Saturday, June 13, 2020

Srivathsan Cricket to TVS CFO

After playing in the SS Rajan Trophy against KR Rajagopal and PK Dharmalingam, teenager Srivathsan packed off his cricketing kit under his parents' orders to focus on academics - a move that paid rich dividends for he ended up with a top national rank in the CA Final

The offie made three passionate 'comebacks' in cricket playing till the age of 57 remembering his favourite Erapalli Prasanna each time he came on to bowl

He was just into his teens and it was the time he heard commentary on the radio of the now legendary S Venkataraghavan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/04/venkataraghavan75.html) making his Test Debut. But what surprised him the most during the teenage phase was the fact that his home maker mother inspired and initiated him into cricket in Nagercoil. As with boys from remote towns, the cricketing passion was high even though the opportunities were limited. He played in SS Rajan trophy when he was 16 years old and dreamt of going up the ladder in cricket. But soon as was the case in middle class households in those times, his amma who created the cricketing interest in him and bought his first bat and ball asked him to pack off his cricketing kit and focus on academics. The boy went on to become the CFO of a TVS Group firm but his passion for cricket did not die and he went on to play amateur cricket till the time he was 57. Here is the story. 

Cricketing Debut in Nagercoil
S Srivathsan was introduced to cricket at the 40 acre Sethulakshmi Boys High School campus in Nagercoil that boasted of multiple grounds. There were no coaches and no correction to batting or bowling techniques. He made his cricketing debut in the Ratnavel Memorial Trophy playing for Kanniyakumari District. 

Becomes an Opening Bat in Tirunelveli
His father, an officer in the Income Tax Department met with transfer every 3 years and the school boy's next port of call was in Tirunelveli where he schooled at the Sankar Secondary School, one that promoted cricket in a big way even at the late 1960s. With the shortage of opening batsmen at that time (newcomers in early phase typically have a tendency to avoid the new ball), the physical director at the school asked him to register himself as an opening batsman. Characteristically, he was a patient boy and being thrown into the deep end as an opener suited his natural instincts for he displayed his patience and grit in full measure with his dogged defence. While Tamil Nadu’s Venkataraghavan’s was the first big name he heard in cricket, it was Karnataka’s two giants who were to become the young boy’s inspiration – for his off spin he looked up to EAS Prasanna and when it came to batting, GR Viswanath was and has always been his hero.

Bowling to KR Rajagopal in SS Rajan Trophy
Two of his biggest moments in the teenage life came in the early 1970s. While at the Tagore Arts College in Pondicherry (his father had been transferred yet another time), his captain handed him the new ball to bowl off spin (he has a hearty laugh looking back - the concept of off spinner Dipak Patel bowling with the new ball came only in the 1992 World Cup but this teenager had experimented it even in the 1970s). Srivathsan recorded one of his finest moments in cricket with the new ball for Pondicherry against Tirunelveli District in SS Rajan Trophy when he came up against the dashing and much feared KR Rajagopal and PK Dharmalingam. He was given the task of keeping Rajagopal quiet, mind boggling assignment. But much to his surprise, he kept him quiet for 8 overs with the new ball almost giving away nothing and he even received a few confidence boosting words of appreciation from Rajagopal. But soon Srivathsan got a taste of Rajagopal’s belligerence when he came back for his 2nd spell as he was smashed all over the ground conceding over 40 runs in his 2nd spell of 5 overs. The other big memory from that match was getting the wicket of PK Dharmalingam.

In that phase, Srivathsan was also the champion in the Single Wicket tournament organised in Pondicherry, a high point for him at that time to emerge as the top cricketer in the Union Territory. And his cricketing ambition seemed to be building up in those teenage years. 
Wheels India in the Thiruvallur League

There were plans to set up a University team at that time in Pondicherry and Srivathsan garnered hopes of playing University cricket as well. But his hopes were dashed when JIPMER pulled out of the plan 
(the medical college provide a large number of the cricketers in Pondicherry and without their presence, a team could not be formed). 

Meeting Legendary VV Kumar in Pondy
It was in that period at college that he came up against the legendary VV Kumar(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/07/cricket-tales-exclusive-with-vv-kumar.html). The Pondicherry association invited MCC to a match. When the team turned up at the ground on the morning of the match, Srivathsan was delighted to find VV Kumar and JC Patel. And for the first time, he saw the magician leggie at work. The batsmen tried to come down the pitch to meet the ball only to find it hanging in the air, dipping and then turning past them for the keeper to remove the bails. It was a delightful experience of facing the legend’s over that Srivathsan cannot forget almost 50 years later. VV Kumar vividly remembers staying in Ammu Nivasam in Pondicherry while they were there for that match. 

Playing at Chepauk
In a return gesture, the MCC invited Pondicherry cricket association to a match in Madras. And much to their surprise this match was played at Chepauk. For the first of the only two occasions in his life, Srivathsan had the privilege of walking out on to the field as a player at this great stadium and he remembers playing against the Haridas brothers in that match. 

