Sunday, October 25, 2020

CSK Srikkanth Aniruddha

An Opportunistic Strike in troubled times 
Calling it 'favouritism', Srikkanth raises issues, old and current, on how Dhoni has not given TN youngsters a fair go at CSK
It was during Cheeka's 'brand' days that Abhinav Mukund did not play for two years. Did he raise it anytime then or in the years that followed
Calling himself as being 'Brutally Honest', Aniruddha asks if Piyush Chawla looks like a cricketer. Did he know that the TN players always asked the same of him when he played
CSK Website
In the last fortnight, different sets of people have raised the issue of CSK’s poor performance this season. In a business interview that took place a few hours prior to a CSK’s match earlier this month, a Managing Director and the Business Journalist were tense at the end of the interview on the prospects of CSK that evening. Another Managing Director was watching the match this week while working late evening as his father was awaiting happy news of CSK’s perfromance. A third Managing Director had told this writer many years ago that the only IPL match that he followed was that of the CSK. A former features head of a newspaper did not know why CSK was playing so badly this year and wanted to know from this writer if there was any particular reason that she could not see. 

A common factor among all these fans was the passion with which they tracked and followed CSK. And the disappointment of the performance this year is palpable and questions are being asked by everyone. Just this week, a young group of boys all aged below 15years who play at the Corporation ground on St Mary’s Road also gave their loud verdict on Kedar Jadhav and CSK. 

But the timing of this morning's public domain pronouncement by former India Cricketer K Srikkanth and the allegations against Dhoni and Fleming is questionable and in poor light. He himself was a brand ambassador of CSK once upon a time when he was also a national selector at the same time (clear conflict of interest)!!! 

Former Ranji Player and off spinner from the 1960s R Chandrasekaran (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/09/r-chandrasekaran-sbi-globe-trotter.html) forwarded a video to this writer this morning of Srikkanth hitting out at CSK.  Interestingly, he had alongside him his son Anirudha who propped up points for his father to lash out.
                       From CSK Website
What is Fleming Doing?
Srikkanth begins by asking as to what Fleming is doing as the coach and as to why he is not raising the issues. He obviously seems to have insights into what is happening in the CSK dressing room and how Fleming after all these years at CSK has suddenly gone silent. And is doing nothing about the performance.

Abhinav Mukund and CSK 
In the video, Srikkanth’s son talks about chances not being given to Abhinav Mukund for 2 years in the initial phase of IPL a dozen years ago (Abhinav then moved to RCB where too he did not play too many matches). Srikkanth himself was the brand promoter of the team in that phase. Did he ever raise the question in the public domain about Abhinav not being given a chance by CSK in the IPL and how his T20 career was ruined by CSK not giving him match opportunities. 

Clearly, Abhinav was not even a performer for TN in the T20 domestic tournament and he was more a long innings player. This section wrote in 2011 about Abhinav not being given a chance for CSK and that he should focus on longer version of the game for which he was best suited (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2011/05/abhinav-mukund-in-indian-test-squad-to.html?m=1

Aparjith leaves the 'Bench' hot
Then the son raised the question about B Aparjith sitting out for 4-5 years without playing a single match. Having not previously raised, Srikkanth now says that the ‘bench’ was left hot after Aparjith having sat there for 5 years in a row.

Where is the local flavour in CSK
Srikkanth makes a comment about Aniruddha (the local flavor) being in the CSK team those two years just under a decade ago and CSK winning the IPL. Is Srikkanth saying that the local boy Aniruddha’s presence on and off the field contributed to CSK’s IPL Victory in those years? They then talk about TN players being in the CSK team at the beginning of the last decade and they name Ashwin, Balaji, Badrinath and Vijay (Aniruddha was the 5th player in that ‘local flavour’ list) as contributing to the local flavor for CSK. All four were international players at that time with two of them playing active international cricket in that phase. 

Thank God - All the TN players are in other teams
He then goes to the extent of saying that all the other TN players are thankfully in other IPL teams indicating that had they been here, they too would have been sidelined.

Fitness levels of CSK Players
Calling this as a 'brutally honest' opinion, they also talk about the fitness levels. Aniruddha, who has played for TN and was in the CSK squad asks one to take a look at Piyush Chawla and asks if he looks like a cricketer. Aniruddha seems to have forgotten his own fitness levels during the best of his times for TN and what his teammates thought of him, his fielding, his running between the wickets and his fitness. There was always the talk in the TNPL (and earlier) as to why he was chosen a wicket keeper!!! The cricket fraternity in TN knows as to why he played as the keeper.

Will he be BRUTALLY HONEST  about his cricketing phase and his entry into the CSK squad and the TN team and his onfield performances there and what every state cricketer and the selectors of the time thought of him. One cannot be selectively 'Brutally Honest' about opinions.

This section had written about Aniruddha’s selection for the TN T20 when he had not performed enough (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2017/01/aniruda-srikkanth-t20-selection.html). While on honest opinions on TN cricketers, a TN Selector had told this writer a few years ago on ‘the pitch’ made for Aniruddha to be included in the TN squad through a telecon on the eve of the Selection committee meeting. 

No spark in youngsters 
Srikkanth says that it is unacceptable for Dhoni to have made the comment that there was no spark in the youngsters. Srikkanth is no more a mentor of the CSK and is sitting far away in the studios in India. Of course, as a former selector snd CSK mentor, he would have a direct line to Dhoni and definitely to Kasi Viswanathan, the CEO of CSK. He should ask them as to what was meant  by lack of spark in youngsters. Dhoni has for long built a reputation of backing youngsters and been heralded for making youngsters perform beyond their potential. The CSK performance over 12 years has been a great success story in terms of the number of finals they have reached. Dhoni alone can shed more light on what is missing in the youngsters of the current team. And it is likely he would have spoken about those factors to the youngsters. 

What is the trigger for Srikkanth to come out with such statements at this point of time when he did not raise any of these in the last few years, and in the tone and manner in which he and his son have done it. The cricketing fraternity of Madras who know them well may ignore this video as they say they often do but the lay man on the street, a CSK fan, may tag in with this sentiment of the Dad and Son. 

Did Srikkanth make these loud comments after the auction in any of the last many years on how local flavour is missing and who from TN should have been picked by CSK? Interestingly, Aniruddha replaced Abhinav in the TN T20 squad as the selectors of the time did not think Abhinav was suited for T20 cricket. This section had written about Abhinav being dropped from the TN's one day squad six years ago (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2014/03/abhinav-mukund-dropped-from-tn-one-day.html).

Favourtism within CSK
During the last two years, did Srikkanth repeatedly make the point that only 'oldies' were being given a chance by CSK and local TN youngsters were being repeatedly sidelined. He calls it 'favourtism' within CSK. In the years that he was associated with CSK and he has known Kasi Viswanathan for decades (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2015/02/ks-viswanathan-tnca-bcci-ipl.html?m=1), did Srikkanth raise this issue with the CEO of CSK.
Two years in succession after the ban, CSK performed at the top of their potential and received rave reviews. The old age and experienced hands was cited as an example for performers. And this year, when they are down, the opportunists are cashing in and asking questions that they had not asked for over a decade. Definitely, the CSK fans would like answers to the current problem and there are ways to ask those questions. Till this season, Dhoni was seen as a Demi God and suddenly everything from 'local flavour' to 'opportunities to Chennai's youngsters' has become a topic for two of the former cricketers who were once part of that institution. 

The tone and manner of the video as well as the content is a very irresponsible way to talk in the public domain for a man who was once the Mentor of CSK and the National Selector at the same time. Srikkanth is clearly trying to tap into the current negative sentiments of the CSK fans by igniting the issue of local flavour and opportunities for youngsters. The video is disappointing and the comments of legendary Srikkanth questionable.Even if these are valid points – Yes, every CSK fan/follower would like TN players in the team- why did Srikkanth not raise any of these in the public domain over the last 5-6 years. 

In the phase between 2008 and 2012, Srikkanth did not raise the question of lack of match opportunities to Abhinav at CSK. Neither has he in the past about Aparjith. Suddenly he is using the mood and sentiments of the CSK fans to his advantage and striking hard on issues that he has not brought up over the last decade or so. In any case, the tone and manner of both the son and the father is deplorable and unacceptable and unbecoming of a cricketer of Srikkanth's stature.

