Fast Bouncers have battered and bruised batsmen on the cricket pitch. With practice, one can counter that, and over time, one can face that challenge and overcome that. That's on the cricket field, though.
But a continuous set of googlies and wrong-ones bowled after the playing hours was almost unplayable (There is no leg spinner involved here!!). Or at least one hugely talented player with a prospective cricket career ahead of him chose to let go the googlies and declared himself out just over 20years ago.
A player who started his career in the same year as I did had a terrific start to his cricketing innings in his teens. On the field, he scored tons of runs and formed a great partnership with another slam bang well known upcoming player of the late 1980s in local cricket. But in his early phase in first division cricket handling the who’s who of Madras cricket became unmanageable for this youngster. But for the good of cricket, he left the scene with his head held high, showcasing how every youngster should behave and take on the injustice by senior players in the team.
By the time he was out of his teens, the amount of runs he had scored had helped him move up into the first division league and he joined MRF - one of the top 3-4 private teams of first division in those years.
It was there that his cricketing innings took a dramatic turn. It was there that he realised what playing cricket in Madras was. This callous attitude of the 'established' players on the TN scene and the 'feudal system' led to aspirations being crushed, on or off the field.
In the first two years that he played there at MRF, he topped 600runs/800runs in the league season winning accolades but the battering off the field left him completely bruised, mentally.
Two of the now biggest names of Tamil Nadu cricket - WV Raman, the current coach of Tamil Nadu and M. Senthilnathan, the current head of MRF Pace Foundation and the man who played his early cricket in Udumalpet for the respectable SVPB, made him do stuff that shattered him and his outlook to life.
The daily routine during those days at MRF included having to pick up the ‘chappals’ of the current TN coach and placing it at his feet. The once quiet boy from Udumalpet who played his early cricket under NP Madhavan and Brijesh Patel, two of the most ‘quiet’ and ‘respected’ cricketers in the league went many steps forward (or backward should one say). For him, the requirements included 'youngsters' massaging his back and legs, picking his kit to the car, in addition to carrying his chappals and handing it to him at his feet!!!
While this happened and the youngster wanted to move on to another team, he was assured by the authorities that be that there would be better treatment into the third year. And he stayed back, for he had scored a lot of runs and was in the peak of his career with a possible Ranji call round the corner. Or at least he was just a few steps away.
However, the flipper on the night of one outstation tour was unplayable and got this youngster to take a most unprecedented step for any youngster of that era. Senthilnathan’s instructions and orders to massage his bare back shook this youngster. It was no request or ‘can you please do’ but a 'its part of your job' here if you want to progress kind of scenario for this youngster.
No more could he tolerate this inhuman treatment. He realised that he could not go any further in this team without falling in line with these off-field activities every evening.
He told himself that massaging another’s back was not his way to go up the cricketing ladder. He explained this continuous torture to the relevant authority but to no avail. Next morning, he packed his cricketing bag and made his trip back ( at his own expense and choosing his own mode of transport) to Madras even before the tournament had ended – a big step, for a young boy, and a brave move against the biggest names of TN cricket.
He brought this entire episode of ‘torturous treatment’ to the notice of the Executive Director of the company before he put in his papers. But this was the order of the day and it seemed that one had to comply with this and take it as part of the cricket career to progress in cricket.
And this cricketer chose not to comply. Kudos to him for taking that big step against the biggies at such a young age!!! Things may have changed a lot in the last 20years but one wonders as to what will be the fate of youngsters in TN with those two at the helm, one of the state team and the other of the most renowned fast bowling academy.
PS: It is another matter that within 6months of this episode, this youngster who had signed up for another team scored 2centuries at the start of the season to be picked for the Buchi Babu Tournament to bat alongside the two big names mentioned above!!! And he scored there as well!!!