Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bosskey Leg Spinner Extraordinaire

Bhaskar was superior to LS by a long Mile - VV Kumar
From a cricketing high to 'landing problem' in a matter of months!!!
Once upon a time.... batsmen trembled at the sight of him being introduced into the attack

Bosskey (B Bhaskar) is turning 54 this week but does not look that. He walks an hour every evening on the beach road between the Light House and Anna Square. And looks as fit as one half his age despite the fact that he had a miraculous escape from a life threatening road accident a few years back. 
REGRETS LETTING GO A GREAT OPPORTUNITY

As he picked up the red cherry for the first time in many years, one wondered if he would have any of his magic from the 70s and early 80s. And as he let the first ball go, it seemed too wide of the off stump. But lo....... it came back a mile and knocked out the middle stump. It was a Bosskey special – the big turning googly. He also displayed the deceptive faster one that Ravi Shastri once described as a ‘Michael Holding’ style delivery!!!

Between 1978 and 1981, Bosskey seemed unstoppable in his progress towards an India cap. He exuded a confidence that seemed to indicate that he had mastery over his art. He had all the variations of a leggie in his repertoire and bagged equal number of wickets with each of these. Former Test Cricketer Col Hemu Adikari and VV Kumar rated Bhaskar highly and having the potential to play for India.  

Wickets flowed in all forms of cricket- In 1980 and 81, Bosskey took around 150 wickets spread over the TNCA league and colts, college cricket (Loyola), Inter Universities and the Vizzy Trophy. K Srikkanth was personally impressed with Bosskey’s skills and used him to get wickets for his team at crucial intervals. The buzz all around was that he would soon be inducted into the TN team for the Ranji Trophy. And then what happened? Read on

School Days @ St Bedes
Bosskey took to leg spin at the age of 8 after he found that none could take on his leg spin on the streets of Mylapore (East Mada and Nadu Street) where he played tennis ball cricket in the late 1960s. It was his family friend Rajagopal (formerly with Air India) who first taught Bosskey the grip for leg spin and the googly. And created the interest in the young boy to take to leg spin (from the then fast bowler that Bhaskar was at that time)

His team mates at school through that decade included VB Chandrasekar (who was also his classmate), MA Sriram and Sanjay Kumar (referred to in the city cricket circles as ‘Lal’). VB used to always stand at slip when Bosskey bowled and took some outstanding catches.

Bhaskar was first spotted by Colonel Hemu Adhikari (former Test Cricketer) who after seeing him in action at the nets at Chepauk as a school boy in the mid 70s indicated to everyone at the TNCA that this young boy is likely to be a big asset for India if nurtured properly. He turned the leg spin square from outside the leg stump. And his googly foxed many a batsman as it came in sharply from well outside the off stump.

By the late 1970s, he had already made a mark having played for the State Schools. In 1978, he helped St. Bedes win the TNCA Senior Inter Schools tournament with his consistent performances. He also impressed for the South Zone Schools in Jan 78 against the visiting English Schools, a team that comprised of future England players Derek Pringle, Paul Terry and Richard Ellison.

Class Topper at School
Bhaskar was exceptional in his studies. He was always a class topper. ‘Father’ at school expected him to secure a state rank in PUC but very surprisingly, his father at home (Balasubramanian, formerly with The Hindu - Frontline) encouraged Bhaskar to progress his sporting interest so much so that Bhaskar even skipped an exam to play a cricket match!!!!

(FATHER LIONEL AND FATHER SIMON PLAYED GREAT  MOTIVATIONAL ROLE IN THE PROGRESS OF BHASKAR DURING THAT DECADE AT ST. BEDES HELPING HIM SUCCEED IN HIS CRICKET WITHOUT COMPRISING HIS EDUCATION)

His exceptional league performance led him into the TNCA Colts team for the prestigious annual tour to Bombay. In 1977-78, he took 10 wickets and had the best bowling average on tour. Also that year he was awarded the best proficiency prize by the TNCA for his extraordinary achievement.

Prof Ramana’s role
Former Andhra Ranji player and later Principal of Guru Nanak College Professor TV Ramana was Bosskey’s captain at BRC (league team). He knew Bosskey inside out and got the best out of Bosskey. He was a ‘Hitler’ in Bosskey’s life. In that phase, Bosskey would quietly listen to Ramana’s directions and orders and succeeded beyond anyone’s imagination. His star performances  in 78-79 helped BRC gain promotion into 1st division 

In July 1979, he picked up 5wickets against a star studded Alwarpet team. In September 1980, Bhaskar took 8 for 32 for Bharathi against KMC bowling out the opposition for just 100 and followed that with a 6 for 38 against MUC.

In the 2nd of the Colts tours captained by S Ramesh (later of RBI), he was the highest wicket taker with 33 wickets. He was literally unplayable on that tour and shot into limelight. His performance on that tour left the teams from Bombay shattered. 