(Anyone who wants to post a comment on this story, please do with it your name/identity. The writer will use his discretion to accept anonymous comments)

Friday, October 23, 2020

Najam Hussain 80th Birthday

The Forgotten Cricketer from the 1960s
On the eve of his 80th birthday, the great all rounder of India Cements/ Jolly Rovers is going through a tough phase financially

The ICA provided financial assistance to him during the lockdown but mounting medical bills and multiple surgeries to his son have set him back further, financially. It is hoped the TNCA, KSCA, BCCI and his former employers would support this cricketer who once upon a time in the distant past gave them great delight with his all round display on the field

In Dec 1965, he scored a century for Mysore in a record breaking Ranji Match when his state team dismissed all 20 Hyderabad batsmen through the 'Caught' mode - a first time occurance in the history of cricket - One for the Guiness Records in Cricket

He scored a century against all Ceylon side and took 9 wickets in one session at Chepauk to single handedly win the Buchi Babu match against Hyderabad 


(WITHIN HOURS OF THIS STORY, SANMAR GROUP'S N SANKAR MADE A SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO NAJAM HUSSAIN)
Mir Najam Hussain, the great all rounder who played for Mysore, Madras and Jolly Rovers in the 1960s will be celebrating his 80th Birthday tomorrow (Oct 24), 55 years since he scored a century for Mysore against Hyderabad in a historic match that created a world record for the first time in 80 years of cricket. All the 20 wickets claimed by Mysore were dismissals recorded as ‘Caught’. Since then this has occurred a few times, but back then in December 1965, it was the first time that all the 20 wickets of a team in a first class cricket match were through the mode of ‘caught’ and hopefully will feature one day in the Guiness Book of Records as the first time all the batsmen in a cricket team were out Caught in both the innings!!! 

He made significant contribution to Mysore and Madras teams in the Ranji Trophy and was an integral part of Jolly Rovers (India Cements) in the TNCA league, Buchi Babu Tournament and The Hindu Trophy (Sport and Pastime). He was regarded as a star cricketing personality that decade alongwith the likes of KR Rajagopal, PK Belliappa and B Kalyanasundaram. In the 1980s, after his return to Bangalore from Madras, he coached the to be international cricketers such as Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Vijay Baradwaj, Venkatesh Prasad, Dodda Ganesh and Johnson. Three decades later, Match Referree Javagal Srinath still refers to him as his ‘Teacher’. A man with such a remarkable cricketing background is now languishing in financial turmoil on the eve of his 80th birthday celebrations. 

Tears, mostly of joy reminiscing the good old cricketing days in Madras, roll down his eyes all through the long conversation with this writer. He remembers the great contribution of KS Narayanan and N Sankar to his cricketing life and the way the two of them took care of him as their own family member. 

The Move to Jolly Rovers and Madras 
Through the first half of the 60s, he played for Mysore alongside EAS Prasanna and BS Chandrasekar and performed creditably including scoring a century in that historic match in Secunderabad in December 1965 against Hyderabad when all the 20 Hyderabad batsmen were caught. Najam himself took a brilliant catch to dismiss Pataudi, a catch that lights him up even today and makes him forget the financial challenges for a moment. As with KR Rajagopal(KR Rajagopal), he moved to Madras when he was picked by KSN and Sankar for Jolly Rovers in 1966 and played the second half of the decade for Madras in the Ranji Trophy. 

He shares great bonding with KR Rajagopal and commends his commitment to both work at India Cements and cricket “Rajagopal was a brilliant cricketer. Once, he worked at the foundries till just before the start of the match and then went straight from there to Chepauk to score a century. If only Belli had Raja’s brain and Raja had Belli’s brawn.”

The GM of ITI in Bangalore Venkatraman was the one who referred their names to KSN and that’s when both of them made the shift to Madras from Mysore. Najam Hussain was among the first appointees at India Cements after they took over the running of Jolly Rovers in 1966 and says he enjoyed a brotherly bonding with Sankar. It was such a cosmopolitan side but all of them combined well as a team. There was no differentiation at all and the played as a well oiled unit, motivateevery match by the presence of KSN and Sankar at the ground.
The Cricket Job Interview with KSN in 1966
He remembers his first meeting with KSN “When I met him for the interview, he said enjoy and play cricket but also do some work in office. He took us under his fold and encouraged us beyond our dreams. We matured as cricketers in Madras under KSN and Sankar. It was my most enjoyable stint in cricket.”

While the cricketers had compensatory off on Monday after they played a game on Sunday, he says they would all be at the office at 8.30am on Monday morning.

Top Management encouragement
The memories of  KSN and Sankar(N Sankar) encouraging the entire team in every match is still fresh in his memory. Once he batted on one leg to win a Buchi Babu match for India Cements which then took one month to heal but that was his commitment to the two of them “They gave us royal treatment that we had not experienced anywhere else. They looked up to us for a grand display on the field and took great care of us off the field.We toiled hard and gave our blood for India Cements. More importantly, we played cricket the way it ought to be played. We played with a ‘straight bat’ in those years. It was glorious years with them.” 
Najam Hussain recalls his life on Subramaniam street in Abhiramapuram in those years “After my performances for Jolly Rovers, they handed me a timely loan for my scooter and then subsequently money for my housing reconstruction as well. ”

Rejects SBI officer's post, continues with Jolly Rovers
At the peak of his form, SBI offered Najam Hussain an officer’s post in 1966. It would have been an offer that any cricketer of the time would have grabbed with both hands. In fact, the offer letter was kept pending for two years at the desk of the Madras office of SBI. He was in India Cements at that time and his commitment to KSN and Sankar was such that he let go the PSU job, one that would have given him long term financial security. He continued in the marketing department working in the Dhun Building on Mount Road in Madras. 

Later, SBI’s GM Balakrishnan personally came up to him at the end of a Buchi Babu Final and asked him if he remembered the banker. It was a great moment for Najam Husssain that he remembers to this day “I thanked him profusely for the great offer but told him that he was committed to KSN and Sankar and to India Cements and that he would continue with them.” 
It was a time when off spinner R Chandrasekaran was in the thick of action at SBI (RC SBI).

His father, a Vigilance Commissioner, wrote a polite letter to Balakrishnan on the then popular ‘inland letter’ citing the reason for his son Najam not being able to take up the Bank offer. 

He stayed with India Cements for 18 years. 

Dei, you are a great all rounder
As he looks back at cricket in the 2nd half of the 1960s, his memories go back to that great swing bowler KS Kannan, who was the first coach of (K Balaji The Hindu) The Hindu's K Balaji (later played Ranji Trophy for TN) “In Marina, with the cross wind, he was simply unplayable and made the opposition batsmen dance to his tunes with his prodigious swing”, he recalls the matches at the Marina watched by huge crowd that stood on the beach side. 
Every time Kannan looked at Najam both at the ground and later, Najam remembers those shouts from him ‘Dei, you are a great all rounder.’ Those words of Kannan inspired him to perform better and still remain etched in his memory over five decades later.

It was such inspiration that led him to a century against a strong All Ceylon side and triggering a dramatic collapse with the ball in the Buchi Babu match at Chepauk when he took 9 wickets in one session to help beat Hyderabad.

Best Phase in Cricket- The India Cements days
He reflects on that phase in cricket in Madras and the time at India Cements as the best of his life. The Sport and Pastime trophy he says was a pioneering initiative in 30overs cricket and was replicated by other states much later. In a match in the tournament against a strong SBI team, he bowled 15overs at a stretch in one spell at the Vivekananda College ground.
                                    Jolly Rovers Tripanathura Tourney

Well past his best, he remembers getting the then University player K Srikkanth gobbled up at slip by his close friend PK Dharmalingam (PKD) “Cheeka played and missed 12 times in that period and finally he got him nicking to slip.”

The 1980s- Starting all over again 
He quit India Cements in 1984 after 18 years with them as he could not move to the Cuddapah plant at that time. He had to start life all over again, afresh in his 40s. He moved to Bangalore and coached teenagers who later became international stars from Karnataka. He was that state coach of Karnataka during the formative years of Kumble, Srinath, Dravid and Venkatesh Prasad among others. He happily recollects suggesting Prasad’s name to the Chairman of Selectors as an ‘Indian cricketer for the future.” He was also the coach of 10 year old Rahul Dravid. 
Najam moulded the upcoming stars of Karnataka by talking to them in their mother tongue as against the usual conversations in English. More importantly, in every coaching stint in those years, he focused on building character of the players. Also with players coming in from different castes and communities, he stressed on the importance of national integration. 

The ‘Teacher’ to Karnataka's India cricketers
Only recently Javagal Srinath spoke to him from his IPL match referee stint in the UAE addressing him as ‘Teacher’. That’s the regard the Karnataka players have for Najam Hussian and for his contribution to their cricketing lives. 

