Tuesday, September 29, 2020

K Balaji The Hindu Ranji Trophy

A Blossoming Cricket Career was cut short by Leadership Issues
The stylish southpaw topped the batting chart for TN in his debut season and scored a terrific century against Hyderabad in his second year but quit Cricket soon after
"When capability is unequally distributed, the leader has to extract the best out of the players. It just did not happen in TN cricket in the late 1970s" - K Balaji
In the mid 1950s, 16 year old S Ram, son of legendary auto man TS Santhanam, who had played for the South Zone Schools had to make the choice between pursuing serious cricket and academics. He chose academics and let go of cricket. Two decades later, a youngster from another renowned traditional family business, made his debut for TN in the Gopalan Trophy aged 19 but let go of cricket for two years to pursue his Masters. He came back to score runs aplenty in Ranji Trophy cricket in his first two seasons prompting the Great GRV to extol lavish praise of his batting style in the process touting him as a solid long term middle order prospect for TN in the 1980s. And yet, he felt his upbringing did not permit him to continue in the team environment that existed then, one that did not contribute to either the development of cricket or the personality. He quit cricket at 24 after having played just a dozen matches for the State and pursued a career in the corporate world. Here is the story.

Picks up the bat Left Handed 
K Balaji, son of legendary G Kasturi (Editor of The Hindu for 25 years from 1965), began playing serious cricket aged 13, though he was forced to make one 'surprise' appearance for Jolly Rovers when he was just 10years old. His uncle Rangarajan was running the Jolly Rovers team at that time and much against the wishes of his cousin Kasturi, picked his son for the leage match at the Vivekananda College ground. While he did not get to bat in the match, Balaji took a skier at point, an early indication of his cricketing talent.

It was a couple of years after this match that Balaji began his serious focus on cricket that lasted just over a decade. His coach KS Kannan at Don Bosco asked him to open the bowling, even though Balaji wanted to be an off spinner. Much to his surprise and the coach’s delight, he began taking wickets (Former India Wicket Keeper Bharath Reddy who played for MCC School remembers Balaji taking 9 wickets with the new ball). 
When he picked the cricket bat for the first time, he faced left handed (probably against the leg spin of his younger brother, K Venugopal, former Editor of The Hindu Business Line) even though he was a right hander in all other sports – Tennis, Shuttle and TT. Wickets with the new ball earned him a place in the city and state schools team. Balaji and Venugopal played together, first at school and later at Loyola College. During the four years at school, Balaji shone more with the ball than the bat. Despite his fine performances in cricket, academics remained at the forefront throughout his schooling and he was consistently among the toppers in his class (While Venugopal cherished being a leggie, he did not pursue cricket as seriously as Balaji and went to the US for his Masters giving up cricket soon after college). 
Balaji sitting next to his first coach. Also seen in the pic is K Venugopal

The Musical Interest 
As a teenager, Balaji also learnt Violin for a brief period from legendary TN Krishnan though he found it difficult to straddle between Cricket, Academics and Violin. It was that initiation by the music legend that kindled Balaji’s interest in music that has stayed to this day. 

Tamil Nadu’s Hat Trick man B Kalyanasundaram who was at the fag end of his career when Balaji made his Ranji debut and who counts him as one of his closest friends in life is grateful to Balaji for infusing the musical interest in him “He was a good violinist and was the one who created the music interest in me. He would often call me to a musical ‘Sath Sangam’ and share with me the wide range of recordings he had in his possession. If I am still listening to carnatic music at this age, it was because of those musical days spent with Balaji.”
              
Radio Cricket Commentary at 15!!! 
While the Violin initiation generated his musical interest, an unforeseen ‘cricket’ opportunity came his way in 1971. All India Radio Madras had launched quite a unique programme called the ‘Youth Commentators” in an endeavour to develop cricket commentators. IOB cricketer ‘Ram’ Ramesh suggested to them the name of Balaji as a prospective commentator. Just like his batting fluency, Balaji was fluent in the English language as well, for he conversed a lot of the time in English with his classmates at Don Bosco. Balaji recalls the audition that he did at the AIR studio “I was petrified to be locked inside a studio. The producer asked me to imagine a cricket match and commentate for about 3-4 minutes. Obviously they found something right in those few minutes for they asked me to do the commentary of the next match that came up at Chepauk.” (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/04/cricket-tales-12-memorable-cricket.html)

And thus, much before his cricketing debut for the state (which too he was to make in a Gopalan Trophy match), this teenager sat alongside the renowned Ramamurthy, with his unique voice, RT Parthasarathy and NK Murugesh to present English commentary on the state cricketers with whom he was to play later in the decade debuting his commentary(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/04/memorable-cricket-matches-on-radio-1985.html) stint with the Gopalan Trophy match between Madras and Ceylon in January 1971. Balaji was paid a princely amount of Rs. 30 per day as the fee for his commentary. Impressed with his commentary, AIR continued his services for the Ranji Trophy matches as well over the next couple of years before commentators such as Ramamurthy began commentating on their ‘colleague turned cricketer’ when Balaji began playing for TN. 

In the pre Television days, Radio Commentary of state matches had a huge audience and Balaji counts that as one of the most enjoyable experiences of his teenage life.

Shoulder Injury – New Ball bowler to a full-fledged batsman 
Injury to his shoulder in the first year at Loyola College forced him to give up bowling completely (medical solutions to cricketing injuries were not available those days – Swing bowler S Ram too damaged his shoulder and he too never felt the same again in terms of bowling fast) and he become a full fledged batsman, something he considers a ‘blessing in disguise’. By the time he was into the 2nd year at college (B.Com), his batting had blossomed and he began to make some big runs that made the selectors sit up and take notice of this young talent. 

While he continued to play serious cricket for the college, the strong focus on academics continued and he was keen to pursue a Master’s Degree. In the final year of his graduation, when he also captained the Loyola College team, the Rohinton Baria Tournament clashed with the CAT exam (IIM –A) which meant that he did not have the time to prepare for his examination. After playing the first match at Mysore, Balaji took a bus to reach Madras the next morning to write the entrance examination. With Madras University winning the second match, he made the trip back to Mysore to play the third match!!! 
He was in terrific form for the Madras University that year and his two centuries including one in the Semi Finals against a strong Bombay team (that included Vengsarkar and Sandeep Patil) earned a State call for the 19 year old against Ceylon for the Gopalan Trophy match at Salem in February 1975 (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/09/michael-dalvi-gopalan-trophy-salem.html), one known for the scintillating century by Michael Dalvi (Dalvi scored a century in both of Balaji’s debut!!!! as a commentator 4 years earlier and this match as a player). Balaji made a good start scoring 34 in the only innings he played. However, events of the morning of his debut gave an early insight into the leadership in the team that left a bad taste in him on the first day (more on this later in the story) and it was the reason that led him to quit serious cricket, 5 years later.