From Cricketer to CA All India Rank Holder
That was the exciting part of his cricketing phase. But soon came a message from his parents, especially his mother that both saddened and angered him. They asked him pack off his cricket kit to a corner of their house in Mandaveli and to bid goodbye to his cricket kit and the whites as they directed him to focus on academics. He was graduating in commerce and his father asked him to take up both Cost Accountancy as well as CA “The message was clear and straight. Cricket will not feed you. There is no money in cricket. Focus on academics and settle down in a job”. It was disappointing and he felt dejected for a while but he respected his parents’ words and did not touch a cricket bat or a ball for a few years. 
Keeping cricketing thoughts aside, he focused on academics and shone. The parents’ advise paid rich dividends for secured the 11th rank nationally in his CA Final. As was the case in those days, big corporate offers came his way especially from the top companies in Bombay. And once again, his parents showcased the typical conservative middle class mindset and asked him to remain ‘local’ in Tamil Nadu and to take up whatever offer that came his way in the state. 

Pallipalayam - A 2nd coming in Cricket
He joined Seshasayee Paper Boards at their Pallipalayam plant near Erode in the mid 1970s where he remained for a decade. While he learnt the accounting processes and system at the firm, cricket came his way a second time. Salem Districts’ wicket keeper Chellamani was the Finance Head at the company. He had seen Srivathsan’s cricketing interest from the profile he had sent and asked him to join the team nets on just the second day of his stint at the company. They were impressed with his all round cricketing skills and became a regular in the company team for many years. When he started out in his teens, he was a dogged opener but with his favourite GRV making waves in the cricketing world especially after that magical knock of 97 Not Out at Chepauk against the West Indies, Srivathsan became a more ‘flamboyant’ batsman in his corporate days at Seshasayee and also remained for life a No. 4 batsman, a position in the batting order that the cricketing legend had made his own. Such was the impact GRV had on this passionate cricket fan that this amateur cricketer moved himself from an opener to a No. 4 batsman!!! 

Marker and Groundsman in the Popular Seshasayee Tourney
Cricket was active during the period of his tenure at Seshasayee and they even organised an annual 30 overs tournament bringing in teams such as the renowned SVPB from Udumalpet(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/06/svpb-udumalpet-soundararajan.html), Ramakrishna Steel and Friends XI, Coimbatore. During the days of this tournament, Srivathsan played the role of a marker and groundsman rolling the pitch, nailing the mat and drawing the creases. While he quit any hopes of development in cricket long ago, Srivathsan was delighted to play against the likes of Ranji Cricketer Peter Fernandez, NP Madhavan(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/05/np-madhavan.html) S Sukumar and PR Ramakrishnan in that tournament. Ramakrishnan remembers scoring a century against SVPB to secure the trophy for Ramakrishna Steels in 1979. SVPB opener Sukumar too has vivid memories of this popular tournament which the Udumalpet team won two years in a row. 

His association with cricket grew even bigger during his stint at Seshasayee. Seeking to increase this passionate association with cricket, he appeared for the umpiring exam and was interview by top notch Indian umpires, Mohd Ghouse and KB Ramaswamy and performed well. But just at that moment, life was to take a different turn for Srivathsan. With his daughters growing up Srivathsan felt the need for a move to Madras. 

TVS Directors' grill him
He had a rigorous interview at the TVS Group’s auto components firm Wheels India Ltd., at Padi being grilled for half hour by brothers and directors, S Ram (current Chairman) and S Viji (current Chairman of Sundaram Finance Ltd.,) and by the then Finance head SV Rajan, who was already touching 60 at that time. It was a tough interview but he did something right to get the nod from the directors. 
He had several lucrative offers coming his way but being in the finance profession, he felt it important to be part of a firm that was renowned for integrity and honesty in its business. And thus he joined Wheels India Ltd., in 1986 and continued with them till his retirement three decades later. 

CFO at 34
As life would have it, Rajan suddenly passed away just a year later. Soon after the board meeting on June 18, 1987, Director S Ram came to Srivathsan, who had a triple professional degree of Cost, CA and Company Secretary, to announce that founder TS Santhanam had nodded to his promotion as the Secretary and Finance Controller (CFO). He was only 34 years old and it was something that Srivathsan had not expected in his wildest dreams - to move up from Deputy Manager to CFO in under 18 months at Wheels India. 

