Sunday, November 30, 2014

Periya Nambi Acharya fights for the Vaishnavite cause

Depicting the sacred ‘Thiruman’ in poor light draws flak from revered Acharya
Narasimha Gopalan of Mannar Koil files a petition with the Madurai High Court to restrain derogatory use of the word ‘Naamam’ in public places
In many homes, Vadivelu’s ‘Pathu’ Mami joke in the tamil movie Arasu would have evoked loud cheer but for one revered Vaishnavite Acharya at the Periya Nambi Thirumaligai in Mannar Koil, near Ambasamudram, the heart boiled.

PS Narasimha Gopalan, Archakar, Kulasekara Perumal Rajagopalaswamy Temple in Mannar Koil  (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2009/11/kulasekara-perumal-koil-in-mannar-koil.html) and a revered Acharya of the centuries old Periya Nambi Peetam found this to be the ultimate insult to the Vaishnavite culture and he lost no time in raising his hand to fight for the Vaishnavite cause.

Over several centuries, a Vaishnavite was seen as an embodiment of learning and simplicity and was seen as one who upholds the true ‘values’ of life. However, over the last 60years or so, Vaishanavism and Vaishnavites have come to be a staple food for fun making so much so that Naamam and Cheating have come to be seen as synonyms.

Naamam stands for the 12different names of Lord Vishnu. Thiruman in literal terms means (sacred) ‘sand’ (ash) referring to the fact that Vaishnavites forever are at/below the Lord’s feet seeking his divine blessings to Moksham.

With an emergence of a new political class, Naamam has come to be used freely in cases relating to cheating. This has now come to be a laughing stock  even in Tamil movies as seen in the film ‘Arasu’ where comedian Vadivelu uses the Thiruman comically as a healing solution for an old lady who was unwell ( Pattu Mami becoming Pathu Mami!!!).

Narasimha Gopalan who took up the entire organisational aspects of renovating the huge Mannar Koil a few years back ( it now wears a beautiful new look) and who has created a beautiful Nandavanam inside the temple complex almost from scratch has now taken this cause and filed a petition in the Madurai High Court this week.

Three Notices to DGP – TN
Way back in 2008, Narasimha Gopalan had written to the DGP- TN to issue instructions restricting those organising protests and agitations in public places from verbally misusing Naamam or symbolically gesturing in a way to indicate being cheated. This did not elicit any response from the DGP, except that he was called for an enquiry at the police station in Ambasamudram.

In 2012, he once again sent a similar request letter to the DGP-TN. This too did not get the desired response. For a third time, in July this year, he sent a notice to the DGP-TN. Simultaneously, Narasimha Gopalan Acharya also wrote to the Regional Officer of the Censor Board to restrain them from permitting scenes in movies that are derogatory of the Vaishnavite religion.

All of these served as a record of the process he had followed in fighting for justice before reaching out to the highest court in the state.

According to Article 25 read with Section 295 and Section 295A of the IPC, making fun of any religion or looking down upon any religion and its faiths and beliefs tantamount to a criminal offence.
In a bid to preserve our heritage and culture, Periya Nambi Narasimha Gopalan has taken to court to secure justice for the Vaishnavites. He has pleaded with the court to direct the Home Secretary, DGP-TN and the Regional Officer of the Censor Board to issue instructions in public interest restraining the use of Thiruman/Naamam in a derogatory way and to inform the public that this will be seen as criminal offence and relevant action will be taken against those disobeying the instructions.

The Honourable Judge of the Madurai High Court has directed the division bench to look into the matter. This is likely to come up for hearing sometime in December. A copy of the derogatory comedy scene in Arasu and the song ‘excuse me Mr. Kandaswamy’ in the movie Kandaswamy has been handed over to the High court as conclusive proof of Tamil cinemas depicting Vaishnavism in a poor light.  

Centuries ago, Periya Nambi had fought even the strongest of the Chozha Kings without any fear and Narasimha Gopalan, a descendent of that great clan believes that this is no social service that he is doing and it is his inherent duty and responsibility to protect our rich traditions. He has almost 4000 disciples who are staunch followers of Vaishnavite traditions!!!