Politics took away his prospective ITI job 
He played cricket for HAL in Bangalore till he was 45 when he scored 38 batting on one leg and made them a champions side. He was then selected as a sports officer at ITI and even received congratulatory messages but politics of the time meant that the post was handed to another at the last month. It would have helped his long term financial security but it was not to be. After his coaching stint ended in Karnataka, he did small engagements in Bangalore. He sold off his share from his family house to conduct the wedding of his two daughters. It has been a financially challenging phase in the life of a once great cricketer and coach but he is clear in his mind “It is better to deserve without receiving than to receive without deserving.”

Kanchi Periyava's look rejuvenates Najam
He remembers a time when he saw Kanchi Periya while he was travelling in Madras decades ago. The saint he says was looking only in one direction, not left or right “I instantly felt rejuvenated and there was a feeling of a new man and positive vibrations reverberated inside me. He may have cast his great eyes on me that day. Holy men don’t belong to any caste and have an universal appeal. He says that everything is pre ordained and God will cast his eyes on him once again sometime in the near future.”

ICA’s Financial Support 
Najam Hussain played just over 40 first class matches in the 1960s for Mysore and Madras. The pension from the BCCI for former Ranji cricketers has remained stagnant at Rs. 15000 over the last decade. Earlier this year, it was former TN opener from the 1970s V Krishnaswamy (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/08/krishnaswamy-v.html) who initiated financial support to him from the ICA during the lockdown ‘Kicha called me and assured assistance to me. I am personally grateful to him for that initiative that has been useful at a challenging period in my life.” 
More Financial Challenges in recent months 
Subsequent to the financial support from the ICA (Kicha ICA) and during the lockdown, his elder son met with a serious accident and had a multiple ligament fracture that has led to a piling up of medical bills and further financial challenges of this once great cricketer of India Cements. Najam himself has had multiple operations and these days he walks with the help of a walking stick. He lives in a rented house in Shanthi Nagar in Bangalore and the rental expenses too have been mounting. But like with batting and bowling, he is mentally courageous and has strong faith that God would take care of him. 

During the lockdown, the ICA also organised financial assistance to another TN Ranji cricketer from the 1970s and 80s - Peter Fernandez ( Peter Fernandez ICA).

He remembers the comment that the legendary Mysore fast bowler Kasturi Rangan once made to him in his youth “Reputation is what others know you to be, Character is what you know yourself to be.” In that context, he says that if he were given two cricketing options – Get Millions to play in coloured clothing Or Play in Whites once again in the 1960s and 70s, he would choose the latter “I will pick up the whites and Jolly Rovers/ India Cements of the time, not the millions.” 
Cricketers like Najam Hussain played for the love of the game when cricket was seen as a gentleman’s game. These days, he spends his time reliving those glorious moments of his life from the 1960s and 70s. He has more tears in his eyes as he shares the current state of his life “I have no money. I have no assets. I have no resources now. But I am happy with what God has given me in this life - happiness especially of reflecting on the cricket for India Cements and Jolly Rovers and for Mysore and Madras and especially the engagement with KSN and Sankar.” 

It is hoped that the authorities be it the TNCA / the KSCA / the BCCI or may be his employers from the 1960s and 70s would get around to financially support the man who offered so much joy with his all round display and one who played a role in the development of many international cricketers from Karnataka.

This is wishing Najam Hussain a Happy 80th Birthday.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

R Madhavan TN Cricketer 1980s

A look back at 60
The only Cost and Chartered Accountant Ranji Cricketer from TN was on the verge of Indian Selection in the winter of 1984 when in a 15 month phase he scored almost 6 centuries but was overlooked despite an ‘unwritten’ promise 

One should look at a 5-10 year plan for TN cricket that would help identify, create and groom potentially talented cricketers to help them scale up to the next level - and hopefully national duties - TN Selector Madhavan told this writer in Sept 2007. It has remained an unfulfilled dream

Earlier this week, this section featured the story of a Chartered Accountant (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/10/abhishek-r-india-table-tennis-star.html) who had risen to the national level in Table Tennis only to quit the sport at 24 choosing Taxation and Auditing as his life’s priority ‘unsure’ about the long term career path in that sport. This tale is about another CA who will turn 60 this fortnight, one who was on the brink of an India debut, long ago in cricket. In September 2007, as a State Selector, he spoke cheerfully to this writer on the need to chalk a ten year developmental programme for TN cricket. But after his sudden quitting as the Chairman of TN State selection committee, he completely shut his eyes and ears from cricket such has been the ‘cricketing’ wound. This only Cost and Chartered Accountant State cricketer has refused to talk any cricket let alone relive the memories of those ‘glory cum shattering’ months of 1984 when he was just one step away from proudly wearing the ‘India Cap’. 

Here’s the story. 

It was December of 1983. This writer had just moved to Bangalore ahead of one of the most remarkable recoveries in TN’s cricket history. In fact, earlier in the year, the writer had listened through the night to Suresh Saraiaya and Ravi Chaturvedi describing one of Test Cricket’s greatest batting recoveries (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/04/cricket-tales-12-memorable-cricket.html) when West Indies after being rocked back losing 3wickets down for 1 run at Port of Spain hit back with two southpaws scoring centuries to help take a big lead. And at the KSCA stadium were two southpaws (one lean like the West Indian No. 4 of that year and the other a stocky figure like the West Indian Captain) scoring centuries from an identical situation to help the state to a huge first innings score. It was brilliance of one of these lefthanders in his early 20s that drove the recovery and made everyone take notice as one for the future. 

In the 15months that followed this match, he was in as good a patch of form as any TN batsman in its history (reminding one of the form that KR Rajagopal had been in just over 15years earlier). Performing against a touring country has always been a challenge for TN cricketers. On the back of his strong performances that year in domestic cricket, he had been informally told that a century in the international tour match would land him a place in the Indian team for the test series against England. And he responded with almost three centuries in a fortnight including a brilliant one against the touring English. The performances should have got him into the Indian middle order for that series that saw LS’s best Test performance. Unfortunately, the ‘unwritten’ promise was broken and he was overlooked. And the rest as it’s so often said is history. Azhar scored three successive centuries in that series and the TN lefthander was never the same again. 

From a historical Temple Town 
R. Madhavan hailed from Raaja Mannargudi, a historical temple town that is home to the handsome Raaja Gopalaswamy (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/05/mannargudi-rajagopalaswamy-temple.html). In the early part of the 20th century, like many of the traditional inhabitants, his grandfather moved away from the town that is famous for its 18 day Brahmotsavam and boasts one of the biggest tanks among the temples in Tamil Nadu. 

And thus Madhavan grew up in a city based environment through the formative years of his life. He was 6years when he first started playing cricket in the mid 1960s with the neighborhood boys behind Nehru Park on Poonamalle high road. League cricket at 12 for Egmore Excelsiors and the one at school was rather quiet and he went largely unnoticed. The most distinctive feature in those early years was the presence of his father, Rangachari, at every match (a decade later, S Sriram’s matches during his school days was marked by the presence of his grandfather). 

Makes a mark at Loyola 
Madhavan came to the cricketing limelight for the first time in 1977-78 season with strong performances for Loyola College and Madras University. Leg Spinner and team mate at Loyola K Venugopal (former Editor of The Hindu Business Line) recalls Madhavan’s entry into the college team and his contribution in the final “Everything about Madhavan was simple when he joined the Loyola cricket team in 1977. He was the frail lad who brought his thayir saadham along to the game. He was indeed so frail that many of us thought a strong wind might endanger his stability on the field. Yet he had enormous cricketing talent, his ball sense, his elegant left handed batting and fine sense of timing made up for the lack of muscular build. His father was often his ardent moral support at the ground. Madhu, as he was known, was a sincere and honest young cricketer as any you could find.” 
          The winning Loyola Team - Feb 1978

“Loyola won the Madras University inter-collegiate tournament for the Duncan Trophy in February 1978 with Madhavan making 67 runs in Loyola’s score of 293 in the final. The young Madhavan had made his mark and Loyola won that trophy after a gap of four years.” 

