The Every Smiling Cricket Administrator from Kallidaikuruchi who has risen to become the right hand man of N Srinivasan
'The Never Say No' man of TN cricket
'The Never Say No' man of TN cricket
In the summer of 1968, a young boy from Kallidaikuruchi, a remote town in the Southern District of Tirunelveli, renowned for Appalams and the ancient Varaha Perumal temple, took the Tirunelveli Express to Madras for he had just got a B Com seat in Vivekananda College. Like many of the boys from the districts who were yearning for opportunities on the big stage in cricket, this youngster too had hopes of making it big in cricket when he made the shift to the city.
But even he would not have imagined that one day, he would be the right hand man of the most powerful administrator in World Cricket.
For a long time now, Kallidaikuruchi S Viswanathan (popularly known as ‘Kasi Sir’ in the cricketing circles) has been the ‘Go-To’ man for anything to do with the administration of Tamil Nadu cricket, someone on whom ICC President N Srinivasan has relied on heavily over the last two decades for on the ground implementation.
It has been a strenuous period for Viswanathan in recent times managing multiple and very challenging responsibilities at TNCA, IPL and the BCCI all at the same time. And this has had a negative impact on his health. But the broad SMILE is not lost on him.
Early years in Tirunelveli
Viswanathan did his schooling at Sankara Sec School in Thalayathu, on the outskirts of Tirunelveli. He played both junior and senior cricket in the districts. He was an integral part of the Tirunelveli team that won the SS Rajan Trophy (inter districts tourney) in the late 1960s, a team that comprised of stalwarts such as KR Rajagopal, PVR Murthy and PK Dharmalingam. His best moment in his playing career came in that match when he took 5wickets in each innings.
He had been signed up by Jolly Rovers when he was just 16years to play in the competitive first division league in Madras and he would make the weekend trips to play these matches. He was part of the Jolly Rovers team that beat a strong ACC team by the spin of the coin in that memorable Buchi Babu match in front of 3000people at the Marina.
The Name 'Kasi' Viswanathan
In the 1960s, there were two cricketers from Tirunelveli with unbelievable identity. Both were sons of employees of India Cements, Thalayathu, both had ‘K.S’ as their initial and both used to travel to Madras to play in the city league. One was KS Viswanathan (KSV) and the other was KS Kasi Viswanathan. In one of the matches, PK Belliappa called out for the KSV as ‘Kasi’ and quite mysteriously that name stuck with him from that moment. Today even the international cricketers refer to him as ‘Kasi’. The real (KS) Kasi Viswanathan played for REC Trichy and is now the MD of Seshasayee Paper. He is also the President of District Cricket Assn of Namakkal.
He relocated full time to Madras after he joined the Vivekananda College, a 3year period that saw him play alongside V Krishnaswamy, KG Appaji and PP Swathi. The college won all the five inter collegiate tourneys twice during the three year period, a record that remains unbroken to this day. Viswanathan was the highest wicket taker in the inter-collegiate tourneys and it was a hugely successful period in his cricketing career.
Immediately after his graduation, he joined India Cements in their accounts department and has been with the company ever since.
The move to cricket administration came in as quite a surprise. He had been focusing on his work in the Cost department at India Cements for almost two decades. He had stopped playing league cricket in 1986 (He had played for various clubs in that phase including Jai Hind, MRC A and Prithvi).
N Srinivasan was making a comeback at India Cements after a hiatus and had just taken over as the Managing Director in 1989. He was keen to get the cricketing activity back on track (India Cements had been a big supporter of cricket right from the mid 1960s).
Srinivasan handpicked Viswanathan, who was then the Deputy Manager-Cost, to drive this cricket revival and provided him with the opportunity to manage the cricketing affairs of the India Cements team. And thus the man from the Cost department took a big and rather unexpected plunge into cricket administration.
Viswanathan along with Dr Natarajan worked very hard during that decade of revival to get India Cements cricket back into the limelight. Buoyed by the early success, India Cements added many more league teams into its fold with Viswanathan anchoring the cricket administration.
During this period, he had also made the move into cricket administration at the TNCA. In 1995, he became an executive member (Districts) and then the asst secretary of the TNCA at the beginning of the last decade.
In 2008, he took over as the Secretary of the TNCA. That year also saw the launch of the IPL where Viswanathan has remained an integral part, taking care of the administration of CSK, a team owned by India Cements.