Masters - Away from Cricket for 2Years
A few months after his debut for TN and even though a Ranji debut was just a step away, Balaji much like S Ram of the TVS(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/06/tvs-ram-s-cricketer.html), kept cricket aside and went to Bombay for his Masters with an eye on his professional career. The Masters Programme was so intense that during the two years of the course, he did not touch the bat. 
City Schools Team - 1970 ( Photo Source: Rocko Sundar - IOB)

A dream debut season in Ranji Trophy
He came back to Madras in the summer of 1977 after the completion of Masters and joined The Hindu in Circulation. He was roped in by Bharath Reddy to play for MCC in the first division league. Such was his natural talent that despite being completely away from cricket for two years, he hit top form straightaway. Within six months of his comeback into competitive cricket, Balaji was in the state reckoning again, this time in the TN Ranji squad for the 1977-78 season. And it turned out to be a dream season. 

Though there were established batsmen in the team - TE Srinivasan, V Sivaramakrishnan and Abdul Jabbar, among others - Balaji topped the batting charts for TN in his debut season scoring 225 runs, quite a significant achievement. The two best knocks came against Karnataka when he top scored in both innings, though TN lost that match. In his first season, Balaji contributed in every match. It was a season when S Venkataraghavan was away in Australia and he flourished under the captaincy of P Mukund. As seen later in this story, the absence of the ‘Legend’ Venkat proved to be a blessing in disguise for Balaji, and he had his best year in cricket. He counts that year as one when he played with a lot of freedom and was able to express himself with the bat.

A Century after a Jaundice Strike
At the beginning of the next season, Balaji fell ill with Jaundice and missed the first three matches. He had not played any cricket in the preceding months when he was called up for the final league match of the Ranji Trophy against Hyderabad in January 1979. On a challenging wicket, TN was toppling against the likes of Abid Ali and V Ramnarayanan chasing Hyderabad’s 218 and had lost 4 wickets at the top of the order. It was then that Abdul Jabbar joined Balaji to forge a winning partnership. Balaji’s delightful century helped TN gain the first innings lead in the final match of the season. 
40 years later, Abdul Jabbar, who was the backbone of the TN middle order in the 1970s and early 80s, looks back at Balaji’s century with delight “I still remember that knock of Balaji. It was a Superb Century. I enjoyed his graceful strokes from the other end. On his day, he made batting look so easy. His batting was all elegance with superb timing in his strokes mainly on the offside, both on the front foot as well as off the back foot. It was always a treat to watch him bat. I made some 70 odd runs but it was Balaji’s batting display which dominated our innings that day against Hyderabad.” 

A month later he fell to the guiles of Bishen Singh Bedi in both the innings in the knock out match against Delhi on a slow wicket where it was difficult to play strokes, a match that TN lost. 

A premature end to his cricket career 
Later that year and within 12months of scoring that gritty century against Hyderabad, Balaji came up once again against the same team in what turned out to be his last Ranji match. It was a horrible season for TN and Balaji (and the team) experienced Venkataraghavan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/04/venkataraghavan75.html) at his worst. Venkat had had a terrible captaincy stint for India in the summer of 1979 fairing badly in the World Cup where they lost even to Sri Lanka that had not yet gained the Test status and losing the Test Series to England, with Venkat drawing the curtains on Bharath Reddy going for the kill in the last test match. After being stripped of the captaincy, he was dropped half way into the home series against Australia in Sept/Oct of that year just ahead of the Ranji season. The experience there seemed to have made Venkat even bitter than before and the TN team felt the aftermaths of it as the state went from bad to worse. 
Balaji recalls the earlier match in the season against Karnataka in particular, a match that this writer distinctly remembers listening to AIR’s Kannada commentary in full
(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/04/domesticindia-cricket-matches-1979-1983.html) in Dec 1979 one in which he had played a reasonably good knock though he did not carry on to a big score “Roger Binny’s century left Venkat (he had dropped Binny early in his innings and that added to his anger) fuming.  With every run that Binny added, Venkat’s anger became uncontrollable and it was difficult to handle. Binny’s century and Saad Bin Jung’s century later that month meant we did not qualify for the knock outs. His inability to get crucial wickets in that match in Bangalore and then his personal failure once again in the important first innings against Hyderabad left him red faced and the players had to face the music.”

The Hindu's Cricket Correspondent PV Vaidyanathan writing at that time said "In bowling, TN suffered because of Venkatataraghavan's tendency to get away from the firing line at a time when he was needed most. The attitude of the TN captain was rather strange."

A TN Batsman for the 1980s - GR Vishwanath
Leg Spinner VV Kumar remembers his State Bank teammate the artistic GR Vishwanath telling him after watching him bat in that match “This left hander Balaji is a delight to watch. He has such fluency in his strokes. He is likely to go a long way for Tamil Nadu in the 1980s.” 

Little would GRV have known that this was to be one of the last matches of Balaji for the State.
                                       
VV Kumar says that after such lavish praise from a legendary batsman, you knew what a talent Balaji was "In that phase, going into the 1980s, there was a place for a middle order batsman like Balaji in the TN team and he had the advantage of being a left hander. He had it in him to be a long term middle order bat for the State. But his career ended much sooner than it should have."

Early 1979, Balaji was as buoyant as any youngster could be after his stunning century against Hyderabad. He was looking ahead to the season on the back of two very successful years in Ranji Trophy cricket. His confidence was high and he was on a roll. Clearly, a long career beckoned. But the events of the year led him to quit cricket at the beginning of 1980. The season of 1979-80 left Balaji disgruntled with the way the team was being led and he made his voice known. Three senior cricketers – VV Kumar, B Kalyanasundaram and V Krishnaswamy who played through a major part of the 1970s  retired by the end of the decade and TN was in the process of building a young team.

A Meeting with the Chairman of Selectors
While the entire team from the 1970s and 80s discussed behind closed doors the leadership of Venkat and his abusive conduct, Balaji, who right from his childhood was a forthright personality, was the one who boldly raised the issue with his former captain P Mukund.

Bharath Reddy, as the senior member of that team and with international experience, was the one who anchored a meeting that season with the then Chairman of Selectors Balu Alaganan. Balaji and Mukund too were part of that meeting. Bharath Reddy remembers that meeting “Venkat was becoming really abusive. There were new youngsters coming into the team, most of them in their 20s and we were looking to build a team for the 80s but the atmosphere was not conducive for good cricket to be played. He was becoming too hot to handle and it was impacting the performance of the TN players. We wanted the Chairman of Selectors to address this issue in the larger interest of the state and its performance. It was a genuine attempt by us to try and get Venkat to be a motivational leader.”
Bharath Reddy(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2019/11/bharath-reddy-players-man.html) recalls as to how this well intended 'good for TN cricket' meeting backfired on them “Instead of addressing the real issue, the ‘spineless’ Balu Alaganan leaked the info to Venkat and positioned it as three players revolting against him and this infuriated Venkat even more. In the next match, Venkat openly abused the three of us for raising our voices against him. It was a period when Venkat abused his own players, the opposition and even the Umpires. No one was spared. The fact that Venkat was bitter with life did not help TN players in that phase.”