There are three Periya Nambi Thirumaligais in Tamil Nadu – Srirangam, Thirukurungudi and at Mannar Koil, near Ambasamudram, that is stated to be 900years old.

He has more coming his sleeve in the coming years on matters relating to keeping our traditions alive including one relating to Bhattars of TN temples. Watch out for this section for more on that.


In the meantime, one will await judgement on this filing from the division bench of the Madurai High Court.

Narasimha Gopalan can be reached on 04634 318408 / psngaran@gmail.com

Thiruvaiyaru Pancha Natheeswarar Temple



Sapthasthanam - The 7Village Chitrai Festival is a special Occasion here 
Appar provided with ‘Kailasam’ darshan here on Aadi No Moon Day here

No Perumal Temple in Thiruvaiyaru!!!


Located 13kms north of Thanjavur is the Pancha Natheeswarar temple in Thiruvaiyaru, a temple that in its current form and structure dates back to the Pallava period with further improvements and renovation during the Chola and Nayak rule. There are 4 Rajagopurams to go along with the 5prakarams each of which has interesting features to watch out for.

This is one of the famous special temples ‘north of the Cauvery’ to have received the ‘Devaram Songs’ praise of Appar, Sambanthar, Manikkavachagar and Sundarar. Sitting inside the temple, Thyagaraja sang several verses of praise of Lora Pancha Natheeswarar of Thiruvaiyaru.

This place is also referred to as Panchanatham and Bhoologa Kailasam. Inscriptions dating back to a 1000years refer to this place as Thiruvaiyaru. It was here that Appar had darshan of the Lord as seen in Kailasam.

 The moolavar deity is a swayambu moorthy.

One of the Six Sacred Places
This is one of the six sacred places in Tamil Nadu equivalent to visiting Kasi. The others are Thiru Vanjiyam, Thiru Venkadu, Thiru Mayiladuthurai, Thiru Vidaimarathur and Thiru Chaaikadu.

Appar’s Kailasam Darshan at Thiruvaiyaru
சிந்திப் பரியன சிந்திப்பவர்க்குச் சிறந்து செந்தேன்.....
............அந்திப் பிறையணிந் தாடும் ஐயாறன்  அடித்தலமே - Appar


The story goes that Thirunavukarasar (Appar) was keen to have darshan of the Lord at Kailasam and invoked the blessings of the Lord on the banks of Cauvery here at Thiruvaiyaru. Lord Shiva disguised as a rishi appeared before Appar and suggested that it is not possible for ordinary mortals to have darshan of the Lord as seen in Kailasam. A determined Appar replied that he would not let his life go without having darshan of the Lord in that form and that he would continue to pursue his prayers.

Pleased with his determination, the disguised Lord suggested that Appar have bath in the Cauvery and then move North. Appar followed the instructions and then went north and had bath at the Surya Pushkarani inside the temple where he had a special darshan of the Lord as seen in Kailasam. Delighted at this sight, he immediately sung verses in praise of the Lord of Thiruvaiyaru.

Sundarar’s prayers
Finding the threat of floods in the Cauvery and unable to cross the river, another of the famed saint poets Sundarar  sung a verse of praise from the western side of the Cauvery that led to the sudden raising of sand on the Eastern side preventing the river from overflowing and giving him way to cross the Cauvery. It was Lord Vinayaka who felt pleased with Sundarar’s praise and answered the call by making a special path way for Sundarar. Hence, Vinayaka is referred to as Sundara Vinayaka at this temple.

The famous Music School
Thanjavur King Saroboji built a Vedic School here that has now turned into the famous Government Music School of Tamil Nadu here in Thiruvaiyaru.

Birth place of Nandi
A childless Silaatha Rishi invoked the blessing of Ayaarappar who directed him to perform the Putra Kaameshti Yaagam here at this place. On completion, he found a child in a box below the earth but unfortunately he was destined to live only till the age of 16.