Successive Centuries in Univ cricket 
He scored centuries in the Semi Finals and Finals of the Rohinton Baria, a tournament that his teammate and SVPB’s opener of the 1970s and 80s S Sukumar remembers “He batted as well as anyone in the tournament and scored successive centuries. Much like his name sake (NP Madhavan), he was very soft spoken and his conduct on and off the field was exemplary even in those early years.” 
                                   S Sukumar, SVPB

That characteristic of Madhavan has remained firm to this day. His words measured and sentences beautifully crafted are skills that were shaped by a Loyola College lecturer who made a real impression on the teenager Madhavan. While he refuses to engage with this writer on cricketing communication (he did not participate in this story) there is a touch of class about his email exchanges on topics outside of cricket (mostly temples) something he attributes to a sort of fetish to try to make his communication clear and precise. 

A couple of years later he once again showcased his class with a century for City Colleges against Alwarpet a team that he was to play for a major part of the next decade. 

The turn of the decade and coming of age of a new Southpaw 
1980-81 was a big year for Madhavan, one that helped his push for a place in the TN middle order. Another fluent left hander, K Balaji, son of The Hindu’s legendary editor G Kasturi, (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/09/a-blossoming-cricket-career-was-cut.html) had just quit Ranji cricket aged just 24 disgruntled with the way the team was being led and that created an opening in the middle order. 
Madhavan made a strong case for that spot scoring over 550 runs in the inter university tourney, one in which Madras University lost to Bombay in the Semi Finals. Madhavan scored 90 against Mafatlal in 1981 and a century against Nirlon the following year in the then Prestigious Buchi Babu tournament, knocks that earned him laurels from Sunil Gavaskar. On the back of these knocks, he finally made it to the TN team and almost scored a century on Ranji debut against Hyderabad in December 1982. 

His Best Ranji knock 
In the winter of 1983, the year that India won the World Cup, this writer’s father had a surprise middle of the year transfer to Bangalore just ahead of the Ranji Season opener for TN at the KSCA, one where Madhavan was to play his best Ranji innings. It marked the beginning of a glorious 15 month run when he scored almost 6 centuries. 
Madhavan was S Vasudevan’s roommate in many a Ranji match and the TN Ranji Trophy winning captain particularly remembers this match against Karnataka for he (Vasudevan) was dropped soon after “Madhu was young and energetic at that time and bubbling with enthusiasm. He was a jolly character and ever smiling. While cricket was a passion and a full time professional career in the sport was not yet an option in those days, he cherished the dream of playing for the zone and the country. But at the same time, he was aware that one was always on tenterhooks, with most (cricketers) not knowing how long it would last. Not everything was in our hands.” 

Madhavan was to realize that in the 12months that followed!!! 

That morning, TN lost both its openers before opening its tally. Soon after Madhavan walked in, he lost ‘Test Cricketer’ TE Srinivasan leaving TN tottering at 3/3. The team was in dire straits within the first half hour and this brought the best out of him that day. Madhavan scored a delightful century, one that brought him into the national limelight. 
S Srinivasan, who had made his Ranji debut for Bombay earlier, partnered with Madhavan helping TN recover from the dreadful start. He remembers Madhavan from that century partnership “He was technically very sound and gritty. His temperament came to the fore against Karnataka and showed the mettle he was made of. He scored runs when it really mattered. It was his century that helped us recover that day.” 

The Best Cricketing Year 
A couple of months later in Feb’84, the best year (as well as probably the most disappointing of his life!!!!) of his cricket, he made another century. Still not 25, he was clearly in the Selector’s shortlist as a man for the future. And when he began the next season in October with a 95 in the Duleep Trophy match against West Zone, he seemed to be just one step away from his Test Debut. In the Ranji opener against Hyderabad in mid November, he struck another century. 
He had made four Ranji centuries and the Duleep Trophy 95 in just over three quarters of a year - an unprecedented performance for a TN middle order batsman in the state’s cricketing history. 

Score a Century against England and you are in!!! 
Those informal ‘famous’ words from the powers that be probably remain to haunt him close to four decades later and is probably one of the reasons for him to not discuss cricket from the past. He was told that if he continued in his rich vein of form and scored a century against the David Gower’s English team, he would be picked for the Indian test team for the winter’s series. Tamil Nadu fast bowler of the 1970s B Kalyanasundaram (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2011/08/kalli-b-kalyanasundaram.html) had joined LMW in the later part of the decade and had moved to Coimbatore. He was on an official tour to Ahmedabad that week in November 1984 and remembers wishing Madhavan well on the eve of the match though he himself did not stay back to watch the match. 

Playing for India U25s, Madhavan responded with a brilliant century against England, one that should have got him into the Indian team had the ‘word’ of the fortnight been kept. Exactly three years ago, his TN teammate K Srikkanth had played two blistering knocks for India U22 against the same touring English team and was rewarded for that performance with an India debut against England in the winter of 1981 and he went on to play for India for over a decade. Madhavan’s domestic performances of the year and the century against England should have been enough to get him into the squad. Almost 6 centuries in under a year was as good as it had been for any TN player in its history but despite the ‘reward for performance’ promise, it turned out to be a case of ‘so near and yet so far’ for Madhavan. 

Mohd Azharuddin followed his century in this match with a twin century for Hyderabad in December in a Ranji match and was picked for the England series. With three successive centuries, Azhar sealed his batting spot in the Indian middle order and Madhavan was never to come back into contention again. He scored another century that season in the Ranji Trophy and ended up with close to 500runs but really the bus had flown past him without a stopover. 

A shattered feeling ‘inside’ 
Srinivasan, who also watched Madhavan post his highest Ranji score in February 85 just a few months after the century against England, recalls the let down feeling of that 1984-85 season “Any human being who experienced that would have been shattered. He scored when and where it counted and yet he was not considered. If I had been in his position and were to look back at it now, I would be hugely disappointed with the non selection. Centuries mattered in those days and he came up with those. What more could he have done that year.” 

Srinivasan remembers the words of Madhavan from the time “It is all part of life. You have to move on”. While he did not show the disappointment externally at that time, I am sure it would have hurt a lot inside to not be picked after such an outstanding year in domestic cricket and after the century against England, says Srinivasan. 

Like Vasudevan, Srinivasan too says that Madhavan saw cricket as too much of a gamble and hence strengthened his academics “He was always skeptical of cricket as a career and the path it offered, for he saw one’s future as always being in the hands of the ‘selectors’.” 

Finance Professional – CA and CMA 
With the shattering experience of having been ‘let down’, Madhavan was never the same again in cricket. In 1985, he completed his CA Inter (he had completed the Cost Inter by then). In the years that followed, he completed both his CA and CMA Final. Cricketing wise, he just did not recover. For the first time in his life, in that phase, he tried to come to terms with cricket and the external factors and circumstances that decide one’s cricketing fate. If one did not get the rub of the green at his peak, many times it is likely that the form may not return again in one’s cricketing life. Madhavan found his peak in 1984 with a middle order consistency that almost none from TN had till then. 
In the second half of the 1980s, Madhavan made runs aplenty in the first division league for Alwarpet. In the English Summer, he played two years of professional cricket in the Scottish league . Arjan Kripal Singh, who made a triple hundred for TN against Goa in 1989, was a budding teenage cricketer when he met Madhavan for the first time. He remembers the season distinctly for he watched the best of Madhavan in those few months in the first division league “Madhu had missed the initial part of the league season having played cricket in Scotland and came back full of energy. In the 8 matches that remained that season, he scored 6 hundreds and 2 fifties.” 
A most ‘genuine’ human being 
While that was Madhavan at his vintage best, Arjan experienced the human side of him that he is grateful for three decades later “He went out of the way to create an opportunity for me in Scotland and got me my first overseas contract. While you would attribute helping tendency to many in your life, Madhu was in the most ‘genuine’ category. He was a great student of the game and one of the most intelligent cricketers I have met in my life. Often, he went out of the way to instill the confidence in me and helped me perform to the best of my ability. He would constantly come and sit next to you and provide inputs that would transform your game.” 

One really did not get too many mentors like him in those days in TN cricket. 

When Arjan arrived in Scotland and mentioned the name of Madhavan to the cricketing community there, he was stunned at their response “It was three decades ago and a most difficult time for Indians in the UK. A mere mention of his name and the respect for me shot up dramatically. Even opponents remembered him both as a cricketer, who won matches, and as a gentleman human being. Very few have gone to the UK and succeeded. Madhu held his own even in Scotland not just in cricket but in societal life as well.” 

