Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Thiru Cherai Saranatha Perumal

Bhattars had to auction Family jewels for survival in the 1970s

Most Festivals that had come to a grinding halt in the 70s and 80s including the Big Chariot Festival have been revived through the efforts of Raman Bhattar over the last decade

Trustees done away with at the temple for decades
Historically, the Saaranaatha Perumal temple in Thiru Cherai (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/12/108-divya-desam-thirucherai.html) was praised as a location that had big and wealthy jewel like mansions so tall that it seemed to touch the moon.

கண் சோர வெம் குருதி வந்திழிய
வெம் தழல்போல் கூந்தலாளை
மண் சேர முலை உண்டு மா மதலாய்
வானவர் தம் கோவே என்று

விண் சேரும் இளங் திங்கள் அகடுரிஞ்சு
மணி மாட மல்கு
செல்வத் தண் சேறை எம் பெருமான்
தாள் தொழுவார் காண்மின்
என் தலை மேலாரே – Periya Thirumozhi 7.4.1

Thiru Mangai Azhvaar in his subsequent verses refers to the temple being amidst fragrant sandal groves with bees humming all around (‘வம்பலரும் தண்  சோலை’/ ‘தாதோடு வண்டலம்பும்’ / சந்தப்  பூ மலர்ச்சோலை)

HR & CE’s Power spells doom
The temple went through a tough phase in the 2nd half of the 20th Century with the Bhattars finding it difficult to live even a reasonably secure life. Raman Bhattar first performed Aradhana at this Divya Desam in 1979 when he was in his mid 20s. He had completed his Agama education from Ramaiah Sastrigal and had undertaken the examination in Tirupathi and Mannargudi.

His family /fore fathers had performed service at the temple for seven generations. The kings had written the Agraharam for Brahmins to help them perform pooja in a devotional way. During the Nayak period, lands were given as gifts to Brahmins.
However, unfortunately for Raman Bhattar, his entry into the temple coincided with the HR & CE gaining administrative control over the temple. The entry of HR & CE and their quest for power spelt doom for the temple and the Bhattars at Thiru Cherai Divya Desam. Gradually, the HR & CE took back a lot of the rights away from the trustees which culminated in the termination of the appointments. Earlier the leading shots of the temple town were the trustees. They were dependable and managed the temple well. They were a team that the residents of Thiru Cherai trusted. 

Thyagaraja Swamy (Elayur Pillai) never ate the temple food because he believed that he could not take the Lord’s property!!!

After HR & CE took over, they cancelled the committee office that had been in existence for several decades. For a one Kuzhi of land (12x12), the Bhattars were given Re.1 for Punjai. For a typical 100 Kuzhis that they held, they were to be given Rs.100 but with HR &CE taking over, this was completely stopped. The Uchchi Kaalam Pooja too was done away with. For over 2 ½ decades, the monthly Pancha Parva Utsavam too had stopped.

Incentivising Chariot Pullers
Chariot Festival was the biggest day in the temple’s festival calendar. Interestingly, 50 paise was given to the person pulling the chariot as a mark of respect for their effort. Similar to the Sarangapani temple (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2017/06/sarangapani-koil-thiru-kudanthai.html) where the trustees incentivized the Sri Patham Thangis who were present in proper attire (12 Thiruman/Panchakacham), the trustees here motivated devotees to come in large numbers and participate.

As per the description of Thiru Mangai Azhvaar, the lakes around the temple had a large number of blue coloured lilies (வந்டு ஆர் நீலம் செய் விரியும்).
The farmers, who came here, removed these lilies with their feet only to find nectar spilling over from the flowers on to their feet. He says that his heart goes out to those who are blessed to worship this Lord at Thiru Cherai.

விளை வயலுள் கரு நீலம் களைஞர் தாளால் தள்ள
தேன் மணம் நாறும்
 தண் சேறை எம் பெருமான் தாளை நாளும்
உள்ளத்தே வைப்பாருக்கு இது காணீர்
என் உள்ளம் உருகும் ஆறே

Farmers and their families from 26 villages came for the grand Chariot Festival on the Thai Poosam day. Each of the Village heads would be asked to hand over details of the number of people present from their respective villages. With HR & CE taking over power, the Chariot too came to a halt in the 1970s!!!

