHAR 9w @25.22

Plus, TAS was too injury prone. His career stats show only a total of 6070 balls, while Madanlal had 5 times that number and even Atul Wassan had twice that.

Career FC stats:
TA SEKHAR
6070 balls 130w @27.73 SR 46.69 ECO 3.56
Madanlal
33105 balls 625w @25.50 SR 52.96 ECO 2.88
Wassan
14606 balls 290w @28.21 SR 50.36 ECO 3.36

Other than that West Zone game, did TAS rip apart any domestic batting line-up? Here are some key Ranji games he played and his performances were far from outstanding compared to peers.

Ranji QF 1983
Valson 2/51 Prabhakar 1/58 Sekar 1/131(27 ovs) Santoshkumar 3/201
Ranji QF 1984
Madan Lal 4/69 Sekar 0/55(12 ovs) V Siva 2/50
Ranji SF 1985
Kulkarni 3/71 Arun 4/123 Sekar 1/119

It is amusing to see allegations of anti-TN bias when Srikkant with such a terribly mediocre average of 29.xx played no less than 43 tests in 80s alongside distinguished bats like Gavas(51.x), Amarnath(42.x), Vengsarkar(44.x), Azhar(45.x) etc.

PS: By the way, I know the reason why TAS did not have more wickets, even at the pacer-friendly Chepauk wicket. TNCA often produced dustbowls for Venkat, L Siva, Vasudevan etc. For TNCA to produce spin-friendly wickets and then complain of selection bias against their fast bowler is both ridiculous and laughable.

Regards,
M

PRabhu S said...

Sir/ Madam:

Thanks for reading and for the detailed comment.

This story is not from the TNCA, it is written by me. Hence, TNCA has not stated any bias...

Good statistical analysis but his story is not to be seen from mere statistical view point.

The story states that at three moments in his career if he had had the right opportunities he
could have been an international success story.

In each of those important phases, he was doing enough to merit international selection despite all the statistics that you have shared(before writing the story, I was clued in on all of his performances/numbers as well as those of his contemporaries - the names that you have mentioned)

I listened to each ball of his spell in those two tests in 1983 in Pakistan and it was a performance ( wickets/bowling analysis are not the only measure in all cases- there are exceptions) that did merit an extension of his services ( this was just prior to the WI tour)

The same holds about his performance against England ( just prior to the Aus tour)

I have not gone into the merits of whether his replacements performed
(that was not the focus of the story)

The story was about whether he did enough to merit selection on pure performance and the answer based on the story was yes.

He was an out and out a fast bowler not seen before in India and hence his spells were normally
expensive. Players with such pace also tend to be erratic. But on pitches that had pace, he was unplayable.

This story focused on the aspect of TA Sekar not having got even that chance (others got extended opportunities in favourable conditions)to showcase himself
despite being worthy enough at three phases in his career. In fact, his case should have been even more special because he was one of a kind bowler at that point of time especially in 85 and 85.
And normally, a bowler of his kind needs backing. The others in that list were all normal line and length bowlers.

( in between these three periods, he may not have performed domestically/ he may have had injuries and that point is taken, but the question is did he merit selection on the three occasions mentioned in the story. And my answer backed by the facts - not statistical numbers- in the story is Yes)

Thanks again for reading and for writing in such detailed manner with data.

Truly appreciate.
Prabhu

M said...

Mr.Prabhu,
Thank you for your kind response and thoughts expressed. You did not expect this response, did you? ;-)

I'd say that out of the 3 phases you mentioned, 2 would be good fortune and TAS' best chance was in 1984-85 but he was overruled in favor of younger and more consistent bowlers with good performance. He was 33 when the west indies tour happened and I cannot think of many speedsters that age who will consistently bowl flat out at lightning pace and last more than a couple of series.

If you look closely at TAS' career, he started pretty late for TN at age 24. By age 24, most pacers like Raju Kulkarni had a good 3-4 domestic seasons and were in already in national reckoning. He was 27 when he became TN's best paceman in 1982. He had essentially 2 good seasons where he was reckoned among India's leading pacemen. One wonders what happened in him from 1985-88 when he barely played any domestic game.

80-81 K Bharath (TN) 20w @30.30 ; M Santosh (TN) 11w @33.45; TA Sekhar (TN) 7w @29.71; P Ramesh (TN) 6w @24.50
81-82 S Valson (TN) 16w @26.81; K Bharath (TN) 14w @21.64; TA Sekhar (TN) 8w @21.12
82-83 TA Sekhar (TN) 21w @21.80; R Madhavan (TN) 8w @16.62; B Arun (TN) 5w 33.60 ; M Santosh (TN) 4w 63.00

Typically, Irani Cup is where you get to face the best of the nation's best and as TN's best paceman, he got his chance in the 82 Irani Cup. This is what happened.
Irani Cup 82:
Sandhu 5-110 (30 ovs), 2-34 (11 ovs) : 7w in 41 ovs
Sekar 0-74 (24 ovs), 0-27 (11 ovs) : 0w in 35 ovs

No matter the hype about his pace, you can see he was simply unable to get wickets. Sandhu bowled just as many overs and got 7 while TAS got 0. That is a HUGE performance disparity. We should remember here that both Sandhu and TAS had zero international experience here. So naturally Sandhu was taken to Pakistan to make his debut and who can dispute that choice?