Bharath Reddy says that in all the interactions he had with AG Satwendar Singh, AG Milkha Singh and PK Belliappa in those years, he pointed to them that their putting up with Venkat in the initial years of his captaincy led him to take a dominating position in the team with almost no player being able to come close to him during his playing days. The TN players from those early years shoudl have taken corrective steps in the larger interest of the team. But they did not and he remained unapproachable and the youngsters who came into the TN team without exception feared talking to him. 

Brijesh Patel's Mentorship at SVPB
Another Stylish batsman NP Madhavan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/05/np-madhavan.html), who played for TN between 1980 and 86 under the captaincy of Venkataraghavan, points out the huge positive impact that the three year leadershp of Brijesh Patel’s at SVPB/Globe Trotters(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/06/svpb-udumalpet-soundararajan.html) made to the players and the success of the team “UR Radhakrishnan, VB Chandrasekar and Robin Singh were all at the start of their careers when they joined SVPB and Peter (Fernandez), Sukumar and myself were the senior members in the team. Brijesh’s presence as a captain was transformational. He would talk to each one of us personally about our strengths and weaknesses and how we could improve our performance as a team. It was his inspirational leadership that helped in getting the best out of the players. Each one of us went into each match with a motivated feeling and that helped us win many tournaments in that phase. You could also see the impact he made on Karnataka cricket that decade in the way the players jelled together as a team.”
Living in Fear of being Shouted at
Contrasted with that friendly and motivational approach, Madhavan found that no member of the TN state team could go near Venkat and there was always the fear that they would be ‘shouted’ at. But almost everyone in that period from the early 1970s remained largely silent and no one raised the issue with Venkat. 
Too Moody for Team's Good
Bharath Reddy, probably the most vocal member of the team in the 1970s and early 80s, says that while he shared the room with Venkat on many occasions, he too feared that ‘Venkat’s fuse would blow’ if he touched the sensitive topic about the fear that existed in the team members and hence he never had the ‘guts’ to tell him anything ‘He was so moody that no one knew when he would blow up. It completely shook the morale of the team in that phase.’

Players left to fend for themselves
It was really this frustration that led Balaji to quit cricket at 24 and he never played for the state again for he moved into his corporate role at The Hindu. Balaji found no leadership in the team. Not once in his stint with TN did he have a one on one interaction with Venkat nor was a single team meeting held in that period. Every player was left to fend for himself. He was simply not a positive influence on the players, especially those who came in new. While Venkat may have been a legendary spinner, Balaji looks back at that period of cricket as shattering the confidence of young and upcoming cricketers “For a man, who was seen as a cricketing legend, there was not a single proactive piece of advice he passed on to youngsters. There was zero communication from the top. He expected everyone to be like him. There was very little mentoring and no efforts towards team development.”

Balaji recalls the morning of his Gopalan Trophy match in 1975 as an example of how damaging Venkat was to the morale of a newcomer “When I was handed my debut in the Gopalan Trophy in Salem as a 19 year old, all he said was ‘you will bat at No 5’. There was not a word spoken to me during that entire match. As a teenager, I was shocked that such a legendary player would not wish a debutant with a smile. There was not even a ‘Congrats’ message. I just found it ridiculous. You simply don’t do that to anyone in any walk of life.”
Ranji Trophy Winning Captain S Vasudevan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/10/s-vasudevan-tn-ranji-winning-captain.html), who played with Balaji from the University days, too made his TN debut in that match. He remembers Balaji’s batting the period in the 1970s “Balaji was a very stylish batsman. Had he continued to be available for the State, he would have probably gone on to greater heights but he chose a different career.”

Decision to Quit Cricket in 1980 
The assumption that everyone is as capable or talented or able as him (the leader of the pack) is a completely faulty one, says Balaji. Youngsters always look up to legends such as him for motivational words and encouragement. But he was completely de-motivating “There was not even one word about my batting in the two years, no analysis and no corrective steps. We were just not taken under his wings. Of course, he had great qualities as a cricketer. But when it came to captaincy, he simply did not measure up for he did not 'deal' with people and that is such an important role for leadership.” 

“It was not me alone. Everyone in the team felt the same way. We used to despair among ourselves but there was no option. With zero communication, how could you run a team. If you are constantly running down people, how will they be motivated to play. Most of them did not want to sacrifice their career and put up in silence and continued to play. The atmosphere was so bad and I found there was no point in continuing.”

If you are the captain of the ship, it is your job to keep it afloat and develop a match winning side. Clearly there was a leadership failure in TN throughout that period. Balaji counts his appa’s message as very comforting in that phase “My father had a very balanced approach to life. He did not praise too much when you performed well and did not pull you down when you did not score.” 

With the talent that the team possessed in the 1970s, the team should have done better “We had a collection of gifted individuals through that decade but as you could see, the overall outcome was simply not good. If capability is unequally distributed, then the leader has to extract the best out of the players. It is not a mechanical process.” 
From Cricket to The Hindu
For a decade, from 1990, he went away from The Hindu and played the role of a consultant in the media industry. At the turn of the century, he rejoined The Hindu and anchored a number of technological initiatives in the group. Earlier this decade, he was the Managing Director of The Hindu for a few years before retiring in 2017, It has been his long standing view that old people should make way for the new gen. Since then he has been on the committee of VHS and the Palkhiwala Foundation and on the Board of Cognizant Foundation. Over the last two decades, Balaji has also spent time visiting the 108 Divya Desams (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/08/ezhuthurai-nathar-temple-innambur.html) and has completed over a 100 of them. He is hoping to complete the balance sometime in the future when the COVID scenario improves. He has also been supporting ancient and remote temples in the state.

Given the fine start he had to his Ranji career, Balaji was well poised to climb the cricketing ladder and should have figured in the TN squad of the 1980s but he chose family business over cricket and became the only cricketer of the era to quit state cricket as early as he did at 24, after fighting in vain to improve the cricketing system. In Cricket, the responsibility to have a Wholistic Picture is of the Selection Committee’s and the Captain’s. That was the reason he chose to go to the Chairman of the Selection Committee but it proved a futile exercise for no one in the TN cricketing system then was strong enough to take on Venkat. The feeling in him that things would not change was so strong that he decided to give up despite the form and the future beckoning in cricket.

For all the disappointments around cricket, it did teach him a big lesson - In a team game, one individual alone is not important. The role of team sport in building individual personalities and overall development is often not driven home. He counts those cricketing years as having provided him with a great learning experience for life. And the Greatest Leadership Lesson came from his Cricket Captain that of ‘How Not to be”.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Michael Dalvi Gopalan Trophy Salem

A Century that inspired a Salem School Boy 
                              
In February 1975, it was Tamil Nadu's turn to host the annual Prestigious Gopalan Trophy match against Ceylon. That year the match was played in Salem. S Vasudevan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/06/vasudevan-tn-ranji-trophy-retirement.html), who went on to captain TN to a Ranji Trophy Triumph over a dozen years later and The Hindu's K Balaji made their state debut in this match. An enthusiastic 12year old school boy TV Jayaraman was excited to watch top class cricketers competing against each other. 