Bhattar auctions jewels for basic survival
The decade of the 70s and 80s was a torrid period for the Bhattars at the temple. As they were hereditary Bhattars, there was no salary. Raman Bhattar’s father Santhana Krishnan Bhattar would get Rs. 2 per week. He auctioned his wife’s jewelry in the 1970s to pay the electricity bill. His grandmother Lakshmi ran a betel nut shop. If she received Rs. 2 on any day, the family bought provisions and this helped them continue their ‘survival’ mode.
Entry of Political forces into temple administration sent shock waves in the hearts of the Bhattars. A frustrated Raman Bhattar went away for a couple of decades to a temple in Bombay as he found it a futile exercise to handle the HR & CE officials. Many of the annual utsavams came to a halt.

There has been no appointment of trustees at the temple for decades. There have been instances of income of Rs.3 Lakhs from the Hundial being under-accounted but the Bhattars have silently borne through this humiliation.

Through this period, a few like Raman Bhattar went westward for survival, while others participated in a support role during festive occasions at nearby Divya Desams to help make ends meet.

Speciality of Aadi Utsavam - Cauvery's Penance here at Thiru Cherai
In the early 1990s, a temple dedicated to Cauvery was planned to be built near the sea shore in Poompuhar. The permission of Periya was sought for this by the villagers. Showcasing Thiru Cherai as the place of Cauvery's penance, he directed them to the original penance location of Cauvery here in Thiru Cherai. Every time, Periyava came to Thiru Cherai, he would walk around and visit the exact location of the penance of Cauvery. 

As per his direction, the 32 feet idol still lay in Poompuhar, un-erected. The grand annual festival invoking the blessings of Cauvery takes place here in Thiru Cherai on Aadi 18/28.

Bhattars now turn Marketing Officers for the HR & CE
In recent times, the rate for 'Thaligai' has increased dramatically and more than doubled for some of the devotee favourites.  As per the unofficial mandate, the Bhattar has to pitch this with the devotees and secure that income for the HR & CE. Hence, these days you find a number of Bhattars from across HR & CE administered temples in Tamil Nadu making frequent trips to cities pitching for various kinds of donations for the temple activity.

It was only after the enterprising Raman Bhattar came back to Thiru Cherai in the early part of the last decade that the temple saw a revival. Devotees had until then ignore making a trip to this temple. Those visiting Kumbakonam would visit Oppiliappan temple and then stop in this direction with Nachiyar Koil. They would travel no further. And hence Thiru Cherai was often ignored.

The Chariot did not run till 2003 and was revived only through the efforts of Raman Bhattar. Using his networking skills, he has brought back the traditional utsavams at this temple over the last decade. The Pancha Parva Utsavam too has revived.

Hoping for the Trustees to come back
Raman Bhattar is hopeful that the income from land belonging to the temple will come back. At one point of time, 2500 kalam of rice used to accrue to the temple twice a year (once in Puratasi and another in Thai). This was distributed amongst the Sirpanthigal and Archakas. 
More importantly, he is hopeful that in the not too distant future the independent trustees will be back at the temple for they were ones that the Bhattars banked on for conducting the poojas and festivals in a devotional way.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Arun TNPL Tiruvallur Veerans

Within 72 hours of the Gala Announcement appointing him as the Head Coach, B Arun quits Tiruvallur Veerans
Will VBC now look for another coach with less than a week for the TNPL??
VB Chandrasekar seen with B Arun (far left) and Muttiah Muralidharan at the appointment announcement

Last Saturday afternoon, VB Tiruvallur Veerans announced the official appointment of Muttiah Muralidharan as its Mentor at a Gala Function at a city hotel. There were 100s of young cricketers from the VB academy who were present on the occasion. And in the front row there were a galaxy of star personnel from the TNCA that included KS Viswanathan, PS Raman (Chairman TNPL), V Ramesh (VP, TNCA and Secretary Kanchipuram CA) and RI Palani (he preferred the last row).

Also, present on the occasion was B Arun who was introduced and announced as the Head Coach of the Tiruvallur Veerans by Franchise owner VB Chandrasekar.