Nearing the age of 16, the boy who was named Seppesar found his parents in tears. Unable to bear this, he entered the Ayaarappar temple and for days together undertook a severe penance. Snakes and fishes bit him but unmindful of this, he continued his penance day and night. Pleased with his sincerity, Ayaarappar appeared before him and offered him any number of wishes that included a longer life. In course of time, he married Suyampira Kaasammai Yaarai, the daughter of Vyakrapatha rishi. Later, he was initiated into special mantras by Lord Ayaarappar himself and taken to Kailasam where he was accorded the special status of being the security leader of Lord Shiva. He was also the first to be initiated into Aagama Sastra by Dakshinamurthy. This was none other than Nandikeswarar.

The name Thiruvaiyaru
South of this place towards Thanjavur is the river Cauvery and four of its tributaries – Kudamuruti, Vennar, Vettaru and Vadaaru. Sacred water from these five rivers is used to bathe the Lord. Hence this place came to be referred to as ‘Thiru’ ‘I’ ‘aru’.


No Vishnu temple in this temple town!!!!!
Goddess Aram Valartha Nayaki is seen holding a Conch and Chakra. Legend has it she is an incarnation of Maha Vishnu here at this place. For this reason, there is no Vishnu temple in Thiruvaiyaru!!!!!!!!!!! The nearest Divya Desam is Thiru Kandiyur (3kms South) where the legend again has a connection to Lord Shiva – it was the place where Lord Shiva was liberated from the curse of Lord Brahmma (Hara Sabha Vimochana Perumal).

Interesting Event
When you are at the temple, do not miss trying this out. In the South Western corner of the third prakara, if you call out for ‘Aiyaaraa’ facing the Northern direction, you can hear it echo seven times.

1000year old Inscriptions
There are several inscriptions inside the temple on the walls and floors in different prakaras.


On his way back from winning one of his several high profile battles, Karikala Chozhan’s chariot stuck to the ground here leaving him wondering. As he dug the earth, he found idols of Shiva, Vinayaga, Sakthi and Muruga. He installed the idols and built the temple as seen in the current form.  In recognition of this contribution, one finds the idols of Karikala Chozha and his wife inside the temple on the western side.

In the 9th century AD, Nandivarma Pallava renovated the temple and built the Sanctum and installed the idols of Dwarapalakas. During the rule of Rajendra I, there was further renovation and improvements made at the temple.

In the 12th Century AD, Vikrama Chozha built the third and the fourth Prakara and the 100pillar mandapa where the Utsava deities provide darshan before and after festival processions.

Achuthappa Nayak built the Dhandapani Koil Mandapa with 144pillars in the 16th century AD.

Sapthasthanam – The Famous 7 city Festival
One of the famous temple festivals of Tamil Nadu is the ‘Sapthasthanam’ Festival that takes place in Chitrai when Nandikeswarar, on a horse Vahana, along with his wife Swayambirakaasai, on a palanquin go on a 7city procession around Thiruvaiyaru along with Ayaarappar and Aram Valartha Nayaki.

They are welcomed at each of the temples with flowers, ghee, sacred food accompanied with the Vedic Chants and joined by the respective Lords and Ambal at Thiru Pazhanam, Thiru Chotruthurai, Thiru Vethikudi, Thiru Kandiyur, Thiru Bhoonthuruththi and Thiru Neithaanam. It is quite a sight to see the 16 deities go around and finally congregate here at Thiruvaiyaru on the Visakam day in Chitrai.

Thiru Kalyana Vaibhavam of Nandikeswarar is re enacted at Thirumalaipadi

Beautiful mythological paintings adorn the walls of the inner prakara.

Grand Festivals
13day Brahmotsavam in Chitrai
10day Visagam Utsavam in Vaikasi
10day Pooram Festival for Ambal in Aadi
Every Friday evening, Mahalakshmi Thaayar comes around Amman on a procession
Theerthavari to the Cauvery on the 1st day of every month

On Mattu Pongal days, the cows and the temple elephant are decorated in a grand manner and go out on a procession to Thillai Sthanam, 1km west of here on the road to Kallanai.