Ceylon was still a few years away from gaining test status (this match was played just ahead of the Inaugural World Cup and many of these players were to play in inaugural edition) but it was a very strong team comprising of Duleep Mendis, Roy Dias (later he was to play two exciting knocks in the one off test at Chepauk in 1982- his 2nd innings knock would still rank as one of the best test knocks seen at Chepauk), Anura Ranasinghe (he was an aggressive batsman who went to South Africa on a rebel tour and was banned from Test Cricket) and Siddath Wettimuny. And they came up against the likes of TN's hat trick man B Kalyanasundaram ( who had taken a famouse hat trick against Bombay just a couple of years earlier) - https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2011/08/kalli-b-kalyanasundaram.html - and V Krishnaswamy, who opened through that decade for TN (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/08/krishnaswamy-v.html) and is now the Treasurer of the ICA ( Indian Cricketers Association).

The Ramakrishna Sarada Vidyalaya school boy sat through all three days of the match that proved to be a life defining moment for him. He watched in awe Venkataraghavan’s extra ordinary spell on the opening day as his 7wicket haul helped bowl out Ceylon for a paltry 150 odd. Interestingly both the debutants performed creditably that match - Vasudevan picking up 5 wickets in the match and Balaji notching up a score in the 30s.
But it was one of the all time great knocks by a TN bat on day 2 that inspired the young boy to take to sport. Earlier this decade, almost 40years later, he was still a very active sportsman at the Mylapore Club and an inspiration for many budding sporting talent at the club. 

In the dozen years of his life till then, Jayaraman had not seen such a blistering batting display and the innings immediately transformed him and took him into the sporting world. And he was to be involved in active sport for the next 40 years till his untimely death a few years ago.

Michael Dalvi was up against a good fast bowler in Dennis Chanmugam and the spin twins of Lalith Kaluperuma and D’Silva (both of whom played test cricket for Sri Lanka) on a challenging wicket. In a brilliant counter attacking display, Dalvi smashed 179 and was involved in a big partnership with the stylish TE Srinivasan, who five years later went on to play for India. It was to remain his highest ever score in first class cricket. It left the Lankans stunned but the knock had created a new sportsman. 

Dalvi's Knocks inpires the school boy
The three days had changed his life. In a chat with this writer in 2015, Jayarman, then 52, said that Dalvi's scintillating innings inspired him to take to cricket 'I went back after the match and took to cricket seriously captaining the school team in Salem for three years."

He decided to head to Madras for his graduation and joined Guru Nanak College on the basis of his cricket certificates. However, a strong college team that had that decade included S Madhavan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/11/rbi-madhavan-leg-spinner.html), NP Madhavan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/05/np-madhavan.html) and Ravi Mishra meant he could not break through into the college cricket team.

Represents University Team in TT
He remembers those years from his college days "When I could not make it to the college cricket team, the innings of Dalvi flashed through my mind. I wanted to be a sportsman and changed sport. I took to Table Tennis."

Within a year he was in the college Table Tennis team and represented the University. Very soon he added Badminton to his sporting repertoire, one that continued into his 50s.

An inspiration at the Mylapore Club 
Almost 40 years after this Gopalan Trophy match, he was part of the Mylapore Club TT team that bagged the runners up trophy in the 1st inter club TT tourney organised by Madras Gymkhana Club. He also reached the finals of a doubles shuttle tournament organised by MRC. Aged 52, he sent a diving winner at the shuttle court drawing big applause from everyone notwithstanding the fact that he violated the Mylapore Club rule of ‘Don’t dive on the shuttle court' ( may be he remembered a dive of Michael Dalvi from that match in Salem and wanted to recreate that in the Shuttle Court). 

No wonder, Jayaraman was an inspiration to most of the Mylapore Club sportsmen and women, especially the youngsters. And for that, he, forever, thanked Michael Dalvi for inspiring him to take to sport.

(When this writer was the Editor of the Mylapore Club Magazine, Jayaraman contributed to stories on dharmic way of life handing out messages to children on the way to live life. He was brilliant at throwing up 'Puzzling' questions and did that all the time at the shuttle court and at weddings and family functions. Unfortunately, a sudden heart attack took away the life of Jayaraman in a flash a few years ago) 

A version of this story featured in the Mylapore Club Magazine in 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Venkatesan S Sundaram Finance

Struck with Polio at the age of three, he encountered multiple challenges through his childhood days and teenage years but overcame the adversities with grit and determination displaying extraordinary confidence in discharging his duty and rose to the post of CFO and Company Secretary of Sundaram Finance

“SELECT HIM” wrote TS Santhanam on his job application form even without looking at him in 1971 
Polio struck him when he was just three years old. He studied in a Tamizh Medium School in Madras int he late 1950s and early 60s. His disciplinarian father was hospitalized for two years incuding during the PUC Examination days. Into his 20s, his amma was not keen on him taking up a job outside of Madras and had to give up on outstation offers that came his way. Up against all odds, this man showcased to the world that with commitment and determination, one could overcome any challenge and succeed in life. The man from Mannargudi went on to become one of the trusted members of India’s Auto Legend. Here’s the story. 

A Chequered Childhood -Missing the Sports Activities
S Venkatesan hailed from the historical town of Mannargudi, home to the beautiful Rajagopalaswamy temple (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/05/mannargudi-rajagopalaswamy-temple.html). His father D Srinivasan lost his father (G Duraiswamy) early when he was just 7 years old. Seeking greener pastures in the city, he moved to Madras with his family in the 1950s.

Given the physical challenges, Venkatesan was completely disconnected from any sport and hardly played a game during his schooling days. Wesley school boasted one of the biggest grounds in the city but throughout that decade, he could only watch his mates from the ‘sidelines’. Not to let negativity to set into his mind, his amma, Jayalakshmi, who lovingly called him ‘Durai’, initiated him into Sanskrit and Hindi (he passed Visharath) classes so as to keep her young son’s mind occupied. Alongside, he also completed higher in typewriting and short hand. He also learnt to play Chess at home.

During that phase, his appa, a Sanskrit and Tamizh scholar who worked at LR Swamy would take him on the weekends to Divya Desams and explain the legend of each of the temples singing the verse of the Azhvaars and inculcated in him the Dharmic way of life as detailed in the scriptures. Those trips created an early devotion in Venkatesan that has continued well into his 70s. 

Throughout his formative years, his amma continuously initiated him with the values of life and told him never to waver from the Dharmic Path. That was ingrained into him all through his childhood. She was a strong willed and positive woman and believed that physical handicaps could not halt the progress of a human being. 
First Day at College  
After having spent over a decade in Tamizh medium school, Venkatesan joined PUC at the Vivekananda College. His first day at the college left him a bit down. The tiny Venkatesan found his fellow students conversing in fluent English. His amma, now aged 92 and residing with Venkatesan’s sister in Nanganallur, was and has remained his greatest strength and inspiration in life. In times when he has been down, it was she who instilled the confidence in him that he could match up to anyone in academics and that there was nothing to fear in life. It was the same message that TS Santhanam was to give in his first meeting at Sundaram Motors.