When asked by VBC to talk about the roping in of the two stars, PS Raman recalled the year when Arun, VBC and himself were part of the Madras University team in Delhi well over three decades ago. He spoke about the value that Arun would bring to the Veerans and how roping in Arun to the TNPL was a big boost.

Kasi Viswanathan, who VBC introduced with a tinge of sadness as the ex Hony Secretary of the TNCA, also spoke of Arun signing up with the Veerans as being a great positive for the  TNPL.
VBC spoke glowing about Arun’s capabilities and how he was a great addition for the team and how the team would benefit from him. Interestingly, he also added in his introductory address that Arun was being spoken of as the ‘likely’ bowling coach of India.

After such a gala announcement and with the entire media featuring this news on Sunday, Arun has announced quitting as the coach (even before he started his engagement!!!) of Tiruvallur Veerans.

While Arun’s elevation is a matter of great pride for the city, the gala appointment announcement amidst top officials of the TNCA / TNPL and now  his quitting within 72 hours or so is not a great sign of the way TNPL is being handled.

If VBC knew that Arun was in line for the India coaching job and if it was a matter of time before that announcement was made (either way), could he have waited a while longer before taking this call/ making this announcement and positioning it as a being a big uplift for the Veerans.

This is the problem of over hyping every thing in cricket and making announcements to up the glamour quotient of an event. While 'moves' are part of the cricketing system, with VBC himself announcing that Saturday afternoon about Arun being the likely choice for India, he could have deferred making the announcement but he chose to go for the big headline in the Sunday's newspapers.
With less than a week for the start of the tournament, will he now look for another Head coach or will he himself double up as a coach as well.

We will wait and watch.

PS: TNPL may be all glamour with TV coverage. But for the lead up nets sessions, players belonging to Tiruvallur Veerans are having to ride (two wheeler) 25 kms one way  to the ground in Kelambakkam - That's a whopping 50 kms for a nets session. The players are likely to be worn out by the time they reach the ground for practice!!!

Azhagar Koil Thiru Maliruncholai

60 years ago, devotees thronged to Azhagar Koil in multiple bullock carts from afar and stayed through the 10 days to watch the grand Brahmotsavam celebrations

8 different musical instruments were played out before the Lord every day
Koodal Iyizhaittal was a historical game played by girls seeking to be united with their beloved

100s of Mooligai Paintings have been painted White by the HR & CE, Mirasu Personnel have lost their rights, income is not spent on the temple, Quantity of Thaligai has come down drastically!!!

The long agraharam in the South that once resonated with Vedic Chants and Prabhandham recital is now gone 
Azhagar Koil at Thiru Maliruncholai (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2008/01/108-divya-desams-azhagar-koil.html) on the outskirts of Madurai is one of the Divya Desams praised by several Azhvaars in all its glory 1000s of years ago. In a much earlier praise in the Paripatal belonging to the Sangam period, Thiru Malirun Kunram finds a detailed praise (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2015/11/paripatal-maliruncholai-balarama.html). The most fascinating description of Thiru Maliruncholai in the Paripatal is of Balarama and the extent of worship dedicated to him in this region, the reference to his chest ornaments and the beautiful single ear pendent. One wonders as to how the worship of Lord Balarama got dispensed with at the temple. The devotees who throng the roads to the hill are advised to worship the hill itself as it is seen as the seat of the God who removes all worries and destroys the sins of devotees.

Koodal Iyizhaittal – A historical game at Thiru Maliruncholai
In the Nachiyar Thirumozhi provides insights into the astrological predictions referred to as Koodal Iyizhaithal. Andal presents to us a historical system that was in vogue even during her time that of Koodal Iyizhaithal where one looks at the set of lines to decide the fate of the lovers. Andal addresses the angel and asks if the omens are good for her to unite with her beloved.
 Historically shells were used in a game through one of the two processes – either by putting them together in small groups or by drawing a number of concentric circles and seeing them in twos. If the final result ended in even number, it was seen as a Good Omen and the wishes of the lover was said to be fulfilled.