Thiruppavai recital inside the temple!!
With the absence of a Perumal temple in Thiruvaiyaru and with Aram Valartha Nayaki seen as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Andal’s Thiruppavai verses are recited here on all the days of Margazhi.

Quick Facts
Moolavar: Lord Aiyaarappar Pancha Natheeswarar
Goddess  : Aram Valartha Nayaki
Time      : 6am-1pm and 4pm-9pm
Contact: Shankar Gurukal @ 94893 60553 / 04362 260553


How to reach
Thiruvaiyaru is 13kms North of Thanjavur. Buses ply every 15minutes between Thanjavur old bus stand and Thiruvaiyaru. Auto from Thanjavur railway station will cost Rs. 250.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sadhagopan Ramesh India's highest Impact test batsman

Ramesh emerges as India's all time highest impact test batsman ever in a Wisden India Impact Index analysis!!!!
This system credits Ramesh with the third-lowest failure rate after Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid

Sadhagopan Ramesh (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2014/11/sadhagopan-ramesh.html) has emerged as the India’s Highest Impact Indian test batsman ever (minimum 15 test match criteria) as per the Wisden India ranking systems. The Indian batsmen after him on impact are C Pujara, R Dravid, A Wadekar, V Hazare, S Tendulkar, S Gavaskar, M Vijay, MAK Pataudi and D Sardesai.

The rankings are exclusively powered by Impact Index, a system created in March 2009 by Jaideep Varma that is one of the most renowned analytics system in cricket. 

According to Jaideep Varma, Ramesh had the joint second-highest New Ball Impact (ability to see off the new ball by either scoring runs or occupying the crease for a period of time) among all openers in the world during his career time frame after Herschelle Gibbs.

Lowest Failure Rate - 1999-2001
During his career time frame, Ramesh had the joint-lowest failure rate among all openers in the world, along with Michael Atherton. He was better in this respect than the likes of Justin Langer, Sanath Jayasuriya, Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten.

Jaideep Varma further says that among Indian batsmen, Ramesh had the third-lowest failure rate after Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid and the joint seventh-lowest in the world. His consistency in those two and a half years was better than the likes of Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis and Steve Waugh. 

(Consistency = Scoring a certain amount of runs based on the match context where the team does not suffer because of his lack of meaningful contributions)

In his last Test series, in the three Tests that he played, Ramesh crossed the score of 40 four times, once above 30-  his last 4 Test innings produced 47, 31, 46 and 55. Ramesh emerged as the third-highest impact batsman for India after Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly in that series. He was India’s most consistent batsman and was the only batsman other than Marvan Atapattu to have a 0% failure rate in the series.

During his career time-frame (Jan 1999 to Sept 2001), according to the Wisden Impact System, Ramesh was the fourth-highest impact Test batsman in the world after Graham Thorpe, Inzamam u-Haq and Justin Langer and the highest impact batsman for India.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rayanallur Varadaraja Perumal Temple

Thirumalai Nayak period temple was home to a long Agraharam with Vaishnavites and Smarthas lining up on either side
Located 15kms from Mannargudi on the Thiruthuraipoondi road is the Thirumalai Nayak period Varadaraja Perumal temple in Rayanallur. It is believed that Thirumalai Nayak donated this village to the ‘Rayas’ who were working under the Nayaks. Hence, the place came to be referred as ‘Raya’ Nallur. 2acres of land still remains in the possession of the temple.

The moolavar idol was installed during the Nayak period. There was a long agraharam on the Western side of the temple with Vaishnavas living on one side and the Smarthas on the other. Brahmins from Andhra used to take care of the Mutt at the Western end of the Agraharam.

During the last century, the temple had become dilapidated and the moolavar idol as well as the idol of Garuda was found when the temple was being renovated.