PUC preparation at the Hospital
Just over a decade after Polio struck him, Venkatesan faced his next big challenge in life. His appa met with a serious accident and was hospitalized for a long period during his SSLC and PUC. 16 year old Venkatesan prepared for the entire PUC examinations studying under the lights at the hospital sitting beside his appa. With the financial challenges at home, he sought permission from his appa to discontinue his education to find a job that would provide some financial impetus to the family. But his appa was keen that Venkatesan pursue his academics and fought his way back from the hospital and into his job at LR Swamy. Venkatesan recalls those days from the 1960s “My father was a strict disciplinarian and always wanted me to give my best in academics. He was keen to do everything to help me further my studies. It was his motivation that helped me focus on academics. ” 

After having passed Class X with distinction, Venkatesan secured the highest grades in Physics and Chemistry in PUC that led the Principal to offer him B.Sc instead of the ‘Premium’ and ‘In demand’ B.Com. But he was keen on doing B.Com. He was probably destined to be a trusted lieutenant of a legendary automan. Impressed with the confidence level of the boy, the principal told him that he was likely to do well in life and handed him the B.Com seat.

Despite all the setbacks in life, a differentiating feature of Venkatesan's life was his confidence he exhibited in everything he did. If it were not for the self confidence, his life may have turned out very differently given the challenges he faced early on in his life.

Rank Holder in B.Com and CA 
Once his appa was discharged from hospital, the family shifted to Alwarpet Street from Royapettah to facilitate his appa’s travel to LR Swamy. For Venkatesan, there were no sporting activities at college too and he spent a large part of his free time reading books. Professor PA Hariharan, a gigantic personality and one with a MA in 18 disciplines, provided the literary inspiration with his presentations in English.

Three years on, Venkatesan graduated among the top five rank holders of the college in B. Com. Soon after graduating, he once again asked his father if he could get into a job but his appa despite his ill health pushed Venkatesan to pursue a professional course. CA was at a premium in those years and one had to pay a fee to be taken in as an apprentice in a reputed audit firm. Being a rank holder, CS Hariharan, CA, offered him a ‘free’ apprenticeship. Continuing his outstanding performance in academics, he cleared CA in three straight years, securing a top rank in both Inter and Final. 
Offers poured in from several companies including from those in Bombay. However his amma, with whom he has been closely attached all his life, was insistent that he not leave Madras and thus he rejected all the outstation offers that came his way. It was then that he heard about an opening in the TVS Group. One who had come back home in tears after day one of his college now drafted a letter in English that was to prove transformational (he came to know about this only at the end of the first year). 

The Best Moment of his Life - 'SELECT HIM' says TS Santhanam
Following a job application letter to the ‘TVS & Sons’ that he sent by post, he was called in for an interview at Sundaram Motors. He went through five grueling rounds. He had almost lost hope when he was called  a sixth time. A Rangaswamy, who passed away recently, welcomed him with a smile and led him into the room of someone with whom he was to have a close association for over 25 years. Legendary TS Santhanam handed him the appointment letter in November 1971 with the remark that Venkatesan vividly remembers almost 50 years later “This is not recruitment for the army. Always Do your duty. Do your job without fear or favour.” He thus joined Sundaram Motors as an accounts assistant in the first week of December 1971 at a salary of Rs. 600. 

It was at the end of the first year at Sundaram Motors when his appointment came for confirmation that he found a revealing truth that he considers as the Best Moment of his life. When the Union Leader Chelliah held up his hand written application form (of the previous year) that he had to clear for Venkatesan’s confirmation of job at Sundaram Motors, Venkatesan found on the back of the application a signed remark from Santhanam that pre dated all his interviews “SELECT HIM”. Based on the content of the application letter and the confident tone of the letter, Santhanam had spotted the potential in the man even without meeting him. The subsequent interviews were probably a test to see if this youngster would withstand the pressure of a corporate environment. 

An Unfulfilled Dream - working in a manufacturing firm
During his 6 ½ year stint at Sundaram Motors (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/09/r-chandrasekaran-sbi-globe-trotter.html), he also completed ICWA, a course that included a difficult paper on Engineering Maths. It was a favourite of his. It was a long felt dream of Venkatesan to work in a manufacturing arm of the TVS (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/06/tvs-ram-s-cricketer.html) for a period so he could put the learning of the Costing Degree to full use but that dream remained unfulfilled till the end. 

The move to Sundaram Finance
When Sundaram Finance was looking for a person to take care of Internal Audit, Venkatesan’s name was shortlisted. His mentor and the chief at Sundaram Motors, M Krishnamurthy was a bit reluctant to let go of Venkatesan for he had served the company well in the 6 1/2 years of his service. Just like the Principal at Vivekananda College, Krishnamurthy too  had developed a special liking for Venkatesan in the disciplined and methodical way he worked and was of the view that this man would go far in life.

He joined Sundaram Finance in 1977 and worked  closely with TN Padmanabhan, a former IRS officer and a renowned expert on Taxation. By 1981, Venkatesan had also completed ACS, the third of his professional qualifications. Those initial years were intellectually stimulating, for Padmanabhan always looked up to Venkatesan for insightful answers to challenging and complex points in Tax and Company Law. He enjoyed working under Padmanabhan just as he had under Krishnamurthy. 

Working with ‘The Super Computer’ 
In the years that he worked with Padmanabhan, Venkatesan was always referred to as the 'Walking Encyclopedia'. And then one day Padmanabhan took him to Santhanam. In the 6 ½ years at Sundaram Motors, Venkatesan had not met with Santhanam after receiving the appointment letter from him in 1971. From the early 1980s, he became part of everyday interactions with Santhanam. Considering that he woke up a bit late, Santhanam, the fine gentleman that he was, made his first call of the day to Venkatesan much after 6am after he had finished with three others!! 
Venkatesan recalls the early years of his morning calls and meetings with Santhanam “He spoke without paper, had a great memory and would remember every aspect of all the earlier conversations that the two had had. One had to be 100% accurate. He was a Super Computer.” 

One of the most challenging tasks and enjoyable engagements in the early phase of his career was the presentation of a comparative analysis of Balance Sheets of industry players. Over time, when industry pundits tried to find out the secret sauce of the company from Venkatesan, he gave them an explanation relating to the temples “This story is like that of the Tirupathi Laddu or the Thiruvallikeni Parthasarathy’s Chakkarai Pongal (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/07/thiruvallikeni-prabhandham-ghosti.html). Even if you give all the ingredients, the output was likely to be below par.” 

Handling the ever changing regulations were among the things that he liked the most. While regulations were tightened over the decades, new ones never surprised him for he felt that the company was always ahead of time “It was like a terrific student anticipating the toughest of questions in the examination.” 