Koodal Iyizhaittal was a historical game played by young girls who were looking to be united with their beloved. By the end of the game based on the result, they get an indication on whether they would unite with their lover. This is a game of dots and lines drawn to see if the final formation ends in a good omen.

She invokes the blessings of the Lord of Thiru Maliruncholai to ensure that the lines drawn will form the right concentric circles so it ends up in good omen.

Garuda Bhattar and Kuthirai Bhattar
Into the 20th Century, there were two different sets of the Bhattar clan that managed the temple. One set was called Garuda Vahana Bhattar (clan) and the other Kuthirai Vahana Bhattar. As from the name, one set took care of the popular Garuda Vahana Utsavam while the other set took care of the other popular utsavam – The Horse Vahana Purapadu. 
There was a big agraharam south of the temple with 40 families residing there. The entire agraharam resonated with both Veda Parayanam and Divya Prabhandham till the mid 1960s.

Huge Service Personnel
32 different sets of people managed the temple. Sathatha Vaishnavas (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2014/12/saathaatha-vaishnavas-saathaanis.html) and Kanakkupillais were an integral part of the system at the temple. Every single kainkaryam was a Mirasu in those decades through the 20th century. Even to wash the Lord’s clothes, there was a Mirasu person assigned. There was an Aasaari, Kothanaru, Ochan and Thiru Kai Valakkam (Light Man) at the temple. The Pandaris who held the maximum land at the temple were assigned the Pushpa Kainkaryam service.There was no salary for these service personnel but they took great pride in serving the Lord. Mirasu personnel had a lot of freedom and power and they used it with a lot of devotion and responsibility.  The only Mirasu left are the two archakas.

There were service personnel managing the Saamaram, Kudai, Suruti, Theevatti, Theemara and Bandham and they were all devotionally attached in performing their respective roles at the temple.

8 different Vathyams
Different musical presentations for each of the Pooja Kalams was a special highlight at the temple. 8 Vathyams were used at different times in the day and there was a big display board that gave details of the day’s presentations. Thiru Changu, Chinnam, Serandi, Thavandai, Nagara, Nadaswaram, Thavil, Thaalam and Oththu were all in Vogue till the 2nd half of the previous century. Entry of the HR & CE saw the exit of most of these Vathyams and just three remain now. Most of them were Mirasu and they only got prasadam for their round the year service. Interestingly, the Thiruvabaranam box was carried by the villagers and they too received just the prasadam for this service.

Vaishnavites lived in large numbers.  The traditional Sri Patham Thangis, who carried the Lord during the big Vahana processions, were a treat to watch in their devotional presentation.

An Opportunity to serve the Lord
In his early school days in the 1950s/60s, Parthasarathy Bhattar, who had a major part of his education here, would run behind Lord Kallazhagar during utsavams and he would yearn to get one flower from the Lord. And then for over two decades, he has had the blessings of standing in front of the Lord and offering service to the Lord including presenting flowers every day to him.

He says that no amount of money can equal the opportunity to serve the Lord by standing alongside him and the satisfaction he gets from it.

He recounts the devotion of the Keerai Vendor who would never accept cash from the Bhattar. She would always ask for rice or paddy that they had received from the temple as an exchange for the Keerai that she sold.

Kallazhagar and his trip to ‘Alankara’ Nallur
Centuries ago, Kallazhagar entered the Vaigai in a chariot as it was scorching hot in Chitrai. He would go on a pallakku to Alanka Nallur. It was there that he mounted on the horse vahana after the Alankaram. Hence that place came to be called ‘Alankara’ Nallur (now Alankanallur). It was from there that he went to Thenoor where he entered the Vaigai on Chitrai Pournami.

During the utsavam of Meenakshi Amman, the procession of the deity takes place in the respective months and streets - Maasi Utsavam on Maasi Streets and Chitrai Utsavam on Chitrai Streets. The grand 10 day festival now celebrated in Chitrai still takes place in the Maasi Streets indicating that this utsavam was once celebrated in Maasi. With the intention of making this the biggest festival, the Maasi utsavam was moved to Chitrai in the 16th century during Thirumalai Nayak’s rule to coincide with Azhagar’s trip (Also the farmers were not ready with their harvest in Maasi and could only bring them in Chitrai). Azhagar’s trip was extended to Madurai from the previous destination of Thenoor.