Kaisika Puranam will be read out on Dec 2 this year with Vedic Scholars coming in from Mannargudi and Vaduvur. Lord will be adorned with Thailakappu every full moon day. The temple is also planning to conduct Brahmotsavam in a grand manner.

On the last Friday of the Tamil month, Perundevi Thaayar goes on a procession.

A special feature at the temple is the 18 Thirumanjanam that takes place on special days every month.

Quick Facts
 Moolavar: Varadaraja Perumal in an East facing Standing Posture
Thaayar  : Perundevi Thaayar
Time      : 7am-11am and 4pm-8pm
Contact  : Ramesh Bhattar @ 72990 74482

How to reach

Buses ply every half hour from Mannargudi to Thiruthuraipoondi. The temple is just a few minutes walk from Rayanallur bus stop

Taxi from Mannargudi to Rayanallur and back

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sadhagopan Ramesh


The Opener from TN reached the top without any 'Godfather'
But 'Questionable Selection' halted his career when he was in peak form


On a late evening in January 1999, a young 23year old opener from Tamil Nadu playing in his debut test in front of his home fans at Chepauk stroked his way to an unbeaten 30 handling the Pakistani fast bowling greats with such ease, that was till then rarely seen in the cricketing world. To many who watched him bat that evening and over the next month, it did not seem that he was new to Test Cricket. Strokes seemed to flow far too easily of his bat. He seemed fearless. He would flick off his legs and drive through the covers with an elegance that was special to Indian left handers. With a bat in hand, 'Lazy' Sadhagopan Ramesh seemed to do everything with nonchalant ease. During that period, Wasim Akram remarked that Ramesh was one of the most difficult batsmen he had bowled to.

The Name Lazy 
It was Vijay Sankar, the current Dy. Chairman of The Sanmar Group who pre-fixed Lazy to his name, a compliment that stuck with Ramesh through his cricketing days.  Ramesh was playing a state U16match at Chepauk and Vijay Sankar happened to be at the MCC playing tennis along with the legendary AG Milkha Singh. As they came back to the MCC after the tennis session, Milkha Singh stopped for a minute and in a flash told Vijay that this boy ‘has talent and will make it big one day’. Vijay immediately decided that this boy would play for his team (Kohinoor was in the 2nd division then). Seeing the teenager from close quarters, he spotted early on the ‘lazy’ elegance. Everything seemed to come to this lad naturally and with ease. He seemed lazy in his stroke play but the ball sped to the fence. After one such stroke, Vijay Sankar called out ‘Lazy’ and the name – a very special compliment to his natural ability - stuck with Ramesh for ever.
‘Lazy’ Ramesh topped the batting aggregate and the averages in that debut series against Pakistan, an attack that included Wasim, Waqar, Shoaib and Saqlain, easily the best in the world at that time. After his debut test innings against Pakistan, Azharuddin complimented Ramesh stating that ‘this was the best he had seen any youngster play Akram’ and presented him a pair of new shoes during that Chepauk test. His 96 in the following test on a difficult wicket is rated by Ramesh as his best test innings. 

In the fortnight following his debut series, he once again topped the aggregate and the averages in the Asian Test Championship in which he made his maiden test century at Colombo against Sri Lanka.

Following a trip to England for the World Cup, he returned to India and struck his second test century of the year, this time against New Zealand at Ahmedabad reaching his century while batting with Sachin Tendulkar. By the end of this series, he had scored almost 800runs in Tests, a phenomenal achievement for someone in his first year in international cricket.

Anti Climatic end to 1999
However, he had quite an unexpected and anti-climatic end to the year. He had his thumb broken in the Boxing Day test of 1999 and was out of action for a long time. He showed his finger pointing out to his thumb where the pin was inserted, something that still pains, 15years later.

He was back in action on the international scene in late 2000 and figured in the famous win at home against Australia in 2001. He made useful contributions in both innings at Chepauk ( including a half century that he just missed in his debut test) and was involved in a match winning partnership with VVS in the 4th innings chase on the final day.