A flavor of Javed Miandad in his batting 
India U19 left arm fast bowler from the 1980s Hemant Srivatsa, owner of the renowned Murrays Auction (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2015/04/hemant-srivatsa-cricketer-of-1980s.html) played first division cricket for Alwarpet as a teenage Vidya Mandir School boy and was in the team for 7 years, a phase when he watched Madhavan every day from close quarters. Frustrated with the way cricket was run in the city, Hemant too quit cricket when he was just 22 having joined Alwarpet when Madhavan was in the form of his life. 
He remembers Madhu as ‘one of the most gentlemen cricketers’ he played with or met in those 7 years. “He was what I would call a ‘Mr. Genius’ in cricket. Each time, I watched him bat in those years I was reminded of the legendary Javed Miandad. Without ever being noticed, he would have moved on to 30-40runs in no time without too many boundaries. Every knock of his was an education to a budding cricketer on how to gather runs. He played the ball late and had a delectable way of finding the gaps in the field. He was a real master class.” 

“When I joined the team as a 15year old and having seen me bowl in the nets, he called me his ‘Kid Brother’ and took me under his tutorship. He was the constant guiding force during my stint at Alwarpet.” 

Responsible for all of Sanku's big knocks
VV Sankapani was the opening partner of K Srikkanth for almost a decade at Alwarpet and was regarded by the late PK Dharmalingam as one who was more dangerous than Srikkanth. Sanku credits Madhavan as both the best captain he played under as well as the one who made him convert rapid starts at the top of the innings into big knocks “Every time I was getting into an over aggressive frame of mind, Madhu would help me get a single and push me into the non striker’s end. Many times in my stint at Alwarpet, it was he who helped me convert my aggressive starts into centuries. Without him at the other end, it is likely I would have continued with over aggression and lost my wicket going for another six.” 

Behind every big knock of Sankapani, in that phase, there was Madhavan’s hand at play. 
While he played a great role in the lives of city cricketers in that phase, his own Ranji career took a Southward curve in the second half of the 80s with him trying to straddle between the preparation for the final of the CA and CMA examinations and State cricket. While the newly appointed captain, Vasudevan, backed him at the start of the 87-88 season, Madhavan was dropped half way and did not feature in the knock outs or the Ranji Trophy winning match. With strong performance in the first division league, he came back into the squad the next season but that was the last he played for TN. With Venkat and Vasudevan dominating the spin attack and with LS ( https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/04/l-sivaramakrishnan.html) having made a spectacular entry into Ranji, Madhavan was vastly underbowled in Ranji Cricket though he could have easily held his own as a left arm spinner. 

Done with Cricket, Off to Dubai 
By the early 1990s and with him into his 30s, he decided that he had had enough of cricket and moved away into the finance world in Dubai. For over a decade, he was into a life largely away from cricket though he was associated on and off with the former West Indian captain Jimmy Adams on some cricket developmental initiatives. He also worked on some interesting cricket infrastructure initiatives in Bangalore.

Life with a Straight Bat
Ad man D Sampath, who is now a Marketing Consultant at The Hindu was then the Regional Buying Director for UAE at ad firm Media Edge and met finance professional Madhavan for the first time at a social meeting around two decades ago. While during his playing days, Madhavan played strokes all around the wicket, Sampath has always seen Madhavan as one with a ‘straight bat’ during the years in Dubai “A stand out quality in him is that he deals with issues with a straight bat and does not change his opinion to please others. I saw him as one who always held his values high.” 
And that also meant he could not survive long in the cricketing environment in Tamil Nadu when he returned to Madras in the mid 2000s after his father’s illness brought a premature end to his finance stint in the UAE. 

Chairman of TN Selectors 
When he returned to Madras, Vasudevan recollects Madhavan being the same bubbly character he had seen in the early 1980s when he got into the TN state "He was keen on contributing to the development of cricket in Tamil Nadu and believed that he could play a role in it."

Despite have been away from the TNCA and any sort of cricketing association in the state for over a decade, he was straightaway handed the Chairmanship of State U19 selection committee. Soon after, he became the Chairman of the TN Selection Committee and it was during his rather ‘short’ regime that the teenaged Abhinav Mukund was picked. 

Ashwin the Best bowler we have in TN 
Well over a dozen years ago, this writer sat next to the Selector Madhavan on the terrace of Chepauk watching a Ranji match and watching Ashwin bowl that day asked him as to how he could pick an off spinner like him for the state, Madhavan’s answer was straight and honest “He is the best we have in the state.” Ashwin has gone on to pick up over 350wickets for India. 

A 10 year Plan for TN cricket? - Remains Madhavan's Dream
While he was thus bullish soon after his return from the UAE and had plans to contribute to TN cricket, he found the TNCA to be a different kettle of fish and discovered that he probably was not cut for this. He showed great commitment as a selector and went from one end of the city to the other to watch first division matches for weeks together, all at his own cost!!! Selectors in TN were not paid then (they still aren’t). But for a personality such as Madhavan who had played two full summers of professional cricket in Scotland as early as the 1980s, it was clear this model of the TNCA would not have suited him for long. 

In a chat in September 2007, Madhavan had told this writer that one should look at a 5-10 year plan for TN cricket that would help identify, create and groom potentially talented cricketers to help them scale up to the next level - and hopefully national duties. Not only did this fade out as just a cricketing vision of a supremely intelligent cricketer, a disgruntled Madhavan quit the Chairmanship of the TN selection committed in the middle of his tenure. 

Resigns as Chairman, Shuns Cricket
While (finance) professional pursuits were primarily the reason, other ‘unwritten’ circumstances including interferences in the workings of the committee led him to quit his selector role sooner than expected. Since then, he has been minimally involved with the TNCA. In fact, during this period, he has shunned any conversation on cricket especially relating to TN cricket and moved into playing Golf .

Return to the TNCA league 
Soon after Madhavan returned from Dubai, Arjan was the captain of MCC in the third division trying to put together a team that could aim for promotion into the 2nd division. He picked Madhavan as his first choice in the team and remembers him as being the first to come to the ground in a full buttoned down shirt through the time he played for MCC in his late 40s “In the way he contributed that year, he put many a youngster to shame with his top class professionalism.” 

1st ball of the match out of the Vivekananda College 
In a rain shortened TNCA league match that this writer umpired at the Vivekananda college, Madhavan, then well into his mid 40s, sent the first ball of the 30overs match over mid wicket into the terrace of the house on the western side that gave an indication of his batting fluency and timing.
Bowl to the Captain's Field
That day, he came back and opened the bowling too from the end that I umpired!!! He was so wily that the opposition just could not spot what was coming next. A big turner was followed by one that came back in sharply. In another match the next season that I umpired at Chepauk (a match where Arjan scored a brilliant century), with MCC having been promoted to the 2nd division, I watched Madhavan adjust to the field set by his captain Arjan. When I pointed to him on a very different field for a left arm spinner, he replied in his typically polite way ‘My job is to bowl to the field set by the captain.’ It was also the match that former Ranji allrounder S Mahesh (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/08/s-mahesh-tn-all-rounder.html) was pulled by this writer (umpire) for abusive language on the field. 

It was around that time that he also made a trip for the Tripanathura cricket tourney reminding one of this popular annual tournament in the decades gone by.
Madhu  in the UK/Australia???
Srinivasan believes that are few in the country with such credentials “If he had been in the UK or Australia, his cricketing acumen would have been immediately picked up by the cricketing body and he would have become a top cricket professional. Such a cricketing brain has been completely underutilized by the state association and the BCCI as well.” 
For a major part of the last decade, Madhavan has not discussed cricket with this writer. And he refused on this one as well. The only time he has looked back on cricket was when he discussed in his typically cheerful style (that reminded me of his days in the 80s) the qualities of legendary S Venkataraghavan in a Video Chat on you tube during the lockdown a couple of months back. But otherwise, he has stayed far away from cricket. These days, he has moved into a disciplined morning devotional model aka Venkat reciting Dasavatharam and Aaditya Hrudayam Stotrams, among a few others. He is now looking to add ‘Sanskrit’ to his repertoire. 

The wounds of 1984 remain which was then accentuated by what he saw in city cricket once he returned from the UAE. He has preferred silence over noise. In the 35 years that have passed since that glorious year with the bat, he has rarely spoken on the heartburns of the period. 

A ‘word’ was given to him and he delivered but the promise was not kept. 

And yet, for someone who could have easily played any number of tests had he been picked when in prime form that winter of 84 and with such strong cricketing credentials, it is a bit of a shame that he has been under utilized by the State and the BCCI. He is a pretty good captain of the ship (as seen during the years at Alwarpet and during his period as the Chief of Selectors), was a master batsman in his hey days, a coach, a mentor, finance professional and an administrator with great communication skills. Despite looking to contribute to the development of cricket in TN after his return from the UAE, he just could not find reconcile himself and find a mid way point that could be a win win for both – the association and himself. There were just ‘far too many things’ at play that did not find his acceptance. 