The Closed Raja Gopuram
The Raja Gopuram is closed through the year except during the 10 day utsavam in Aadi when Chakrathazhvaar makes his way there. At the entrance is a Sannidhi for Karuppanswamy, the Kaaval Deivam. Devotees throng from across the erstwhile Pandya Kingdom to invoke his blessings.

Description in Divya Prabhandham
Andal in her praise of the place refers to the tall and fragrant groves where elephants played all the time. She calls the peacocks that are seen flocking and spreading their feathers wide as beautiful dancers and seeks their help in attaining the Lord.  

The place she says is full of Kavuvilai, Pata and Kaya flowers and Mullai Creeper that filled her heart with instant love for the Lord. She says that this place was also home to Kala fruit. This was also the place of the ‘Kongu’ trees. Andal also refers to the big lake around Thiru Maliruncholai that was full of red lotuses.

Like Andal, Thiru Mangai Azhvaar too refers to peacocks flocking in groups and dancing at their best making a pleasing sight for everyone at the temple. Repeatedly he makes a mention of overflowing honey dripping flower groves in the hills of Thiru Maliruncholai. He says that with so many flowers of different kinds, the bees are having a good time collecting honey from the mountain flowers. The tall groves of the Vengai trees as described by him give us an indication of the seasons of the year.
 தடங் கடல் முகந்து விசும்பிடைப் பிளறித்
தடவரைக் களிறு என்று முனிந்து
மடங்கள் நின்று அதிரும் மாலிருஞ்சோலை....
Thiru Mangai Azhvaar describes to us a scene during the monsoon season when he found the lions mistaking the thick clouds arising from the ocean for the roaring of an elephant. And he says that in their typical aggressive style, the lions roared back in extreme anger.

சிலம்பு  இயல் ஆறு உடைய திருமாலிருன்சோலை
He also makes a mention of Nupura Ganga (the place where Durvasa cursed Subadavasthu rishi) that flows through Thiru Maliruncholai hills.

Tuft and its embarrassment
Parthasarathy Bhattar and their forefathers never considered quitting temple service even when times were tough and they were financially poor. Parthasarathy Bhattar’s uncle was an archakar at the Madana Gopalan temple in Madurai. He would get an income of Rs. 1 a day but did not complain!!!

While he and his family survived the onslaught of the HR & CE in the final decades of hte the century gone by, Parthasarathy Bhattar is not so sure of what might happen into the future. He is also saddened that the community has been going down in recent decades. When once upon a time, tuft was considered an integral part of the Vaishnava Personality, today the Vaishnavites almost consider it an embarrassment to their lifestyle. Even on the biggest festive occasions, those that carry the Lord don't have a tuft.Traditionalists have been lured into the modern way of life.

Entry HR & CE and Traditions take a back seat 
As HR & CE took over and gain monumental power, the focus shifted to increasing the income. They pushed the priests to expand the donor base. There are now a whopping 453 Mandagapadis during Azhagar’s trip to Madurai for the Chitrai festival i.e 906 stops on the way to Madurai and back. Just the deposit to secure the Mandagapadis runs into several lakhs. And each devotee donor has also to pay Rs. 2000 for the Sevai at his location. That is a huge amount of income for the HR & CE from just one festival. And yet, the money does not come back into the temple.

In the 70s and 80s, there were no barricades, no tickets. Today over 10000 devotees visit over the weekend and it is ticketed. In those decades, with limited bus service, devotees would walk a long way to reach Thiru Maliruncholai. They would stay overnight at the mandapas to have darshan of the Lord the next morning.

60 years ago, devotees came along in bullock carts from afar and stayed through the 10 days to watch the grand Brahmotsavam celebrations. There were no proper roads to the temple and one had to wade through a forest path to reach the temple.

In 1965, the temple tank was closed. There was a fort around the temple at the entrance in the South. That was demolished and with those stones the tank was closed. Decades later it was reopened by the Wodeyar.