Rama Rajya - A Divine Personality
Very early into their professional engagement at Sundaram Finance, Santhanam began placing the Financial Times, the renowned international business daily on Venkatesan’s desk. Venkatesan made specific allocation of time in the day to read this paper, for Santhanam, a voracious reader, would pick up points from the paper for discussion the next day. While that was on the business front, Santhanam also handed out various dharmic books to Venkatesan that instilled in him the Dharmic way of running a finance business. One morning, he handed the Adyathma Ramayana book which Venkatesan treasures to this day. During the period of the lockdown, decades after receiving the book, another reading opened his eyes to a lot on how Santhanam worked in office based on the principles of Rama Rajya “He was a Divine Personality.” 
While Venkatesan excelled in academics right through with distinction in Class X, D+ in PUC and ranks in B.Com and CA, he says that the real learning was under Santhanam “It was here that I received my P. hd. Every single day, I would be put to a new test and I had to come through each one of them with 100% accuracy. I learnt my real accounting and finance lessons under his mentorship,” 

Appa dies early, additional responsibilities at Home 
When Venkatesan’s appa, who worked for 22 years after his major accident, died in the mid 1980s at the age of 59, it was a big personal loss. Family responsibilities increased manifold. In the years that followed, it was Venkatesan who took care of the family responsibilities and supported his sisters and performed the wedding of his brother and sister.
Allround Knowledge - What is the Price of Idly? 
One day, Santhanam came to the desk of Venkatesan and took him by surprise by asking the price of an idly at Udupi Hotel. When he expressed ignorance of the pricing at restaurants, Santhanam shot back 'you have to be aware of all things around you’. Only later did Venkatesan realize that Santhanam was planning to introduce food subsidy in the company and hence the query. 

Santhanam gives him a ‘new lease of life’ 
Venkatesan was also touched by Santhanam's personal care “He treated me as his own family member. He always gave the feeling that he ‘cared for you and your well being”. Into his 90s and when he was not in the best of health, Santhanam heard that Venkatesan had been hospitalized. Venkatesan had to undergo a bypass surgery at the turn of the century. After he was discharged, the doctor at the hospital told Venkatesan that he had been directed to give two health bulletins each day to Santhanam and that he had wanted personalized care and attention to be handed to him at the hospital. When he regained consciousness for the first time after the bypass surgery, he saw GK Raman and TT Srinivasaraghavan (MD and Dy. MD at that time) in front of him – TTS greeting him with a ‘re-bored engine’ and GKR cheering him up in his typically towering tone. Venkatesan says that Santhanam gave him a ‘new lease of life’. 
Venkatesan say that Santhanam accepted him ‘as I am’ and brought out the best in him “I had not had such a strong bonding even with my appa. He showered fatherly love on me and creating a bonded for me with the firm for forever. And for all this, he had sowed the seed without even seeing me way back in 1971.” 

Venkatesan retired in 2011 from Sundaram Finance after almost 35 years with the firm having served as the CFO and Company Secretary.

Retired Life listening to Velukkudi Krishnan
As the 72 year old Venkatesan sits in his second floor flat on Dhandapani Street in T Nagar reading and listening to the stories on ancient temples and to the Upanyasams of Velukkudi Krishnan, his mind goes back to the school days when his appa instilled that early devotion in him. Venkatesan’s amma is hard of hearing these days but every day of the year, she calls her adorable ‘Durai’ and gives out dharmic messages on how he should live the rest of this live. 

For Venkatesan, life has been full of challenges right from the age of three. From physical handicap to overcoming an inferiority complex, from missing the games during his childhood to spending very little time with his family during his corporate life, from losing his father and brother early to getting used to the English language in the city, he has had to encounter tough times in different phases of his life that could so easily have shattered him and pulled him down the barrel. But devotion to God, the unflinching support from his amma and the extraordinary confidence and self belief with which he discharged his duty were reasons for him to grow to the top of the chart in Sundaram Finance where he rose from the position of an internal auditor to don the twin role of the CFO and Company Secretary. 

But to him, earning the confidence of the legendary TS Santhanam who reposed the trust in him for 25years is the single achievement that he cherishes most to this day.

Friday, September 11, 2020

R Chandrasekaran SBI Globe Trotter

A first class cricketer, Umpire, Match Referee, Treasurer, Selector, Manager, Owner of multiple TNCA league teams, Committee Member and a ‘Globe Trotter’ 

India Captain Nari Contractor saw him as a good and long term prospect for TN but Politics of the time ensured that he did not play more than one Ranji Match for Madras despite one of the best bowling records in league cricket in the first half of the 1960s

“Ridiculous of the TN Selectors to not consider him for the State” – SBI and TN team mate VV Kumar 

In 1963-64, a 27 year old staffer at SBI was spoken alongside the teenaged S Venkataraghavan as one of the two best off spinners in the city. In successive years, he had produced outstanding performances both with the ball and the bat including taking over 100 wickets for SBI in a single season and outshone Venkataraghavan in the first division cricket. A few years prior, he earned laurels from Indian Captain Nari Contractor, who after watching him bowl in Bombay, rated him as one with great potential and likely to play for the state for long. He repeatedly reaped 8 wicket hauls for the bank in those years. He even picked up 12 wickets in a 'one day' first division league match. He performed creditably in his first Ranji match with 3 wickets and 36 runs but a certain turn of events meant it also turned out to be his last and that he never played Ranji cricket for Madras again. An opportunity to play for Kerala in the Ranji Trophy had also been nipped in the bud, earlier and he had to say ‘NO’ to Contractor’s invitation to play in the Times Shield which too may have transformed his cricket life. Here is the story.

Tennis Ball cricket in Kutcheri Road
R Chandrasekaran spent his teenage years at No. 32 Kutcheri Road, a landmark house just two buildings away from the Post Office starting off playing tennis ball cricket in the huge verandah of that house. When he was 15 years old, he began playing cricket for PS High School where his elder brother Nagarajan captained the school team (he played Buchi Babu and for Indian Schools). In 1951, Chandrasekaran played for Madras Schools in the TNCA 2nd division league as a 15 year old. In his last year at PS High, he captained the school to trophies in the inter school tournament. 

It was Vivekananda college captain M Suryananarayanan, grandson of Buchi Babu, who initiated the thought of Chandrasekaran getting into Vivekananda College. By the time he was 17, he had begun playing first division league cricket for TUC. Short on money, he could not pay Rs. 25 that was expected from the college players to make it into tournaments and for outstation trips. But he performed outstandingly for the college. He was the best batsman for the Vivekananda college in 1954 and 55. In those early years, he did not have money even to buy cricket shoes and it was Ramanathan, an engineer from Benaras Hindu University (later at Blue Star) who sponsored his cricket shoes in the mid 1950s.In the first year of its initiation, he won the T Srinivasaraghavan scholarship for the best collegiate cricketer. 
Roped in by TVS Ratnam for Sundaram Motors
Immediately after graduating from the college, he joined Sundaram Motors, handpicked by (TVS) R Ratnam and worked under the wheels, something he did not particularly enjoy in the eight months there. An extraordinary turn of events in January 1957 within months of him joining the auto firm was to lead him to play alongside the legends of Indian cricket that decade. Former Ranji Player AK Sarangapani, a salesman at Sundaram Motors,organised a practice match between TVS /Sundaram Motors and SBI, one in which Chandrasekaran played for Sundaram Motors. So impressed was the then captain of SBI T Krishnamurthy with his performance that day that he asked Chandrasekaran to write the banking exam (there was no sports quota job at that time). And within two months, Chandrasekaran joined SBI in March of 1957, much to the dislike of Ratnam.