Pak 82-83:
Sandhu 2-107, 0-56, 2-87 : Total 4w in 82 ovs
Madan 3-101, 0-10, 3-129, 2-109 : Total 8w in 78 ovs
Sekar 0-86, 0-43 : Total 0w in 34 ovs

So after the Pak tour, 0w off 69 overs and he was rightly not considered. There is no question of him replacing Sandhu or Madan here since they have far better performances domestic or international. Madan/Sandhu had the same set of pathetic 10 fielders that TAS had so dropped catches shouldnt be an excuse.

83-84
TA Sekhar (TN) 14w 32.00
V Siva (TN) 5w 24.60
84-85
TA Sekhar (TN) 20w 24.00
K Arunkumar (TN) 16w 20.18
B Arun (TN) 4w 40.75

His best phase was in 84-85 where he got him the chance to play ODIs and FC games against England. He didnt do badly but at the same time, Ghai took 4-42 & 7-110 against England.

Eng tour of India 85
Sekar 3-74 2-50 0-36
Ghai 4-42 0-37 7-110

Duleep Trophy SF
Prabhakar 5-28 & 3-56 Ghai 5-33 Valson 4-84

Duleep Trophy 85 final
Ghai 3-72 Valson 2-47 Arun 2-41 & 5-84

Ghai also in the same month, was in fine form in the Duleep Trophy. He was 24, TAS was 28, Kulkarni 22. Both of them were preferred for Irani Cup due to their age and performance while TAS was dropped.

Irani Cup Oct 85
Ghai 6-130 Kulkarni 3-93

Ghai and Kulkarni did well in Irani and not surprisingly went for Aus tour. TAS had played Irani before, took no wickets and still toured Pak where he went wicketless. So it's not surprising selectors went with the other two instead of gambling with TAS a second time.

..contd

M said...


...contd from above.

85-86
B Arun (TN) 11w 40.45; M Gautam (TN) 10w 25.00 ; R Venkatesh (TN)7w 23.85 ; R Madhavan (TN) 6w 28.16

86-87
B Arun (TN) 4w 24.00 R Venkatesh (TN) 5w 33.00 AP Sureshkumar (TN) 7w 40.71
This is really interesting - the best TN fast bowler had only 7 wickets. Perhaps by now, TNCA had decided to stop nurturing fast bowlers! Vasudevan, L.Siva, Venkatramana and Sunil Subramaniam would bowl 90% of the overs. Maybe this is the reason TAS decided to move to MP?

87-88
B Arun (TN) 18w 27.05
RR Singh (TN) 17w 18.17
TA Sekhar (TN) 3w 13.33
K Arunkumar (TN) 5w 32.20

TAS disappeared for 3 seasons and Bharat Arun/Robin Singh became TN's best pacemen. South Zone had 3 minnows Kerala, Andhra and Goa and had TAS played, he could have got easy pickings. By now, Arun also played for India(this disproves the theory that there is a bias against TN players!). So had TAS played this 3-year period, he would have made up sufficient numbers to stake a claim for India.

88-89
TA Sekhar (MP) 22w 20.54
B Arun (TN) 21w 24.19
RR Singh (TN) 12w 21.33

89-90
D Vasu (TN) 21w 19.95
B Arun (TN) 9w 18.22
TA Sekhar (MP) 9w 25.22
RR Singh (TN) 6w 26.16

Overall in Ranji, these are all pacers who had LONGEVITY, recovered from injuries and had RELIABILITY to show whether they can be considered for India or not. TAS just about managed to reach 100+. Based on this evidence, it is silly to say that Kapil stopped TAS' international career. It is also a matter of conjecture how far TAS would have gone at the international level due to the same factor of longevity/consistency.

Madanlal 351, Zaidi 348, Gattani 308, Dodda Ganesh 278, Iqbal Siddiqui 269, Ranadeb Bose 266, Chetan Sharma 261, Sanjay Bangar 235, Vinay Kumar 226, D Vasu 223, Atul Wassan 211, Paras Mhambrey 208, Lax Balaji 197, Venkatesh Prasad 175, Raju Kulkarni 185, Robin Singh 141, BS Sandhu 120, TAS 105, Kalli 102

In light of all this, the questions for TAS fans would be : How many Tests would TAS have lasted at international at his flat-out pace? And who should he have replaced?

PRabhu S said...

Sir/Madam,

Thanks again for writing in.

All comments are welcome(and you have put in so much effort in culling out the stats!).

Will now leave it to the readers..

Thanks again
Prabhu

M said...

Dear Mr.Prabhu,
You are welcome to check out this forum - tons of cricketing discussions for the past 23 years!

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/rec.sport.cricket

PRabhu S said...

Sir/Madam,

Thank You. Will check out.

Prabhu