Ramesh went to Sri Lanka later that year and once again performed creditably with over 200runs being 2nd only to Dravid in the series aggregate and scoring a half century in the final innings of the series. No one would have thought then that this would go on to become his last test for the country.

For the 2nd time in his life, injury (this time a back injury) meant he had to miss yet another series against SA. There have been questions raised about the seriousness of his injury at that time and Ramesh making himself unavailable for this tour, as a result of this injury. The story goes that the then coach John Wright as well as KS Viswanathan wanted him to be fully fit for the tour and they suggested that he make himself unavailable if he was not going to be fully fit. In a sense his decision not to tour put him out of  the 'selection process' for a while!!!
 
Back for 2003 Aus Tour
 He braved the injuries, twice, and came back strong with performances in the domestic tournaments that the selectors just could not ignore.Strong domestic performances which had originally elevated him into the national scene end of the previous decade once again got him into the limelight and he was chosen for his 2nd tour to Australia end of 2003.  Four months into this season, Ramesh’s hopes of a test comeback were dashed by questionable selection. Despite a strong performance in the tour opener in Australia where he was involved in a century stand with Sachin, Ramesh was sent in at No. 7 in the 2nd match leading up to the first test. He must have thought at that time that he was a sure shot for the first test and hence was being sent down the order.

Questionable Selection
But come January, he found himself having sat out the entire test series with Akash Chopra and Sehwag opening the innings through the four tests. He came back to India and a month later the selectors did not find him fitting into their scheme of things for the Pakistan tour, losing his opening spot to Yuvraj Singh!!! Between his selection for the Australia tour and now, Ramesh had done little wrong. In fact, he had impressed in the tour games in Australia and many deemed him an automatic selection for the tests given the ease with which he played the fast bowlers.

Despite his great form leading up to that first test in Australia in 2003 and with the overall sentiment and form skewed towards Ramesh for the opener’s slot, Sourav chose Akash Chopra and Sehwag. For the first time in his life, Ramesh felt low about playing a team sport as it seemed to depend on so many variables that one is always up against it. Those who watched that season closely would relate to the tale of events and the background circumstances in which Ramesh was let go. Ganguly was stabilising his place in the middle order. Yuvraj Singh was being seen as a competition for the left hander’s spot in the middle order. Yuvraj was then thrusted into the opening spot for that Pak tour (while Ganguly stabilised his place in the middle order) and Ramesh who had looked solid against the best of fast bowlers especially the Pak greats was left in the lurch never to come back again.

Interestingly, the national selection committee at that time included VB Chandrasekar whom he had kind of replaced in the TN team almost a decade earlier. VB and Ramesh never played together for the state!!!

His closest cricketing friend S Ganesh Kumar (off spinner – allrounder) who played together with Ramesh for many years at club and state level remembers the lively spirit of Ramesh that kept the team environment alive with Goundamani jokes. Just ahead of the Australia tour in 2003-04, 'he practised in a car shed with plastic ball asking me and our common friend Balaji to throw fast short pitch stuff at him. He was confident of playing that series and was looking forward to taking on the Aussies in their home turf.’ 

During that phase in 2003, SGK says that Ramesh remained unfazed. He took life as it came. ‘I did not see a single negative outburst from him during that period.Ramesh is the kind who lets go the past and is always positive about life. He infuses positive energy into others and was a rare breed in the cricketing fraternity.
 

Dropped from TN team
Soon, his own state dropped him and in a period of 12months Ramesh had seen the entire cycle - From practising in his garage with a plastic ball just ahead of the Australian tour in preparation to face the Aussie quickies to now having to find an alternate team in domestic cricket. He moved to Kerala and scored 6centuries in a short span of time but he was still 'not recommended' by the Kerala State for the South Zone selection. And he never found his way back again into the Indian squad. He ended his domestic career with a century for Assam. 

One of the TN selectors, who has played test cricket for India and who is currently associated with one of the IPL teams, told Ramesh once that he would never select him again as his father had had an argument with that selector!!! That same selector many years later asked Ramesh in Bombay as to why he did not wish him ‘Good Morning’ that day!!! Another national selector who had figured in the 1983 world cup team once asked as to what was in it for him if a player was selected.