Secure job at SBI, but slows down cricketing growth 
While SBI was to provide long term financial security, it dented his cricketing growth in the 2nd half of the 1950s. SBI was in lower division of the TNCA league and thus Chandrasekaran who had already played first division cricket at that time went back to lower division cricket after joining SBI. He lost out on playing 1st division cricket for a few years till SBI made its way to the first division. For Chandrasekaran, as with any middle class family of the time, job stability was important and a bank job provided that. It was not until he was 25 that he played first division cricket again. During this period, he played junior cricket for the state where he also came up against EAS Prasanna of Mysore. 

Missing Ranji Trophy for Kerala 
He also played for RS Puram Cricket Club in the Tripanathura Tournament and performed exceedingly well to help the Coimbatore club win the tourney. So impressed was the secretary of the Kerala cricket association that he asked Chandrasekaran to take a (bank) transfer to Kerala so he could play for the state in the Ranji Trophy. His outstanding form at that time would have made him an automatic choice for the state. Had he made the move, he could have easily played for several years for Kerala in the Ranji Trophy. Unfortunately SBI refused to provide him the transfer for they wanted him to play in the local league and the tournaments here. 
His Best Phase in Cricket and the Frustration!!!
The first half of the 1960s proved to be his best period in cricket and paradoxically also one with extreme disappointments. 

The tall and lean mustachioed Chandrasekaran performed extraordinarily well for SBI in all tournaments and received rave reviews. Soon after SBI Madras met Bombay in the final of the All India State Bank tournament Indian captain Nari Contractor was so impressed with Chandrasekaran that he said that 'Madras had found a good off spinner and one with great potential."
Lets go an Opportunity in Bombay 
Not just that, he wanted Chandrasekaran to play in the Times Shield Tournament that immediately followed the inter circle tourney. Unfortunately for Chandrasekaran, it coincided with the Sport and Pastime tourney (The Hindu Trophy) in Madras and his Bank did not permit him to go Bombay, even though the invitation came from none other than the Indian captain. Had he gone and played under Contractor, his cricketing life may have taken a different turn. But it was not to be. It was also around that time when he received a big offer from Parrys & Co following his star performances with the bat and ball but SBI did not permit him to leave convincing him of good prospects at the bank. 

Ranji Debut and Farewell!!! 
He took 54 wickets in 11 matches in the first division league in 1961-62. In the next year, he topped the bowling averages ahead of the upcoming S Venkataraghavan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/04/venkataraghavan75.html) and Kripal Singh, who cherished ambitions of playing for the country as an all rounder (a batsman who could bowl spin). In 62-63, he easily took more wickets in the first division than these two and claimed over a 100 wickets for SBI in all forms of cricket that year. With the bat, he had scored 8 centuries for SBI including 176 against a very strong Bombay State Bank and was clearly an all rounder who could excel in both. He also received the award for the Best Performance in the Sport and Pastime tourney. 

He once picked up 12 wickets in a single day, quite a rare achievement in a one day TNCA first division league match, picking up 7wickets in the first innings and then picking up 5 in the 2nd innings to bowl out Crom Best twice in a day. Everyone that followed TN cricket expected him to go a long way. However, what followed was tragic and left him bitterly disappointed and frustrated at that time. 

After being in the state reserves for almost two years, he finally got his chance in Ranji Trophy cricket in the final match of the 1962-63 season and had what one could call a ‘successful debut’ picking up three wickets and scoring 36. 
After being the leading wicket taker and one with the best average in successive years in first division cricket in the city, an unfortunate turn of events led him to never play for the State again in Ranji Trophy. He was not in the original squad for the Ranji Matches in the next season. On the day the Madras players were schedule to leave by train for a Ranji Match, he received a call at 9am from S Sriraman, Hony. Secretary, TNCA asking him to pack his cricketing bag and head to the Central Railway Station as it had been suddenly decided to include him in the squad as a replacement. 

Says NO to Sriraman
That call is still vivid in Chandrasekaran’s memory "My mother was unwell and I had to be by her bedside to take care of her health. I explained to Sriraman the scenario at home. Unfortunately a ‘NO’ to Sriraman did not go well with the powers that be." 

It was also in this phase that SBI organised a tournament for first division clubs in the city in an endeavour to provide more opportunities to players. Chandrasekaran anchored the organising of this tournament. He remembers the backlash "Sriraman was clearly unhappy with SBI organising a tournament in the city. We clearly indicated to them that this was to provide more playing opportunities to the cricketers in the city. As I was the man doing the work on the ground, I was targeted and my hopes of playing for the state were dashed."

Frustrated at not being considered for the Ranji Trophy after outstanding performance in 3-4 successive years in the first division league, Chandrasekaran stood for the post of the Treasurer of the TNCA (then MCA) in June 1964 leaving Sriraman stunned. It turned out to be the final nail in the coffin for Chandrasekaran for he was never considered for Madras again in Ranji Trophy cricket. His refusal to join the Ranji squad when his mother was ill, the organising of the inter club tournament in the city and him standing for the Treasurer's post combined to ensure that he would never be considered again.  These series of events brought a premature end to his Ranji career, almost before it started!!! 

Ridiculous Selection Committee
Legendary leg spinner VV Kumar (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/07/cricket-tales-exclusive-with-vv-kumar.html) was a year senior to him at PS High School and knew him from his days as a teenager. He captained Chandrasekaran at SBI and was a good foil for him as the two bowled in tandem through the 1960s and 70s. He also used to drive Chandrasekaran to his office on his two wheeler every morning in the 1960s. He says that it was ridiculous of the TN selection committee to not consider him despite strong performances in the first division league “Chandru was an automatic choice in the All India State Bank team that comprised of international bowlers. He took wickets in the first division league and in all other tournaments for SBI. Why the TN selectors never considered him against after a strong Ranji debut and consistent performance in the league defeats any logic. He was not given the rightful chances.” 
VV Kumar says that Chandru should have competed more vigorously after finding that the selectors were not considering him and leaving him out deliberately “He should have fought his way back into the team but maybe he was frustrated that the selectors continued to ignore him despite strong performances in the league.” 

Stars for All India SBI in Ceylon 
In August 1966, he was selected for the All India State Bank team that was to tour Ceylon for a series of matches against a strong Prime Minister’s XI in Colombo. Chief of SBI N Ramanand Rao who was the transformative sporting force at the bank and who roped in cricketers and made them the cricketing force that they were in the 60s and 70s wrote of the team that went to Ceylon “Our team blends enthusiasm with experience and includes a number of promising young cricketers in addition to Test Stars.” 

The bank team comprised of top Indian and Ranji Trophy players including Wadekar, Goel and VV Kumar. Bowling alongside star bowlers such as VV Kumar and Rajender Goel against the likes of Michael Tissera and Stanley Jayasinghe, Chandrasekaran picked up 4 wickets in the match.

