Succeeding against the Odds
He was a rank outsider in the mid 1980s with no backing in those early days. Very few in the cricketing circles knew him. He did not have a cricket kit of his own. He was not financially strong. But he made up for all this with a determination that indicated very early on that he would succeed against all odds.
Close to 30 years after I first played against him in a Saturday match at YMCA, R. Rajesh Kannan (Kanna to all the cricketers in those days) has just, in the last week, been appointed as a Board Umpire ( BCCI umpire), quite a significant achievement for a low profile cricketer, who continues to play 1st division cricket for IOB despite being well into his 40s.
Sometimes he would walk all the way from Saidapet to play matches over the weekend and during the summer against a little more fancied YMCA (TSR) team at the YMCA ground in Nandanam. Other times he would catch the crowded 45B bus to Nandanam. But he was always on time and raring to go and prove himself against the more established players. Almost every match, he would take his team to victory single handedly from precarious position that he would find his team in.
Many a ball was dispatched into the tennis court on the Western side and the YMCA boys had to jump the wired fencing to fetch the ball back.
Early cricketing trips to Bangalore
Spotting the talent in him, he was roped in by YMCA (TSR) for the annual summer tournaments in Bangalore. In the very first year, he took a brilliant catch at deep fine leg right on the boundary line to dismiss Mujibur Rehman (playing for Kohinoor – Chemplast) in the first over the match. An hour later, he induced an edge, first ball, from S Ramesh (who later went on to play test cricket) but S Ravi at slip put it down (Ramesh went on to score a century and YMCA lost that match).
Having started off with Kamyuth in the fourth division, he moved to Vigneswara and Vijay CC in the 2nd division of the TNCA league in the late 1980s/early 90s. He joined Port Trust as a clerk and then moved on to IOB as a clerk as well. Keen to pursue his professional career alongside his cricketing ambitions, he did his MBA (Finance) that helped him graduated to the officer’s level at IOB and later into the managerial cadre.
Two decades of Cricket for IOB
The same hard work and commitment led him to concentrate on his work as well in his 20s that saw him make a steady and gradual progress at IOB, where he is now a Senior Manager (when many other cricketers his age had squandered the opportunity to learn at the work place – signing off at the office in the morning and heading back home immediately after).
Close to State Selection
In the mid 1990s, there was a time he came close to State Selection but he was ‘asked’ by the TN Selector (who is still active in the cricketing circles) to declare himself unfit so a former Don Bosco Star could make it into the squad. That ruined yet another career of a cricketer in Tamil Nadu.
Undeterred he continued to play on and two decades after that incident, he still plays for IOB in the first division.
During that period, he got interesting offers from leading private teams from the 1st division including from a top captain of those days. But he resisted those offers and is now into the 21st year of first division cricket at IOB. And thus he has remained a star performer who did not play for any of the ‘fancied’ teams.
At the turn of the decade, he had also become a TNCA umpire and has been officiating in the TNCA league in recent years .
The determination he showed when playing is also seen in his coaching methodology as I watch him from the sidelines at the Vivekananda College ground. The rigour with which he trains his students is rarely seen in coaching academies in Madras these days. His students may or may not make it big in cricket but sure they will learn the route to success in life being with Rajesh Kannan.
He has also imbibed in his elder daughter (aged 13) the ethics of hard work. After working hard on her carnatic music for a few years, she will be presenting her first big Kutcheri on the first Sunday of July at the Sunday Kutcheri in the Park organised by Sundaram Finance.
Rajesh Kannan has just been nominated into the next big league in Umpiring. He was been selected as an umpire on the panel of the BCCI. He missed playing for the state but he will now have the opportunity to umpire state matches.
He did not let frustrations get the better of him while playing and worked hard to make himself relevant to his team every single year over the last two decades.
It feels good when someone with literally no backing of any sort and with no god fathers succeeds in the cricketing arena. Rajesh Kannan is one such guy and the graduation as a Board Umpire is a great reward for his commitment to cricket over the last thirty years.
Alongside S Ravi (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2013/08/s-ravi-set-for-umpiring-test-debut.html) and J Madanagopal (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2012/05/madanagopal-set-for-big-leap-as-umpire.html), it is hoped that Rajesh Kannan will make it big in Umpiring in the coming years.