Mooligai Paintings lost forever
In the Vasantha mandapam, there were 100s of beautiful historical Mooligai paintings. Agamas were taught here and several students graduated from here. It was named as Azhagar Koil Gurukulam. The Mooligai Paintings at the Vasantha Mandapam have all been painted white after the HR & CE came into power. And thus the centuries’ old paintings have been lost forever. 
After HR & CE took over, service personnel were cut and reduced drastically. From every service having the hereditary Mirasu tag in the earlier centuries, today almost all have moved into the HR & CE’s control except the archakas, where too an effort is being made to get them under their control. Several of the traditional practices have come to a halt. Almost all the vaishnavites have been shown the way. In earlier decades, Hundial money was spent on the temple but not anymore.

The Thaligai quantity presented everyday to the Bhattars too has reduced drastically. This too has to now be funded out of devotee contributions. Madapalli always had spirituality to it. Now it is all gone and is more like a job to be done every day. Aacharam and Anushtanam that were so sacred at the temple has become a thing of the past. Absence of Acharya at TMC is a big loss to the region

Earlier it was all devotional service with no money. Today it is all money with no devotion.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Nivethan Radhakrishnan

14 year old Southpaw waiting to take TN by storm – An aggressive batting talent who has the potential to play for India
Set to debut with Karaikudi Kaalai in the TNPL
Way back in 2007, I had written about the prospects of a father coached school boy who had the potential to make it as an opener for India (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2007/09/cricket-pick-of-month-abhinav-mukund.html). This one, ten years later, is a story of another father coached school boy, even younger – he is just 14 years - who is likely to scale even greater heights than Abhinav Mukund. Co-incidentally both are left handers and openers at that. At 14, Nivethan Radhakrishnan has notched up close to 30 centuries in India and Australia and it is a matter of time before the powers that be in Madras took notice of his extraordinary potential. 

My intro to a young Anbu Selvan - late 1980s
Exactly 30 years ago, is when I first heard about his father Anbu Selvan. In a match at the AC Tech ground, the then teenaged wicket keeper and opening bat Anbu Selvan smashed my school classmate and captain R Vijayakumar (new ball bowler) all over the park in a knock of 97 in a TNCA league match. But later that Sunday afternoon, Vijayakumar scored a breathtaking unbeaten 135 to help his team chase out the target of close to 300. Not given his due chances at the age group level, Vijayakumar quit cricket, in frustration, a year later to focus on studies.
But the fiery Anbu Selvan was far too passionate to give up cricket that early. For the next 25 years, he continued to play league cricket and managed several cricket teams successfully in the TNCA league. At one point in his career, he managed as many as 7 teams moving from one ground to another through the day.

In 1980-81, as an 11 year old playing for an un-fancied PS High School team, Anbu Selvan accounted for 8 stumpings at the Marina Ground against St Michaels. That fired up his interest to play serious cricket, for he had till then played only tennis ball cricket on the streets of Besant Nagar.

That same year, by accident he chanced upon a friend, Vijay Sundar, (at the Gandhi Nagar ground) who put him on to Venkat CC, a team that signed him on immediately for his passion and fighting spirit. For the next five years, he had many creditable performances in the league but missed out on every age group selection – U 13, U 15 and U 17.
At the end of the U17 trials and having missed out once again, he came home frustrated. His mother, a rare one of her kind double P. hd (Botany and Zoology) and professor at QMC stressed upon the importance of destiny and how something much more significant may be on offer for him. And that’s how exactly it played out.

He was just a 17 year old school boy but he went out and checked with the secretary of many league clubs asking them if he could be given the opportunity to run and manage their team. Almost everyone laughed him off. Some were aghast that a teenager could actually come and ask them such a question for in those days, the Secretary himself ran and managed his club in the TNCA league.  Hence the idea of a 17 year old boy running a club did not cut ice with any of them.