A Third Comeback in Cricket
For almost close to two decades at Wheels India, given his position in the firm and with his children growing up, Srivathsan stayed away from cricket. It was only in 2004, when the TVS firms in Padi decided to play a tournament among the group companies that Srivats Ram, the then young MD of the company and a cricket enthusiast, informed Srivathsan that the company too would be playing in the tournament. It was a third time home coming for Srivathsan in cricket and he delightfully put together a corporate team along with a few other cricketing personnel in the firm. 
At Chepauk under Floodlights
For the second time in his life, he entered Chepauk this time to play the finals against Lucas TVS under the floodlights. He considers playing under the lights at Chepauk a delightful experience. Soon after, with MD Srivats leading the way, Wheels India became part of the Thiruvallur  Cricket League and very quickly the team was promoted to 1st division league after starting out in the 3rd division. Srivathsan continued to play for Wheels India in the Thiruvallur League till the time he was 57 rolling his arm over as he visualized himself as the (Erapalli) ‘Prasanna’ of Wheels India. 
Retires from cricket
Finally, just short of turning 60, he had to hang his cricketing boots for the final time when he received an email from his daughter in the US lovingly ordering him to stay away from the ‘Whites’ and to get away from the ‘teenaged cricketer’ feel that he was continuing to have. Four decades earlier, it was his mother who had put an end to his cricketing dreams and asked him to pack off his cricketing kit to focus on his education. And this time, the young 57 year Srivathsan was packed off from the biggest passion of his life by his elder daughter. 

Not to be undone, Srivathsan has had two memorable and unforgettable cricketing experiences since the time away as a ‘cricketer’. Just over a decade ago, he was sent by Wheels India on an official trip to Australia where he enjoyed the once in a life time opportunity of going around the MCG including making his way to the center wicket. And then a couple of years ago, soon after his retirement from Wheels India having served them for three decades, he made his way through the long room at Lords in the height of the English summer. 

As he came into the final phase of his corporate career, he moved back into Mylapore, a location that has been close to his heart for decades. Into his 60s, Srivathsan is now learning the Vedas. His one big regret in life has been of not being initiated into Sanskrit during the school days.

It has been a remarkable journey for this 67 year old former CFO of Wheels India. From nurturing cricketing ambitions to locking horns with VV Kumar and KR Rajagopal as a teenager, from rejecting lucrative job offers to donning the role of a marker and groundsman, from experiencing Chepauk as a cricketer to visiting the Home of Cricket, Srivathsan has had a passionate association with cricket. For the moment, he spends his lockdown days with a cricketing memorabilia, the Red Cherry from Lords that he picks up in his right hand relishing the memory from the early 1970s when the off spinner opened the bowling attack. With Srivathsan, one never knows. 

If he has Mohinder Amarnath as one of his favourites, one cannot discount him making a fourth comeback onto the cricket field. 

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice article and exiting to know about top corporate and finance people's cricketing journey

Anonymous said...

Inspiring to read the journey of Mr. Srivathsan from an aspiring cricketer to a all-India CA rank holder.

Anonymous said...

Super

Madhavan said...

Great anna very proud of you

Unknown said...

Great achievements in different phases and finally in the field of learning Vedhas. Kudos to you , Sir.

Unknown said...

Really great. Very proud to be a participant in the veda class along with you sir

Unknown said...

Very proud to say worked under Mr Srivathsan for more than two decades, a thorough gentleman and a financial vizard

Anonymous said...

Nice article! Few Ca cricketers !

Unknown said...

I am happy, that I played under his Captaincy. He was in his mid fifties but full of energy when I played with him. Thanks for that wonderfull opportunity sir.

Anonymous said...

I am happy, that I played under his Captaincy. He was in his mid fifties but full of energy when I played with him. Thanks for that wonderfull opportunity sir.

Unknown said...

Nostalgic. I was part of the last bit of his cricketing comeback and remember the visit to the Chepauk dressing room

Unknown said...

Worked under him for few years. He is a true gentleman and always supportive. Sir, thanks for all things which you had did for us.
Hari Shankar Singh

Unknown said...

Worked under him for few years. He is a true gentleman and always supportive. Sir, thanks for all things which you had did for us.
Hari Shankar Singh

Anonymous said...

Surprising to know about SRIVATHSUN’s abilities in Cricket - we are in HFG ( Heads of Finance Group) Forum, consisting of around 20 CFOs - his brother Sudarsan , also a CA, was our colleague at LGF

FRANCIS said...

Highly knowledgeable and enterprising person. Let his wishes be always cherish to his tune

Anonymous said...

Super ji, cherishing that I worked with a grt person who cannot be matched with any person I worked..

Anonymous said...

Nice article reg Mr Srivathsan

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece and I like your dabbling with Sports & Religion with effortless ease!

Rubal said...

Nice article Anna. Proud of you

Anonymous said...

Srivatsan was recruited and groomed by SVR. I went to Wheels India six months after SVR passed away, for some paper work. Looked for Srivatsan in Mr Rajan’s cabin. But it was empty. Then, someone informed him and he came to see me. I mentioned that I looked for him in the old cabin. He said “ I can’t bring myself to sit on the chair he occupied” and kept the cabin empty. I was astounded. I registered it as the hallmark of a leader - what respect he commands after he is no more on the scene.