He will turn 60 this fortnight. It is hoped that into his 60s, he will begin to be closely associated with the state for which he played through the 1980s. A mentor like him has been sorely missing for decades. 

Will he make a comeback in cricket at 60? Or if the frustration remains, he may one day head back to his roots in Mannargudi, a town that is now bustling with devotional activity. For cricket’s sake, one hopes it’s the former, though the heart wants him to continue with his spiritual endeavours. 

TAIL PIECE

A note on my wall in the 1980s 
For well over a decade, from the 1980s, that served as a life lesson, this writer’s father had a big sheet of paper pasted on the wall that read “When there are Bedis and Venkats, there are Shivalkars and Goels too”. And there are Madhavans as well.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Abhishek R India Table Tennis Star

The Defenser had risen to Number 2 in National Rankings in 2010-11
A year later, former India Cricketer Sunil Joshi offered him an Officer’s Post at BPCL but the Commonwealth Games Bronze Medalist chose CA over a PSU job and let go off a professional career in TT 
His father was an Engineer, his elder brother too took the same path and his mother was a Maths  Teacher. He was strong in Science and wanted to take up Medicine. And chose the Biology group in Class XI, a choice no one else in the family had made. However, his passion for Table Tennis overshot the Medicinal interest and in December of that year took the call to pursue his interest in TT and moved to the Commerce Group. A few years later, the risk taker turned conservative and let go of a lucrative PSU offer to pursue his CA Final. Here is the story of the Commonwealth Bronze Medalist who gave up TT at an early age for his auditing profession.

Abhishek Ravichandran was selected for the PSBB (Nungambakkam) school cricket team when he was 10 years old (his neighbour since childhood at Balaji Avenue in T. Nagar was R Ananthakrishnan(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2014/03/42year-old-scores-48over-century-in.html), an alumni of the school, who had scored a league century at 42 earlier this decade) but Dilip Kumar, his then physical director at school and now a Chief Referee at the TNTTA was keen to tap into his Table Tennis potential and suggested that he let go of cricket to take up TT. Abhishek did not play cricket again and focused on TT. 

PSBB Nungambakkam had a legacy of TT stalwarts that included Chetan Baboor and Sharath Kamal. The competitive spirit at school spurred his early initiation into TT. Well before he had turned 15, Abhishek had begun winning inter school tournaments and his ranking was on the rise. By 2000, he was already on top of the U14 charts.

A differentiator – The Defenser
Very early on his career, he chose to play the Defenser model in TT at a time when most of the players chose the offensive option. He made a smooth transition to the crucial U16 and the U21phase. He finished in the Top 8 in India in his first year in U16. 

While he was thus making swift progress in Table Tennis, he did not lose focus on his studies. Through that entire phase in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he remained proficient in academics. As with most middle class households in Madras, the topic of academics vs sport came up when he went into Class IX, for he had to decide on the future course of action in academics Abhishek remembers that important decision making period in his life “While my father was an engineer and my elder brother too had chosen that path, I had a liking for Science and was keen to pursue Medicine. I joined the Biology group in Class XI.”

The number of tournaments that he was participating increased as did the practice hours. This meant that he was infrequent at school and missed many of the classes in the early phase in Class XI. He was passionate about TT and winning tournaments.Abhishek was in the peak of his powers and seeing a strong rise at the national level in TT. It was a year when he was in national camps under top Indian coaches which involved practicing three hours in the morning and another three in the evening. The defenser model took a lot out of him and he would often be dehydrated. Food poisoning too led him to fall ill in that phase. In addition to practicing and playing tournaments, a lot of his time also went into focusing on physical fitness.

Lets go interest in Medicine
He recounts the call to pull back from his medicinal interest “I was enjoying my time with TT and moving in the right direction. By December of 2003, within six months of joining the Biology Group, I made the shift to Commerce against the advice of everyone at school including the Principal."

Jaundice and the Dampening Feel of a Sportman
Into Class XII, he played in the Asian Junior Tourney and won his game against Japan, a match that India won 3-2. The victory helped India qualify for the prestigious World Championship. However, Abhishek was struck with Jaundice and his hospitalization meant that he could not play in that tournament. It was the first time he felt a demoralizing and dampening feel in Sport.The time away from the Championship taught him many lessons in life including that of facing challenges at crucial phases in life.

Unruffled by this setback, he came back strong in the next couple of years winning Gold and Silver in the South Asian Junior Tourney. By the time the next World Championship arrived, Abhishek was all set to take part and he beat the World No. 12 in that tourney that took place in Austria.

The three years of his life at Loyola College was a glorious phase for him in TT. There was all the freedom at the college to pursue his sporting interest. He became India’s Number One in U21 and jumped into the World Top 50. It was a period when the powers that be at the senior level began taking notice of him.

The Dilemma of the middle classer
On the academics front, on his amma’s behest he presented a competitive exam and came through. Impressed with his ability to straddle between sport and academics, his Uncle, a CA, took him under his fold as an apprentice in Taxation and Auditing. In 2009, he was faced with the dilemma of choosing between the CA Inter Exam and participating in national and international level tournaments and he chose the former. The TT federation was keen on his participation in the Indian Open but he let go the opportunity and instead spent months preparing for the CA Inter.

It was a sign of times to come and indicated his mindset and the direction he was headed as contrasted with the line of thinking a few years earlier as a teenager.

Under a foreign coach - The Big Transformation in game
Despite his absence from the Indian Open, a pre requisiste, he was chosen for the national camp that year. India had just picked a foreign coach Massimo Costantini (Max to the players) for the first time in 2009 and Abhishek had some of his best time in TT under his mentorship. Max had very early in his stint as the coach identified Abhishek as a potential player for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, especially as a key Defenser. For over 12 months leading up to the Commonwealth games, he worked hard under the guidance of Max and his game shot up dramatically.

2009 also marked the year when Dena Bank sponsored him (Legendary Kamlesh Mehta was the last one sponsored by the Bank to make a big mark in TT). For the first time since Kamlesh Mehta’s win, Abhishek won national level tournaments for Dena Bank. He was into the Top 8 in India and had remained unbeaten in that period. In the camp held in China, he came up against top Chinese players that enriched his experience. His form over the next year that included beating top 50 players in the World led him into the Indian team for the Commonwealth Games. 

Commonwealth Bronze under his Parents’ eyes
One of the biggest moments of his life came when he won the match against Nigeria to give India the bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games in 2010. In the previous decade, his parents had not watched him play in any tournament for he had an apprehension that he would be conscious by their presence at his matches“When I was included the team for the Commonwealth games, I invited them for the first time to watch me play and they were delighted at the way the huge crowd at the Commonwealth Stadium in Delhi cheered me when I fought for a medal for the country. It also opened their eyes to the contribution I was making to India as a TT player. Following that, they were even more encouraging in my pursuit to become the best in TT and suggested that I look at the CA Final later.”

In that phase, he moved into the Top 2 in India behind Soumyadeep Roy. He also qualified in the Singles for the World Championship in Rotterdam. Though he did not make the main draw having lost in the preliminary stage, it was a great experience to be part of the big world stage.

And then the hardest decision
He was in his early 20s. Over the previous decade, he had moved from an upcoming sub junior talent to No. 1 in U21 and then to No. 2 in India. Former India left arm spinner Sunil Joshi was impressed with Abhishek’s performance, the progress he making and the potential he held as a TT player and was keen to draft him into BPCL as an officer. It was to be a high paying job and a secure long term one at that. The players recruited on such sports quota were not required to work till the time they played the game. It was a financially secure offer and would have served as an ideal platform to further his international career in TT. 

Much to Sunil Joshi’s shock, Abhishek refused to attend the interview citing his focus on the upcoming CA Final Exam. His two contemporaries, who too were called for the interview, took up the offer and continued to play at the top level over the next 5 years for India.

Olympics vs CA?
In that phase, based on his rankings, he had a chance to take a shot at the Olympics. As a teenager, he had been a risk taker having let go of his ambition to become a doctor and had chosen to focus on TT by moving from Bio group to the Commerce group in the middle of his Class XI. But by the time he was into his 20s, he turned conservative. Suddenly the risk taking characteristic deserted him and he chose academics over the possibility of national glory in TT. He became apprehensive about the prospects of a full time career in TT and the life after. Driven by this thought process, he skipped many of the tourneys in 2011-12 and prepared for the CA Final that he cleared in May 2012. He was the only top ranked TT player of the decade to appear for CA. The year that followed his success in CA saw his interest in TT wane for he was caught between the sport and the audit work at his uncle’s firm. He further moved away from TT when he took an Equity Research post at CRISIL. He let go of national tourneys and devoted most of time to his full time corporate role.