S Ramesh and Bhaskar spent two months together during that phase with the first 15 days @ the colts tour in Bombay and immediately following that with the Madras University team. Ramesh wonders as to how someone with that kind of potential could quit the scene all of a sudden. 'Bhaskar had all variations in his repertoire during that period. Everyone in the team thought that he would soon play Ranji cricket and that it was only a matter a time especially as Cheeka had a special liking for him and Bhaskar sparkled under his captaincy. He had a very deceptive faster one and was a very good team man. Even at that time, he was a very jovial personality and it is no surprise he has succeeded as a comedian.'

Ravi Shastri on Bhaskar’s bowling in 1980-81

Bhaskar’s bowling for the TNCA colts and SZ Univ led Ravi Shastri to remark that ‘the Bombay players were still to overcome the nightmares of facing Bhaskar and that the entire Bombay cricketing fraternity had been shaken by his leg spin.’

On top of the world
1980 and 81 were the best years for Bosskey in cricket. He picked up over 40 wickets for Bharathi CC in league. Bowling in tandem with WV Raman, he was the highest wicket taker with 33 wickets in the 2nd of the TNCA Colts tour against Bombay Colts, teams that comprised of Lalchand Rajput, Milind Rege, Padam Shastri, Chandrakant Pandit and Shishir Hattangadi, among others. He was literally unplayable on that tour and shot into national limelight. His performance on that tour left the teams in Bombay shattered. Everyone was talking about him.

Bosskey was an outstanding fielder and took some spectacular catches. As part of his fielding regime, he would take 150 catches at practice every day. TE Srinivasan liked him so much that he used to call him ‘Darling Leggie’.

During that period, he had many remarkable performances repeatedly bowling Loyola College to victory. In 79-80, he was consistent throughout taking 5 plus wickets thrice in succession, a remarkable feat. The following year, his 5 wicket haul helped Loyola beat a strong Guru Nanak college team comprising of Ravi Mishra, PS Vijayakumar among others and his 4/28 helped bowl out Vivekananda College for just 97 in March 81.

University cricket with Srikkanth
Following his performance with the TNCA Colts and his star show for Loyola, Bosskey went on to represent the Madras University captained by K Srikkanth. It was a star studded team comprising of R Madhavan, R Venkatesh and V Prasad. He took 8 wickets for 57 in his debut match against Venkateswara University and followed this with a 5 wicket haul against a strong Karnataka team. These performances earned him a place in a star studded South Zone University team captained by Cheeka and comprised of Mohd. Azharuddin, Arshad Ayub and Saad Bin Jung.

In January 81, playing for Madas University in the Group B Final against a strong Delhi team, Bhaskar took 5 for 91 getting the wickets of Bhaskar Pillai and Gurucharan Singh  who were in prime form then.

Feb’81 - Best hours in cricket against Shastri and co.
The best cricket match of his life came in the first week of February 1981 at the Railway ground in Hyderabad when playing against a West Zone captained by Ravi Shastri, he bundled out the opposition with a mix of leggies, googlies and faster ones.

An event when he batted triggered Bhaskar’s spirit. When South Zone batted, Ravi Shastri and wicket keeper appealed for a caught behind when the ball had gone off Bosskey’s pad. Much to his dismay, the umpire lifted his finger. When he came back to the pavilion and let know his frustration to Cheeka,  the south zone captain in his typical tongue in cheek style told Bosskey ( translated into readable English......) ‘It’s okay. What’s the big deal? It is not as if you are going to tear apart Shastri and co with your batting’.

When SZ came to field, Bosskey mixed all his variations to bamboozle the WZ batsmen including Shastri. What happened in those couple of hours remains Bosskey’s finest hours in cricket. With the faster one, he bowled Ravi Shastri and the stumps went back 10 yards behind the keeper. And then shortly after came to bat the keeper who had initiated that caught behind appeal. Bosskey had been waiting for this moment.

Casatta Ice Cream
Cheeka came into short leg and promised Bosskey a 3-in-1 Casatta Ice Cream if he knocked back the stumps. And the next ball, Bosskey’s faster one shattered the stumps (Cheeka kept up his promise and later treated Bosskey to the Casatta ice cream at Hotel Siddarth). Bosskey took 5 for 25 in 12overs to bowl out West Zone for 180 triggering a collapse from 115/1 and South Zone romped home to victory with Azhar and Ranjit Khanwilkar finishing off in style. Bosskey has special memories of that outstanding all rounder Khanwilkar (who later passed away in an accident) taking brilliant catches during that phase.