Promotion of Districts cricket
He has a soft corner for players from the districts. He understood well the struggles of a district cricket for he himself had been affected during his playing from the lack of infrastructure and the limited opportunity available to players from the districts.
Over the last 15 years, he has personally monitored cricket in the districts and actively promoted cricket there. Over 125 cricketers from the districts who currently play in different divisions of the city league are taken care of by the TNCA in terms of travel expenses, accommodation and other benefits, quite a boon to the cricketers from the districts.
Viswanathan counts among his biggest achievement the dramatic improvement in the infrastructure in districts and the enhanced opportunities for players from the districts. Viswanathan was responsible for creation of inter districts matches on a round robin basis and converting it into a two day format. Today, there are turf wickets in Tirunelveli, Trichy, Hosur, Villupuram, Dindigul, Theni, Dalavoi and Tiruvallur.
Rebuilding the stadium at Chepauk in a record time of 16months has been another satisfying experience for Viswanathan.
Working closely with Dr. Natarajan
Former Jt Secretary of the TNCA Dr. Natarajan and Viswanathan used to meet every day at the TNCA for almost two decades. Dr. Natarajan says that Kasi has been totally involved and committed to the development of cricket in TN and that though he has had differences of opinion with him especially on the promotion of cricket in the districts, he never found Kasi wanting in the period he has known him.
'He has a positive attitude of never saying ‘No’ to anyone. He has chosen a path of least resistance but still gets all the jobs done and that is something very special about him. 'At one point of time, he was occupied with so many things – TNCA, IPL and BCCI that I used to wonder as to how he could manage all of these. But sitting in one room, he would successfully take care of everything.'
'Because of his long stint in the Cost Department at India Cements, he is very sharp on the financial implications of any move at the TNCA and is always one step ahead of even the treasurer on this front.'
‘If Kasi was an umpire, he would have given a batsman out and then apologised to him. That’s how cordial he is. It is not in his system to be not friendly.’
Current Chairman of TN State Selection committee S. Sharath who played over 100 Ranji Trophy matches for TN scoring well over 8000runs in first class cricket has known Viswanathan for almost 40years - His uncle Swathi and Viswanathan were team mates at Vivekananda College in the late 60s, early 70s.
Sharath considers Kasi Sir as ‘one of the most amazing human beings he has met’. Sharath says 'Kasi Sir has helped hundreds of cricketers in Tamil Nadu not just India Cements players. He has always given positive inputs and the much needed confidence not just in the cricketing career but in handling personal lives as well. ‘Kasi Sir is a ‘Never No’ man and players in TN look up to him all the time for help and support. He is a father figure for all the TN players of my generation.’
Dip in TN’s Ranji Performance?
The biggest challenge for him in TN cricket has been to motivate the players to perform to their potential. He has been striving hard in recent times to get a team to work on the aspects relating to Mental Toughness and one hopes to find the results in the coming years.
The Ever Smiling Cricket Adminstrator
It is a chilly Sunday morning in February. Viswanathan walks down the steps of his first floor flat, where he has been residing for 45years. There is a Kutcheri going on at the Nageswara Rao Park. He stops by to cheer the young artistes (listening to old Tamil and Hindi songs is his favourite pastime) and continues with his walk. Typical of a Nellaiite, Viswanathan is ever helpful and friendly. There are many (old friends / cricketers) who wish him well during his 45minute stroll at the park. To each one of them, he sports a big smile and engages in a friendly conversation.
There have been many ups and downs in recent times and he has had to encounter some very challenging situations but Viswanathan has remained largely unchanged. His door at the Indian Cements office in Santhome is always open and cricketers keep walking in and out of the room updating him on scores in various matches.
His phone never stops ringing with discussions ranging from a district match to this year’s IPL to the BCCI elections. In every conversation, he is cheerful even if the topic happens to be serious and controversial. It is no wonder that he brings so much positivity and hope to people around him.
From managing the cricket affairs of just one team at India Cements in the early 90s, Viswanathan has come a long way in the last two decades. The performance of CSK has been particularly satisfying for him for he has been actively involved with the selection of the CSK players. Winning the IPL and CL20 in the same year and also bagging the fair play award in 4 out of the 7years of the IPL remains one of the more satisfying achievements for this ever smiling administrator.
For someone who has been so helpful to cricketers in TN providing them with the best of infrastructure and all the support to further their career prospects, it would be apt if the state team rewards him with the Ranji Trophy, the one Trophy that he would so dearly love to have in his kitty before he retires.