K Sriram was a budding cricketer and a good friend of Anbu Selvan. His father, Krishnan, was the secretary of CUC, a club in the TNCA league.
Through him, Anbu Selvan met his father Krishnan. Recollecting that day in the mid 1980s when this young boy approached him with the proposition of running a league team, Krishna, now 70+, says ‘It required a certain bravery and boldness to go and approach a secretary to give away the running of the club. I saw a special 'cricketing' spark in that young boy even at that age. He was passionate and crazy about the game. I had heard from my son Sriram that Anbu Selvan was disciplined and punctual. I had a gut feel that this young boy would do a good job of taking care of the team and hence I bestowed upon him the responsibility of running the team that year even though he was still a very young boy. Frankly, he did a great job of bringing together many young cricketers most of them unknown at that point of time and the team did really well that year. Since then, he has run several clubs in the TNCA league and moulded many youngsters into good cricketers.’

Anbu Selvan has always been a fighting street cricketer and in those early days his anger knew no bounds. Frustrated that opportunity for a majority of cricketers came only to those in the heart of the city, he went out seeking players from the outskirts and began moulding them.  He began to use cricket as a media to get boys from the districts to come and study in city schools and colleges and helped them overcome many obstacles in life. He picked up boy playing tennis ball cricket in Corporation grounds and provided them with real cricketing opportunities in the league, thus building up their confidence to face life. In that year for CUC he played through the year with a number of debutants who had never before played league cricket.

He bought good quality balls from outside and used those in the league matches as against the standard balls provided by the TNCA. These better quality balls helped a number of young fast bowlers perform better. 

Over his long 30 year association with league cricket in Madras, Anbu Selvan has helped around 3000 young students get school and college seats and around 5000 youngsters get jobs, thus fulfilling in a way the wishes of his mother when he came back after losing out on another selection trial in the mid 80s. For a long time, and in the days of ‘un-sponsored’ league cricket, Anbu Selvan funded multiple teams all by himself. When once he did not have money to buy lunch for his players, he looked up to his mother for help. And she happily parted with her money to support the team. There have been many occasions when he has parted with his savings to fund the running of the league teams in the city.

Soon after his AMIE (Engineering), Anbu Selvan joined Chennai Port Trust and played for them. Later he joined JP Morgan Chase in a high profile job and moved to the US for six years between 2002 and 2008. So crazy was he about playing cricket that despite being well into his 30s at that phase in his life, he flew down for every league match from the US.

During that period, he also managed 5 league teams in Madras and even won a Championship!!! Every time, I umpired a match involving Anbu Selvan, I saw that same aggression on the field that I had seen decades earlier - not giving his wicket away even though he was well past 35/40 years. Once he doggedly batted over 25 overs at the start of the innings at St Bedes ground when all the youngsters fell around him one after another. His team always comprised of good fielders.

Stickler for discipline
From the time he arrived at the ground at 8.30 am right till after the end, his decibel levels would be high. He never tolerated lack of discipline and focus. He wanted the youngsters to give their best. When Anbu Selvan was around, no player in his team could afford to miss the nets session or arrive after the reporting time for the match. And if one did, he had to spend the day of the match from the sidelines. Even the most talented player in his team would be dropped for the league match if he did not meet the disciplinary requirements of Anbu Selvan such has been the standards he has set over the last 30 years with all the league teams that he has run.

Nivethan starts league cricket at 5!!!
And it was kind of a no brainer when both his sons got into cricket very early on in their lives for the passion of the father was transferred on to the son. His 2nd son Nivethan Radhakrishnan (the Surname is after Anbu Selvan’s parents), began playing (cricket ball) cricket at the age of three!!! He played his first league match when he was just five years. When he was 8 years old, he bagged a hat-trick with his right arm off spin picking up the last 3 wickets of the innings to give his league team a victory by a couple of runs.  A year later, he scored a century in an U 12 match in Madras  off just 60 balls (Anbu Selvan’s first son played U14 cricket in Madras many years ago but now has given up cricket and is focusing on academics in Australia).

Blessed with extraordinary natural talent, Nivethan is also a junior Olympiad winner in Maths and Science from Sri Sankara School.

Throughout the decade long period to date, Anbu Selvan has mentored Nivethan every bit of the way on the technical aspects of cricket and on the disciplinary aspects of life. Many years ago, when my old classmate and cricket captain Vijayakumar and I were at Saravana Bhavan (Devi Theatre Complex), both of us were suddenly moved by exemplary behaviour of a young kid who was not even 10 then. It was Nivethan who showed a way of conduct, far above his age on that day at the restaurant. 
Just when things were going in the right direction, a new rule brought out by the TNCA a few years ago restricting players below 13 years to be registered in the TNCA league frustrated Anbu Selvan. Nivethan was just 9 years old and was performing well in cricket. This new rule was likely to put him out of league cricket for another 4 years. Angered at this age restriction, Anbu Selvan went overseas. After checking out the system in New Zealand, England and South Africa, he zeroed in on Australia and settled down in Sydney.