School Days and Tennis Ball cricket
Ramesh started off his career as a fast bowler at school, having played a lot of tennis ball flood light cricket at Alwar Tirunagari along with his elder brother S Satish Kumar.  He then became an off spinner and it was only into his mid teens that he converted to a batsman and a middle order bat at that. 
His neighbour Kesavan inducted him into Sea Hawks, his first team in the TNCA league. He then moved up into Dorairaj Memorial before joining Kohinoor ( spotted by Vijay Sankar) in the 2nd division, a team that was then managed by Chemplast.

In the early 90s with Ramesh still not yet out of school, a few of the Kohinoor players who were on the fringe of making it to the first division were sent to play in the annual tournament in Bangalore organised by Brijesh Patel and Imtiaz Ahmed.

Century against YMCA (TSR) 
Batting against YMCA (TSR), another team from Madras, he scored a century at the St. Joseph’s College ground giving one the first glimpse of what was in store from this teenager. He was dropped at slip on nought by S Ravi ( now International Umpire) Chemplast won that tournament ( the host team that year included Kumble, Johnson, Sujit Somasundar, Fazal Khaleel and the like) and Bharath Reddy who watched Ramesh in action immediately elevated him into the first division. The Chemplast team that year was very strong with stars all around and Ramesh says ‘it was an honour to be included in that Chemplast team that season while he was still in his teens.’

In his first match in the first division league, batting at No. 7 Ramesh scored 17 batting against Venkataraghavan. He did not get to play the next 8matches!! Recalled for the end of the season clash with Southern Railway, Ramesh scored a century and followed that up with two fifties against MRF. These knocks earned him a promotion to No.3 at the start of the next season. While he scored runs through the season, it was not good enough for a number three slot.

Moves to SPIC
Bharath Reddy suggested that Ramesh move to SPIC so he could play through the year on a turf wicket. And this was a turning point in Ramesh’s career.  He was in the reserves in the U22 state squad. With one of the openers becoming ill, Ramesh was inducted into the squad as an opener. He scored 196 against Kerala in the three day U22 match away from home. The day after this match, he was dropped from the one day team as the TNCA (from Madras) had already directed the playing team for the one dayer. And thus he carried the drinks for Tamil Nadu a day after he scored 196.  In the next match against Karnataka, he scored a century each in the three day match and the one dayer.

VV Kumar fights for Ramesh
VV Kumar had just taken over as the Chairman of the TN Selection Panel and was instrumental in providing Ramesh the right opportunity at the right time. VV Kumar rates Ramesh as one of the three most gifted left handers from TN alongside AG Milkha Singh and WV Raman 'He had a languid and fluid grace about him. When I first saw him bat, he was still in his teens. His class immediately struck me. I found that he had the ability to caress the ball through the gaps and felt he could be a long term opener for TN. He had the staying power and was equally comfortable against spin and pace.  We picked him for the city v districts match after a lengthy ‘closed room discussion’. I look back with pride that I backed him that day despite ‘pressure’ to include ‘another’ player. His big century in the city v districts match in Tirunelveli endorsed my decision to include him ahead of the ‘other’ player, silenced his critics and in a sense was a turning point for him. He was immediately roped into the Ranji squad and there was no looking back for him since.

Seeing the amount of runs he scored, K Srikkanth called him up and told him ‘I have not seen you much but really I am amazed at seeing your name in the papers every other day’. These words of praise from Cheeka were one of the first big moments early on for Ramesh in his career (years later, Cheeka’s strong words would motivate Ramesh to a 2nd innings hundred against WI A)


Big centuries in his debut season (95-96) in Ranji Trophy turned the spotlight on Ramesh. He made 132 on debut against Hyderabad and went on to score 158 in a triple century opening stand with K Srinath. He scored over 700runs that season earning him a place in the Zonal Squad.

