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.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great Story

Varun said...

Thanks for such a detailed write up on a rare talent. Nice to read about such prodigal talents. Wish him all the best.

Anonymous said...

Nice article Prabhu. I have known anbu before he moved to Australia and have seen the way he motivated and spent time with his children for their cricket. Nice to know that this young boy has so much potential.

Good luck and best wishes to him to play for india.infact he has played a match for MRC with me.
Regards
B Gautama rai

smk1132006 said...

Good article. Wish nivi a g8 cktg career. Well said about anboo and his strick action on discipline. As i always say corporates hv their intrest but here he gave opportunity to many wtout exoctg anythg in return other than discipline. I m fortunate
to hv asdociated wt him and trying to do 5 % of what he is being doing fr ages.

jayanth said...

Talented boy I have seen him clear the ropes with ease
My pranams to the proud father

Dog said...

Congrats Anbu what an effort from parents...not sure why Prabhu had to pulll me in this article....Best Wishes to Nivethan we are all looking forward to his great future representing our country .

Anbu you have inspired so many budding crickets hope to see you get into cricket administration for the betterment of cricket. Your sincerity and passion will help all budding cricketers

Thanks Prabhu for the write up bought back old memories don't think I deserve being mentioned ...shows your big heart and unparalleled memory

Thanks
Vijay

AR M said...

Good luck to Nivethan. I will see you soon in TV, you playing for the state and the country.
Aravinda Raama Mawendra (T.R.Sarathi)

K N Ananthapadmanabhan said...

I am so very happy to read this article ...great to know Anbu's son Nivethan is doing so well . Hope he reaps the rewards of his father's hard work and dedication ..A hard working and honest guy , even with a heavy frame could run well between wicket a and keep really well .. That's what impressed me with Anbu .Hope to see Nivethan in close quarters ..
Ananthapadmanabhan

Unknown said...

Hope to see him soon with all big teams and obviously for india. With
Rizwan

rizie rizu said...

Soon to see him in all big teams and obviously in indian team... wish him all success... with lots of love
Rizwan

Anonymous said...

What a cool story! I hope things work out well for the boy.

Anonymous said...

I want to watch this kid play !!!��

Anonymous said...

Good analysis. I know Anbu from my MRC connection. He was managing the
cricket team of MRC for a few years. His sons used to come to the ground
regularly. Very energetic boys.

TNV

Anonymous said...

Good story.
Very well written

shaswath krish said...

.Best Wishes to Nivethan we are all looking forward to your great future representing our country . Anbu you are really great, I am thinking of great yester years I wont foget
your coverdive to fastbowlers As a father You are really role model for lot of youngstars
Niveth All the best for your TNPL as well for your future commitments ----KRISHNAMOORTHY(MONK)

Anonymous said...

Super story, Prabhu... Brilliant one !! Hope & pray the boy breaks through the system.

Ramsubramaniam Punugu Venkata said...

The tissues muscles strings of Nerves all seems to be invited in this young talent. Nice write up. Now it's the talk of his Bat than anything would bring him global glory. Wishing Nivethan A Good & Great Heights in near future.