In the last few years, Nivethan has literally been unstoppable in Australia in age group cricket. Aussie legend Greg Chappell was thrilled at the young lad’s ability to bowl both pace and spin with both hands that he immediately called Ryan Harris to take a look at this special talent. 

When a MRF trainee tried to bounce Nivethan out at the nets session at the academy in Madras, he was promptly dispatched away prompting Glenn McGrath to remark ‘You will have to try the spin tricks with him. Bouncing him up will not work on the lad.’

Nivethan has been in the National U 15 squad and has broken all age group records with his attacking batting display in Australia. At the age of 11, Nivethan became the youngest to play in the U 16 league in the Green Shield in Sydney. He has now been part of the New South Wales Elite Pathway programme that spots and nurtures extraordinary talent.

As part of grooming his 2nd son, Anbu Selvan gave up his lucrative job and became a full time Coach and Mentor and Chauffeurs him around everywhere. He has also lost 30 kgs in the last couple of years and looks striking fit.

Signs up for Karaikudi Kaalai
When Nivethan had a three week summer break this year, Anbu Selvan brought him down to Madras and got him registered for the TNPL selections with Karaikudi Kaalai. Robin Singh was so impressed with the shots Nivethan played at the selection match at the SRMC ground that he suggested signing him up even though he is only 14 years old.

This is the biggest cricketing break Nivethan has had in his relatively young career. With the signing up for TNPL, Nivethan has requested and secured an extended three week break from his school in Sydney.

Over the next month, he will be out here in Madras to prove to the world the talent that Tamil Nadu has missed over the last five years.

He has some amazing shots up his repertoire and this is likely to come to the fore when he takes on the new ball bowlers in the opposition later this month. At 14, he has the ability to clear 100+ metres and his shots off the back foot are a treat to watch. There are similarities to the way West Indian legends Lara and Sobers played – the back lift, the bend of the left leg and the off drive not to mention the hooks and pulls that are his favourites – all of these look so similar to the way the two legends batted. 
While it is too early to call and anything could happen over the next few years, it is likely that this prodigal talent will be unstoppable. If things go his way, he will be the next big name in Tamil Nadu cricket in the coming years. He bowls fast and spin, both with his right and left hand but really it is his Caribbean style batting at the top of the order that will make cricket fans all around the world stand up and take notice of him.

Despite the prodigal talent, at the moment, there are no takers for him both in the first and second division league in Madras Today, at 14, he clearly seems like one far above his age in terms of his game, his conduct and above all as a terrific human being. He clearly has all the hallmarks of his father – discipline, commitment and hard work. He has the burning desire to succeed at the highest level and one can see that in his eyes as he does the fielding drills with Karaikudi Kaalai at the Elliots beach in Besant Nagar on a gloomy morning in Madras. 

When his father Anbu Selvan sought to run a league team as a school boy, he ran from pillar to post. Almost every club rejected him initially. After CUC’s Krishna gave him a break and on seeing what Anbu Selvan had to offer in terms of passion and motivation to budding cricketers, club secretaries queued up to offer their teams to him.

Similarly no one in the TNCA league is ready to bet on this young lad, but it will be a matter of time before they all stand in the queue to grab this talent extraordinaire.
The angry father has now turned softer and quiet. He is willing to play the waiting game for his son and to allow the performance to speak for itself. The next month at the TNPL could make Nivethan a household name in Tamil Nadu. It may not be a surprise if Robin Singh, who has an eye to spot talent, carries him along to Mumbai Indians before others have the opportunity to go after him. After a long hiatus, Abhinav Mukund has just come back into the Indian team. This young boy too will very soon make it into that big league and has the potential to go a long way into the list of legends.

One will surely hear lot more of him in the coming days and years.