The Sporting Spirit back again
A few years later, his passion for TT claimed his spirits again and he was keen to restart the sport that had been an integral part of his life since the time he was 5. He quit CRISIL in 2015 and played TT continuously for six months including professional TT in Sweden. Despite his time away from TT, his inherent talent came to the fore as he won 7 out of the 8 matches. He made a rollicking comeback in 2016 when he won the inter-state championship for the first time. The next year he contributed to TN's victory with a match winning performance against Karnataka. He also played in the newly launched franchise league but it turned out to be his last competitive tournament for he simply could not make time to practice. He simply could not provide the time that was required of a sportsman to remain at the top of his game. The CA practice took precedence over the TT practice and he finally quit competitive game, aged 29.

Had he taken up the PSU offer aged 22, Abhishek may well have become an international star in TT for he was already in the Top5 in India at that time. But as with most middle class families in Madras, he chose academics over sport. Interestingly in this case, his parents were quite supportive and even encouraged him to pursue the sport by postponing the shot at the CA Final examination. But he decided otherwise and came through the CA examination. 

He was the only one among his contemporaries to choose academics over sport. In cricket, TVS' S Ram quit the sport as a teenager in the 1950s with the family's business prospect in mind ( https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/06/tvs-ram-s-cricketer.html), The Hindu's K Balaji let go of a  prospective Ranji Career because of the team atmosphere that existed then (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/09/a-blossoming-cricket-career-was-cut.html) and this Commonwealth Bronze Medalist quit TT to focus on academics. All these chose a professional career away from the sport.

Through the early part of his TT playing days, there was a huge investment that his parents had to make into the sport. At the time, how long will a TT career hold good always played in the back of his mind and probably prompted his decision to choose CA over TT. 

Another middle class  boy (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/01/ananth-devarajan-eyes-euro-tt-league.html )is a case in point. In 2016, Ananth Devarajan had jumped to No. 4 in the Junior ranking and was eyeing the professional leagues in Europe. His parents were making a huge investment for him in the sport at the time, similar to Abhishek's parents. But the lack of sponsors during the important teenage years meant he could not get the opportunities to play in the competitive overseas league to up his game. And as he has found out, the future in Table Tennis is not guaranteed unless one performs well and is in the top 4 nationally consistently. Ananth too is looking to make his way into the corporate world with TT probably taking a back seat.

At 32, the TT spark remains for Abhishek. With his academic background, he is hoping to get into financial management for sportspersons. While he is into taxation and audit, his contemporaries who pursued the sport are now Arjuna Awardees. But he has no regrets quitting the game early and at the peak of his playing career, for a sportsman's career is rather fickle and dependent on the 'current success' at any point of time. He played for the love of the game and enjoyed the two decades in the sport. And that love for the game will never diminish. And he may soon be back in another avataar in TT.

Friday, October 9, 2020

R Srinivasan TVS Madurai

62 Years of Service at the TVS Group
At 84, unmindful of the broken thigh femur bone, he continues to contribute to TVS Schools, TVS Hospital, the CSR Welfare activities and the development of his favourite city
Wife Kamala has initiated many sets of people into Saivite Saint Poets' Thevaram Verses
Almost five decades ago, Tamil Nadu right arm fast bowler B. Kalyanasundaram (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2011/08/kalli-b-kalyanasundaram.html), then at India Cements, was injured in his left hand and it was likely he would miss the Buchi Babu match against ACC that week. When the then Chairman of India Cements KS Narayanan saw him at the office and enquired about the upcoming match, Kalli pointed to the injury in the left hand. Reminding Kalli that he was a right arm fast bowler, Narayanan asked him to play the prestigious match as his bowling hand was intact!!! It is this logic that  Octogenarian R Srinivasan of TVS Madurai seems to have applied in the weeks gone by. 

A month ago, R Srinivasan, Director of TVS Schools and one of the two longest serving personnel of the TVS Group slipped on a floor mat on the first floor of his house in Madurai and broke his right thigh femur bone. The 84 year old was in unbearable pain and rushed to the nearby TVS hospital for a surgery. For a man his age, who has lived a majority of his life in the pre technology and internet era, he is surprisingly tech savvy. Soon after the surgery that ran into hours, much to the shock of his family members, sitting on the hospital bed he was seen working on his iPad sending directions to the TVS School colleagues on the action points for the fortnight at a time when there has been so much debate on the reopening of educational institutions. No member of the family has been able to keep him away from work even for a few hours (The injury is in the right leg but his fingers in both his hands are fine and more importantly his mental frame of mind is as sharp as it has always been, seems to have been the message received by his deeply concerned relatives). 

Till the time, Corona Lockdown hit the State in March this year, his daily routine included 3hours of physical presence at the TVS Schools where he has been a sole Director for the last two decades. In the initial period of the complete lockdown and the gradual unlocking thereafter, he has been actively involved in the multiple roles that he has been donning using technology to the core. With the surgery and his inability to walk, his three sons, all alumni of TVS School and now in well settled jobs in three different cities, found it a challenging task to manage their appa 'long distance' and a decision was arrived at amongst them to pack him ‘out of Madurai’. The city has been his love for much of his lifetime having arrived there from Sri Vaikuntam, a town renowned for the Kaisanathar Nava Kailayam Temple(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/09/srivaikuntam-kailasanathar-koil.html), in the summer of 1946 and having lived his life ever since in the proximity of the Meenakshi Amman Temple. 
It took a great deal of cajoling from his family members on the need to be under the care of his sons at such a time of medical emergency and he finally agreed to make the 'temporary' trip to Madras in the middle of September for what is now turning out to be one of his longest hiatus from Madurai over the last 75years.  Here is the story of the man’s love for Madurai, his over six decade long association with the TVS Group and what lies in store for the Octogenarian.

Football Tourney, Azhagar Utsavam -The Love for Madurai and TVS
Srinivasan was born in Sri Vaikuntam, a town on the Northern Banks of Tamaraibarani also known for Kallarpiran Nava Tirupathi Divya Desam (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2008/05/srivaikuntam-vaikunta-nathan-divya.html), in 1936. His father, Rajagopal was a Government official and moved to Madurai as a commercial tax officer in the second half of the 1940s. By the time he was into his teens, the TVS Group began to have a profound influence on Srinivasan. Two renowned events that he was witness to in that phase led him to an unshakeable early decision in his mind that both his father and uncle were to realize only much later.

In the 1950s, Madurai played host to an All India Football Tournament that saw the participation of the who’s who of Indian football. Srinivasan himself was a footballer during his college days and was greatly influenced by the care shown by TVS in managing the huge crowds at this popular tourney. The other event that sharply influenced the young Srinivasan was the way TVS managed the huge devotee crowd every summer at the renowned Chitrai festival. Srinivasan found the ease with which they transported the devotees to the banks of the Vaigai and back after the festival to be very impressive. It occurred to the young boy that the TVS management saw the entire devotee crowd as part of their own family and they managed both the football crowd as well as the festival crowd as they would their own family. The third most influential aspect in that early phase of Srinivasan’s life was the punctuality of the TVS bus service, the friendly relationship between the crew and the passengers and the way the entire TVS Management conducted itself with the people of Madurai.
And the Consequent Impact 
His father and his uncle (KS Krishnaswamy), both Government officials, were keen for the young Economics Graduate to take up the Service Commission Examination. As directed by the elders, Srinivasan wrote the exam and sailed through. Much to their delight, he was posted in the Revenue department in Perambalur but their joy turned out to be short lived, for just 48 hours after he joined work, Srinivasan knocked on the door to hand his father the news that he had returned to Madurai for good and that he would not be going back to Perambalur, an announcement that left the father speechless. His uncle Krishnaswamy was even more shocked and exclaimed ‘Would anyone quit a Government job after just two days.’ 

With the strong direction to take to a Government job, things had happened far too quickly in that phase for his liking. When he requested for a couple of days leave, his boss in the Revenue Department smelt something ‘fishy’ and warned the young boy that he would be ‘reported’ to higher authorities if he did not return at the appointed time. Srinivasan did not return for his never ending love for Madurai and the TVS Group played an overpowering role in the decision that he took that week. 

