Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hemant Srivatsa Cricketer of the 1980s

South Zone U19, India U19 Against Australia, 1st Division while still at School
Retired by the time he completed his education!!!

After having represented Tamil Nadu at the Sub Junior level in Swimming when he was just 9 and then having played Billiards for a few years, Hemant took to cricket only when he was around 15years in the 1st half of the 1980s.

He went to Chepauk for the U16 selection. One of the selectors, M Srinivasan, immediately spotted the talent in him and picked him in the squad with the encouraging words ‘You have a run up like the legendary Aussie Alan Davidson.’

That season, he bagged the South Zone Sub Junior cricketer of the year award.  When he was just 16, he played in the Madras Test for India U19 against Australia U19 comprising of Tom Moody, Paul Reiffel, Andrew Zesers and Gavin Robertson.

He very quickly moved up the rank and was at that time the only school boy cricketer to play in the 1st division for Alwarpet first under the captaincy of Bharat Kumar and then under K Srikkanth.  He had also become a specialist short leg fielder (he dedicates his entire cricket achievements to PK Dharmalingam). But very soon cricket politics got the better of him.

He had the highest marks for a cricketer in the class XII exam and yet the Anna University sports seat went to another cricketer (he still plays cricket in Madras) with lower credentials at that time but better ‘support’!!

Instead of exploring other options in Madras that could have furthered his cricketing ambitions, his father (KC Srivatsa, Partner at that time at the legendary Auction House Murrays) directed him to take up the seat offered by GCT Coimbatore. This meant that through that year he would travel unreserved on Friday evening to play the league match for Alwarpet and get back to Coimbatore unreserved on Sunday night. It was something that took its toll on his body and undid his cricketing future.
 PK Dharmalingam who coached Hemant from his school days as well as at Alwarpet believes that had he stayed back in Madras during those four years, it is very likely he would have achieved big in cricket for he was at the peak of his form during that phase.

‘Hemant had a lot of potential as a left arm fast bowler. ‘He had a long and an economical run up, his delivery stride was a coach’s delight- he accelerated at the right time, had a high arm action, the perfect landing of the right foot and a pronounced follow through.’

‘He had the potential to play much higher level of cricket than what he finally ended up with, which is very unfortunate.’

Districts beat City
Hemant captained the Combined districts team that beat the strong N Gautham led City team. He was the new ball bowler for South Zone U19 and took 5wickets against a West Zone U 19 team that comprised of Ranji cricketers. And yet a player who played only one match that year for South Zone (from Karnataka) was selected for India U19. A former off spinning great was the Selector.

As luck would have it, that same former India Spinner was the manager of the Indian team when Pakistan toured India. That Pak team had an upcoming left armer in Azeem Hafeez. Leading up to the series, the Indian team wanted to practise against a good left arm quickie and Srikkanth brought Hemant to bowl at the Indian stars in the nets leaving  the offie totally embarrassed.

(The offie called up Srikkanth asking him to convey his apologies to Hemant for having had to overlook him (for non cricketing reasons) at the India U19 level and promised to include him next year!!!)

On another occasion, another South Zone manager from Mangalore told him a day ahead of the match that another player (not half as good as him) from Karnataka would be playing the match and that Hemant was dropped (again for reasons similar to the above).

In a practise match against SPIC as a teenager, he bowled a sharp bouncer that hit the then SPIC captain P Ramesh on the chest (after the left hander had hit him for four the previous ball). He was asked to apologise but Hemant stood his ground and did not. That was the stuff he was made of and was not known to be a ‘yes man’, another reason that slowed down his progress.

MRF Pace Academy’s deal with 1st Div teams
It was also during that period that MRF struck a deal with league clubs in Madras to play some of the pace academy fast bowlers in their teams. Hemant was the only real left arm quickie at that time and MRF academy had none.

Yet, as part of this deal, two fast bowlers from the academy automatically played in the XI for Alwarpet though Hemant had a proven track record and like the case with the Anna University admission was far more meritorious. And he missed out again on crucial opportunities.

All of these frustrated Hemant and the entire selection process left a poor taste in him. He quit cricket for good just after 20 despite having played SZ U19 for 4years and India U19 as well.

Looking back, Hemant regrets taking up cricket for he could never get to terms with the amount of politics and match fixing.

Dharmalingam has the final word on Hemant ‘Whenever I watch Mitchel Johnson in action, I am reminded of Hemant, for I could spot a lot of similarities between the two. I really enjoyed coaching him for he was a very well behaved boy, a genuine fast bowler with the right attitude and was liked by everyone in the team. I would say that Hemant’s was yet another case of talent not being fully utilised in Tamil Nadu.

Hemant currently runs the famous Murrays Auction in Madras.


Anonymous said...

Sad to say the least.
Such wonderful talent completely wasted

Anonymous said...

Brilliant Prabhu !!

But still we will have the stupid Dravidian apologist film makers make films on cricket like the recent release, Jeeva :-(

Anonymous said...

Very nice.Prabhu,u have captured the story well.