Ramanand Rao would come to the ground and watch every match of SBI and he landed up one rainy morning at the house of Chandrasekaran and asked him as to what he was doing at home on a match day. When he remarked that the match was likely to be rained off as the rain had been rather heavy, the Chief told him that the game would definitely start with the groundsmen at work. He drove him to the match and watched Chandrasekaran pick up 8 wickets after lunch to help the bank win against Bunts. When the newspaper headlined the next day as Chandrasekaran helping SBI win, the Chief joking remarked that that it was his role in driving him to the ground that helped the bank record the victory. 

Frustration leads to Umpiring 
By the mid 1960s, Chandrasekaran realized that the politics at work was too strong and he accepted the fact that he would not be considered for the state. It was the frustration of being ignored despite extraordinary performances that led him to take to umpiring. The umpiring fee for a match was just Rs. 3 that decade when he started out. A ticket for umpires for the pongal test was a big motivation. One had to umpire a certain number of matches before January to be eligible for this ‘umpire’s ticket’. In the early 70s, there was invitation to him to appear for the BCCI Umpiring exam but as with other cricketing events in his life in the previous decade, he was away in Europe at that time and missed out on progressing ahead in his umpiring life. 

From Cricket to Banking focus 
Once he reconciled that the TNCA had shut out his cricket for non cricketing reasons, he began to focus on his work at the bank. In 1966, he was promoted as an officer. He also passed exams such as CAIIB, Diploma in Industrial finance. Shortly after, when he was in foreign exchange department, he came in contact with many overseas visitors who made a trip to India in their two wheelers. That inspired him and triggered the thought in him to try and see if he too could do an overseas trip on a two wheeler. 

To Europe on Lamby 
Lambretta was in great demand that decade. He approached the firm to see if they could hand out a few Lambys to him and his three friends for this overseas trip. They could not give it free but did an out of turn delivery of three Lambys. In the summer of 1971, Chandrasekaran along with PVH Babu, GV Venugopal and R Lakshmanan went on a three month 7000kms 15 countries European trip via Bombay, Kuwait and London. The globetrotting trip of 1971 was repeated in 1974 with his footballer brother Mohanakrishnan and KRS Mani (SBI). Cho Ramaswamy helped him raised funds for the trips by organizing a special edition of his then popular Mohammad Bin Tuglagh. KS Narayanan of India Cements too helped him on those two trips as did his classmate A Krishnamurthy of Simpsons. 
Names his new league team in Euro Tour memory 
This Globe Trotting led Chandrasekaran to name his new league team in 1975 as Globe Trotters (introduced into the league after winning the Ranga Rao Trophy), a team that went up to the first division in five straight years under the captaincy of G Srinivasan. VB Chandrasekar(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/01/vb-chandrasekar.html) played for Globe Trotters when he was just 16. In the 1980s, for over 5 years, he handed the team to Udumalpet SVPB’s Soundararajan to run Globe Trotters ( https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/06/svpb-udumalpet-soundararajan.html) in the first division league. 
Soon after, Venkataraghavan came to him and requested him to hand over the team permanently to MRF (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2013/08/ta-sekar-architect-behind-worlds-best.html) which he did. 

After his globetrotting experience, Chandrasekaran began taking a combined squad from here to overseas destinations for a 10 day cricketing tour to play against leading local clubs in Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, USA and even the Maldives. In May 1973, he went on a trip to Kuala Lumpur with players such as Hanumant Singh, Ambar Roy, GRV, SMH Kirmani, AG Milkha Singh, Abdul Jabbar and his brother R Prabhakar. 

Top cricketers from Karnataka including AV Jayaprakash, B Vijayakrishna, G Kasturi Rangan, B. Raghunath, PR Ashok Anand, BS Viswanath and Narayana Raju were part of the trips to the UK and the Far East. P Mukund, VBC, M Subramaniam and D Padmanabhan too were part of these tours from TN.

Karnataka Cricketers the most respectful 
Looking back on the overseas tour, Karnataka batsman and BCCI Umpire AV Jayaprakash says ‘Chandrasekaran showed me the world’. It was a phase when legendary leggie BS Chandrasekar was the room mate of R Chandrasekaran on cricketing trips. R Chandrasekaran considers the cricketers from Karnataka as being most respectful in their conduct ‘Even the top most cricketers from the state including some who played for the country would fall at my feet when they met me as I was many years senior in age. They have been like this for several decades. The cricketing success just did not get on to their head and the big cricketers from Karnataka have remained unchanged in the way they have interacted over a long period of time, even after they played state cricket for two decades and cricket for India.'

MCC v Combined XI at Chepauk 
During that phase, Chandrasekaran also put together combined teams to play practice matches against MCC on Saturday afternoons. There was stiff competition to figure in that Combined XI for it was a great experience for many who had hitherto never played at Chepauk. An added incentive was the tiffin and coffee at MCC at the end of the match. 

In the mid 90s, Chandrasekaran was the treasurer of the TNCA for a couple of years when Ashok Kumbhat was the Secretary and was also team manager of TN. In the 1980s and 90s and later as well, and long before the ICA (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/07/ica-on-track.html) came into being, he was vocal on the changes needed in the system and wrote several letters to the BCCI pitching for changes for the betterment of the system and for the players to be taken care of, better including pension to players who had played less than 25matches. And he continues to engage with the likes of Ashok Malhotra (the ICA President) sharing ideas.

A Celebrated Life
Octogenarian Chandrasekaran has had a truly celebrated life. A First Class Cricketer, Umpire, Match Referee, Treasurer, Scorer, Selector, Manager, Owner of multiple TNCA league teams, committee member at the TNCA and a Globe Trotter who took teams many times overseas on cricket trips. He should have easily played more matches for the state but non cricketing reasons led him to be discarded for ever. He could have played many for Kerala but his bank refused to grant him a transfer. Despite terrific performances in the league, Chandrasekar had many disappointments and frustrating moments in cricket in the 1960s but he saw the downturns as part of one’s life and took it in his stride. He turned a great admininstrator making personal globe trotting trips along with colleagues, running cricket clubs in the city and organising cricketing tours that offered several cricketers opportunities to play overseas.  In 2010, aged 75, he took a team comprising of teenagers to Colombo to play a series of matches such has been his passion for the game. At a point of time in his life, Chandrasekaran ran four league teams in the city – Globe Trotters, Rising Stars, BRC and Magnet. He continues to run Magnet Cricket Club in the TNCA league to this day. 

If he had not joined SBI, he may have ended up as a salesman at Sundaram Motors. Instead he enjoyed well over a decade of playing with the who’s who of Indian cricket. He played first division cricket for SBI for 15 years at the peak alongside the likes of the non controversial SVS Mani (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/07/svs-mani-cricketer-selector-coach.html) when they won several championships, rose to the level of AGM at the bank and remained a strong contributor to the bank throughout his career.  Several 100s of wickets for SBI in the early 1960s could not earn him more than one Ranji Match and he was hugely disappointed  at the decision of the TNCA to keep him away from Ranji Trophy matches but at 85 he is proud that he came out of that and continued his association with cricket in various capacities for another 45 years .

Truly an outstanding personality.