Bosskey shared room with Srikkanth during that period and enjoyed many light hearted moments with his captain. It was also a season when Srikkant was in fine form as he jumped down to fast bowlers and hit them out of the ground repeatedly. ( Decades later, when Bosskey  came to Srikkanth’s house, his former captain jokingly remarked pointing out at his sons ‘tell these boys about how we co-ordinated to ruin the opposition that University season’)

Job offers from Government organisations came rolling through even while he was at college but he refused.

K Venugopal, of The Hindu Group (former Editor of Business Line) who was his first captain at Loyola remembers Bosskey and his humour in the college dressing room ‘Aruvai jokes started even then’ ( in the late 70s) hinting at the potential in him to become a comedian in the future. 

And then................He became 'Once upon a time' story!!!!!

When he bowled, the ball zipped through the air. Almost every cricketer who saw him in that phase echoed his confidence of playing soon for the state.  

And then he gained inches. Here was another case of a spinner losing his armory because of ‘natural progression’. Bhaskar suddenly lost his flight and arc. There was also the question mark about his action. There were no video analysts to sit with him and course correct.  Try as he did, the ball just did not obey his orders. There was no one to guide him in that phase. In a matter of months, to everyone’s shock he had lost his art and he went into oblivion all of a sudden. From a high of playing Vizzy Trophy and helping SZ win, Bhaskar failed to land the ball and lost the confidence. Earlier when the ball left his hand, he knew what it would do. Now, he was worried as to whether it would land and where it would be hit.

The fall of this potentially great leggie coincided with the rise of another. LS was just beginning to make a mark and shot into prominence as a teenager with the 7 wicket haul against Delhi in his debut match. And the focus shifted from Bosskey to LS ( the latter too did not live up to his true potential and faded away in the mid 80s.... to be seen in a separate story shortly).

In early 81, he had expressed an ambition to play for India after coming back with the Vizzy Trophy. And a year later he had settled down with a banking career at IOB. He was rarely picked by them for the league matches. He continued to play league cricket for different teams over the next 10 years. Once in a while in the late 80s and early 90s, he revived old ‘Bharathi’ memories taking a few seven wicket hauls. 

S Venkataraghavan ‘fired’ him after an old BRC v new BRC match (one in which Bosskey got the wicket of Venkat and R Prabhakar) for not approaching him for corrective steps. But it was too late by then.

In 1975, Bhaskar’s Maths teacher Tony Pachaco (currently in Delhi) predicted that the young boy would one day become a cricket commentator.  Bhaskar was just in class 8 and did not have a special voice. 

Four decades on, the New Gen know him only as a TV personality and Comedian but there was a time in life when batsmen trembled at the sight of Bosskey being introduced into the attack!!!!!!!!!!!

(Currently Bosskey anchors www.Bosskeytv.com, an online channel providing exclusive original humour).


Bhaskar had the potential to be my Real Successor -VV Kumar

Tamil Nadu’s all time best leg spinner VV Kumar had seen Bhaskar very closely through the 70s as a school boy cricketer and believes that he had the potential to play for India.

When Bhaskar released the ball, there was the zip and one could hear the fizz in the air. He was a top leg spinner and had a lot of variations and would consistently beat the bat with flight and turn. He was one of the most exceptional leg spinners I have seen in my life. He was truly amazing. He was a solid purveyor of the art who made the batsman’s life unhappy. He had the potential to be a world beater. He could have hit the ceiling.

He was a strict follower of practice. He would never be late for the nets. He would bowl for hours together. After him, I have not seen anyone in the last 30 years with that kind of potential.  He should have played for India for many years. When he grew tall suddenly, his stride had to be adjusted, the position of the bowling hand needed alteration and there was also an adjustment required of the front foot. And he failed to do that.

LS was nowhere near Bhaskar. He was superior to LS by a long mile. Not only would he have been my true successor but he had the potential to be greater than me.



8 comments:

dharini iyer said...

Bosskey for us... Great to know about you... Your achievements and your misses... You have carved a niche all the way. Proud to be your friend... Kudos Bosskey

Shruti said...

Yet another brilliant story :) Great to read entertaining snippets of personalities who may not have gotten their due!

Congrats

Adithya Balasubramanian said...

Thank you for yet another brilliant write up. Kudos!

Anonymous said...

Soooper

Sanku

Anonymous said...

Have heard a few of Bosskey's brilliance as a leg spinner. But it was nice to read many of them in a single article. Good work. Keep it going !!!!

Sridhar

Anonymous said...

Superb, as usual :)

Loved it !!

Anonymous said...

Wow! thanks Prabhu for nicely portraying the other side of Bosskey. I

I know his Media face only so far but amazing to know his cricketing skills through you.

(Umpire)

Dog said...

Wow Prabhu awesome details ....had know clue Bossky was this good ...Prabhu u stats are just amazing ...not sure how u remember so much of details in spite of spending hours together talking with me during those early years ...awesome man very proud of you.