The young Srinivasan was adamant that day, much to the disbelief of the seniors at home. It was odd for a young 20 something graduate to take such a strong stand in those days in the 1950s. But Srinivasan stood by his conviction. While his uncle was unwilling and considered him foolish, his father finally relented to the power of youth.

July 58 – The First TVS meeting 
He applied for a job at the TVS and met with the then company secretary of the TVS Group, Sankara Iyer, who too suggested to the youngster that he may be taking a hurried decision on his career and asked him to re-consider the Government job, one that was likely to give him long term security. It seemed that the entire world was conspiring to navigate him away from Madurai and the TVS Group. In fact, his uncle went one step ahead. He called the boss at the revenue department in Perambulur and requested him to hold on to the resignation letter assuring him that he would soon instill some sense into the young boy and ‘dispatch’ him back to Perambalur. Clearly, uncle Krishnaswamy misjudged the strong bondage between the young grad and Madurai. Srinivasan was far too influenced by the value system of the TVS group and had bonded so well with Madurai over the previous ten years that he was unwilling to look beyond TVS.

That same month he had made the transition from a Government job to a role at the Corporate. He joined the TVS Group on July 11, 1958 and 62 years later is one of the two longest serving members in the TVS group outside of the promoter group. 

The Personal Aide of India’s PM 
Within two years of joining TVS, he came under the tutelage of CMD R Ramachandran, who spotted the long term potential in Srinivasan and began involving him in the social activities of the Group. Before he had turned 30, Srinivasan was handed out a prestigious assignment that he still cherishes almost 6 decades later. When the then PM of India Jawaharlal Nehru visited Madurai for a meeting in 1963, Srinivasan was posted as his ‘Aide’ during the period of the conference. And on the morning of the event, the PM of India pinned his favourite Red Rose on the shirt of the young Srinivasan.

On the eve of the high profile event that was also attended by Kamaraj, Bhakthavatsalam and Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, Madurai was flooded after rains lashed the city relentlessly for hours. Srinivasan, who had seen the working of the TVS team during the football tourney and Azhagar Utsavam, now saw the working of the Group for a third time, this one as a staffer who was assigned personally to the PM of India. He remembers the event from that night “TS Krishna brought around 200 foremen from the TVS Group firms and they worked tirelessly, through the night. When the PM reached the venue the next morning, he was delighted at the turnaround time of the TVS and the professional way they had ensured that the venue was ready for the event.”

For his personalised service to the PM of India, Ramachandran presented Srinivasan with a special letter acknowledging his role in taking care of Nehru, one that he has preserved to this day with great happiness.

Public Speaking Course in Madurai
In 1972, TVS & Sons organised a public speaking course in Madurai with Srinivasan playing an active role in the conduct of the event. It was the first time he came into contact with Venu Srinivasan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/07/venu-srinivasan-historical-temples.html), who participated in the course as a teenaged student. In the six decades of his service at the TVS Group, he worked closely with many of the members of the TVS Family.

Into Welfare Activities 
After serving TVS & Sons and TVS Coach Building for 15years, he moved to TVS Rubber as the Supply Manager. In the phase of his stint there, it was one of the top three rubber companies. During the period, Ramachandran sponsored several academic courses for Srinivasan’s up-skill in business. These included General Management and Export- Import Management courses, among a few others. Very early on, Ramachandran involved him in social service initiatives of the TVS Group. Srinivasan was initiated into the Junior Chamber in Madurai. When Srinivasan turned 40, Ramachandran proposed his name to the Rotary Membership with the words that Srinivasan remembers to this day, well over four decades later “People expect a lot from you. It is your responsibility to live up to their expectations.”  Since 1977, Srinivasan has remained an active Rotarian. He received an award last year from the TN Governor for his contribution to the society as a Rotarian.

When TVS signed a JV with Dupont, Srinivasan donned the role of GM Projects. 

Wife's Contribution to the Society
While Srinivasan had a 12 hour work day through most of his corporate life including his CSR, social services association and his active participation in the Rotary, his wife Kamala took a devotional teaching route. What started off as a rather simple learning of the Thevaram verses of the Saivite Saint Poets (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2019/12/thiru-vathigai-veerateswarar.html) translated into one of the more serious form. Her devotional acharya Pichammal was so passionate and devoted in the rendering of these verses accompanied by the ragas, that Kamala Srinivasan became completely engrossed in the recital.
Impressed with her absorption skills, her acharya suggested that she begin to take classes herself so the sacred verses could pass on to the next generation.Several batches of students have graduated out of Kamala's teaching of the Thevaram verses (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/01/thiru-vennai-nallur-kripapureeswarar.html) tuned in with the accompanying Ragams. The passing of the sacred renderings of the Saint Poets (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/11/thiruvathavur-thirumarainathaswamy.html) has given her a gread deal of satisfaction while her husband spent time contributing to the development of Madurai and its neighbouring villages.
APPAR at Thiru Vathigai

An Exclusive Post at TVS Schools 
After his formal retirement from the corporate life (having spent several decades with various TVS firms in Madurai and having grown to the post of Vice President), Srinivasan was leading a team of youngsters at Rotary International to Osaka, Japan for an event. It was just prior to this trip that he was called on by Shobhana, daughter of R Ramachandran who took over charge at the school in 1982. 
She created an exclusive post for him at the TVS Schools that did not exist till then and made him the Director to take care of both the day to day administration as well as laying out the broad policies for the schools. In the two decades of his association in the education space, TVS Schools has expanded dramatically. He was bestowed with the responsibility of formulating policies, preparation of annual budget, identifying new focus areas for all the TVS schools and to provide guidance, support and evaluate all activities of School Heads. With the strong expansion in recent years and increasing need for quality teachers, Srinivasan is also actively involved in the recruitment process of the teaching faculty. Lakshmi Vidya Sangam (named after TVS Iyengar's wife) now governs 10 educational institutions with 15000 students, 800 teachers and over 200 staffers.Till March this year, his daily routine included a visit to the TVS Schools.

In the education space, he was also inducted into the Sath Guru Sangeetha Vidyalaya (an institution for Music and Fine Arts) of which he became the President. He is also an executive committee member of the Sath Guru Sangeetha Samajam. 

TVS Hospital, Arogya Trust and more
In addition to his full time role at the Schools as the Director, he has also been a Lead Trustee at the TVS Hospital. As part of the CSR activities of TVS, he oversees welfare activities in 24 villages around Madurai. The Octogenarian is physically present at all the big events in these villages. He is also associated with community related projects pertaining to Women Empowerment, Education, Health, Environment, Youth and Child development around Madurai. 

Advisor to TVS Srichakra
While engaging actively in  social services activities, Srinivasan has also been continuing to play an advisory role on the corporate front. Currently, he is an advisor to TVS Srichakra.
He will soon be 85 but at the moment has no plans to slowdown his contribution to the TVS Group. His philosophy has been to keep the self busy in constructive activities that are useful for the development of the Society. One thought that was a philosophy that held good in the normal course and not for these extraordinary times when there is a health scare across the world. But Srinivasan has willingly and proactively extended that (philosophy) to even when he is unable to move without the help of a walking stick. Sitting 500kms North of Madurai at his son’s home in Mylapore, Srinivasan’s day this month has begun with his best friend in recent years - The Apple iPad. He is often seen scrolling the official emails. His responses are not short either as he types in detail to his colleagues in the TVS Group. Every morning, he remembers the message of Ramachandran from the pre technology days in 1960 “He would always say that one should respond to everyone as quickly as possible and definitely not later than 24 hours.” Srinivasan receives a reasonably good number of mails each day relating to the schools, hospital, welfare activities and the developmental programmes. He succintly follows that six decades old message of Ramachandran and ensures that he responds to each one of the mails on the same day.

Similar to the 86 year old H Lakshmanan, ED, Sundaram Clayton, Srinivasan too has engaged with the TVS Group for over six decades, quite a significant achievement for a staffer. Commitment to work, Loyalty to the TVS Group and the Will Power to carry out the tasks assigned to him has been long standing virtues of this Octogenarian. At 84, he is still making contribution in  the Education, Hospitality, Community and Tyre space. While his sons seem to be chalking out a different plan for him in the coming months, Srinivasan is itching to go back to Madurai at the earliest and to continue his life in his favourite city and with his favourite organization.

“Till my final breath, I want to contribute to the TVS Group and to the development of Madurai” is his message to his sons and the family members.

For those like Srinivasan, age simply does not matter. Truly a memorable personality, this man.