Zonal debut - December 1996
Just ahead of this match, a national selector (from South) questioned his ability to perform against quality attack and asked him to prove himself in Duleep Trophy. Ramesh had him eat his words for in his Duleep Trophy debut in the Semi Final against North Zone, Ramesh scored a match winning century. December 1 turned out to be a career defining day for Ramesh. Having conceded the first innings lead to a strong North Zone team, South was tottering on the 4th evening having lost 4wickets chasing close to 400runs. Ramesh batted at No. 6 and put on a double century stand with his TN team mate Sharath fashioning a remarkable comeback win. Ramesh scored 143 to take his team into the finals.

With South Zone struggling at the end of day 4, the manager was already on his way to book the side’s ticket back down South (they were playing at Faridabad). On the other hand, a buoyant North Zone manager booked their team’s trip for the final.  Sharath and Ramesh’s partnership left both the NZ and SZ managers blushing. It had been an unbelievable Zonal debut for Ramesh.

It was his three big centuries in 1997-98 that caught the eye of the selectors a 2ndtime. He began 1998 with a knock of 187 against Kerala on the New Year day (his third big knock against Kerala in 3years). A week later he slammed 182 against former TN players – VB, Suresh and Gokulakrishnan.

Later that year, interestingly once again on December 1 (he had scored a big 100 on the same day 2years ago in his Zonal debut), in his first India A match against a WI A team that comprised of Ian Bishop and Pedro Collins, Ramesh scored another big hundred in a big 4th innings chase. Ramesh had top scored in the 1st innings as well with a blistering 43 out of India A’s total of 110. Srikkanth, the India A coach was however upset that Ramesh had thrown away a good opportunity and these words from his coach stirred Ramesh to that with a 2nd innings century.

His big centuries through the late 90s showed he had, both, class as well as long innings and big match temperament. Quite an achievement for one who was always referred to as ‘lazy’ for almost his entire cricketing career for the casual approach he seemed to follow.

Ramesh scored almost 1400 runs in his 19tests. In his last test innings and last test series, Ramesh was the 2nd highest run getter (scoring 55/ 223runs). In his last one dayer, he scored 33. In his last first class game, he scored a century for Assam.

Conclusion
Ramesh was yet another story from Tamil Nadu of ‘what could have been’ though he played much more than his counterparts of the 90s – Sharath, Sriram, Badani and the like. But for someone who had scored a century on debut in U22, Ranji, Duleep and India A matches and who played Wasim and Co as well as anyone at the top of the order at that time, one would have liked to have seen a lot more of Ramesh at the international levels than the 19tests that he played.

It was good till it lasted. Surely someone who played those great fast bowlers with such ease should have played many more tests for India. But several factors, external to his cricketing abilities, cut short what could have been a long career. We would have loved to see more of him but Sadhagopan Ramesh gave us some unforgettable moments none more so than his elegant drives and his effortless flicks of Wasim and Waqar on that late January evening at Chepauk. 

During that 5year international phase, yesteryear greats of Indian cricket such as Madhav Mantri and Bapu Nadkarni, among a couple of others once in an informal discussion at the CCI in Bombay said that while Ramesh had talent in abundance, his overall approach, including off the field, was casual or at least they believed that was the overall perception. But they did not necessarily say that this would go against Ramesh in his selection. 

The problem was that Ramesh was in many ways like David Gower. Throughout Gower's 15year career, he was branded as someone who was casual, did not take the game seriously and did not like to practice hard like some of the less talented colleagues in his team. Ramesh's performances on the domestic scene between 1995 and 1999 and his run of scores in his 1st year of international cricket definitely point to the fact that he converted his talent into big scores.

His handsome looks have landed him a few deals in the cine field. His elder daughter has just lent her voice in the 'Lion Dates Syrup ad'.

While the fans' 'Ullam Kettuthey More' craving for more of his elegance on the cricket field, Ramesh, unfortunately, had to settle for a movie by that title (Ullam Ketkumey More).

However, Ramesh's first love remains cricket and he is now looking at launching his own cricket academy in Madras next summer.