Friday, June 25, 2021

Palayampatti Shield 2019-20 to be decided in August 2021

TNCA 2019-20 first division Semi Final and Final to be completed in Mid August
New League season to commence soon after
TNPL to start in Chennai in mid July subject to Govt approval - RS Ramaswamy, Secretary, TNCA
With the Pandemic taking effect in early 2020, the first division semi finals and final (2019-20 season) that were scheduled to be held in the 2nd week of March 2020 were postponed indefinitely immediately after the league stage of the matches had been completed on March 11, 2020.

In the last week of December 2020, the lower division league matches commenced ( and were completed by March of this year with promotions and relegations from second to fifth division decided. However, in this three month period, the two first division semifinal matches relating to 2019-20 were not conducted and continue to be pending completion, to date.

R S Ramaswamy, Secretary, TNCA told this writer on Friday evening that the two TNCA Semi Finals  and the Final will definitely be conducted in mid August soon after the completion of the TNPL “There is no question of cancelling the semi finals and the final. We plan to organize the TNPL from mid July, subject to clearances from the Govt and immediately after the tournament, the first division semi finals and the final will be played and the Palayampatti Shield awarded.”

TNPL to start in Chennai
He said that the TNPL is likely to commence in mid July in Chennai " We have sought the necessary clearances from the Govt and plan to start the tourney in Chennai after receiving the go ahead from the Govt."

Bio Bubble and Standard Operating Procedures are likely to be followed ahead of the tournament.

It may be recalled that the TN Government in its announcement last week handed permission for sports contests to be held in the four category III districts without spectators.

R Rangarajan, Manager, Youngstars CC, one of the semi finalists told this writer earlier this week that they would require at least 15 days notice from the TNCA to ensure that all their outstation players were available for the match.
Bharath Reddy(, who has been in Charge of Jolly Rovers cricket (N Sankar Jolly Rovers) for the last four decades told this writer immediately after his return from the US this week that they, as a corporate that has invested heavily in its players, are keen to play the semi final and see the first division championship to its natural conclusion.
Over the last few months, he had been unsure of whether the first division matches relating to 19-20 would be completed and this confirmation from the Secretary of the TNCA should be happy news to Jolly Rovers as well as the other three teams that will compete in the Semi Finals.

The entire 2020-21 league season was cancelled because of the Pandemic.

The New First Division season to commence in August
Ramaswamy also confirmed to this writer that the first division as well as all the lower division matches will commence immediately after the first division championship (19-20) match is played out in mid August We should be able to commence the new league season in the last week of August or the first week of September.”

This development and confirmation from the TNCA Secretary should come as sweet news to a host of cricket related parties including the umpires, match referees and scorers who are dependent on these matches for their livelihood. It will also send a positive signal to other states to explore and conduct state level tournaments this new season.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Nivethan Radhakrishnan Tasmania Tigers

Former TNCA Player Anbu Selvan's bold early move pays dividend for his son in Australia
18 year old Nivethan Radhakrishnan, who moved to Sydney frustrated at the lack of recognition and opportunities in Madras, bags first Professional Cricket Contract in Australia
The ambidextrous bowler is set to play for Tasmania in the 2021-22 Sheffield Shield Season and lock horns with the who’s who of Australian cricket
"Nivethan has nice skill sets and we want to give the best opportunity to develop his cricket and showcase his talent. He has an exciting cricket career ahead of him in Australia"- Simon Insley, GM - High Performance, Tasmania

Nivethan Radhakrishnan, son of former TNCA league player Anbu Selvan, was set to make cricketing waves at Chepauk such was his talent. He had scored 30 centuries by the time he was into his mid teens but frustration here with the TNCA and the lack of proper opportunities led his father to take him to Australia to further his cricketing interests in a professional set up there. In a significant development, 18 year old Nivethan has last week bagged his first professional cricket contract in Australia. The left hand bat, who bowls spin with both hands, has been roped in by Tasmanian Tigers for the 2021-22 Season and is likely to lock horns with the who’s who of Australian cricket in the Sheffield Shield tournament. This follows Nivethan's strong performances in the first grade New South Wales Premier league in Sydney. He will now move from Sydney where he has been residing for a large part of the last decade to Tasmania for the new season that starts in a few months time.

Away from the TNCA and Madras
Just under a decade ago, the then 26 year old Sriram Krishnamurthy based in Madras elicited interest to play the role of a high performance coach. As a Southpaw, he had played for an Indian Cements run team in the first division league under former South Zone batsman JR Madanagopal, now an IPL umpire( section had written a story in 2012 asking the question if the TNCA would utilize his services, lest he be grabbed by overseas talent hunters. The TNCA did not and Sriram moved to Australia and then later to England and has now finally settled in New Zealand. He has been credited with the development of opener Devon Conway, who has been making waves this month with an extraordinary start to his test career. 

Similar to Sriram Krishnamurthy, Anbu Selvan too had faced frustration during his playing days in the 1980s at not being able to break through in any of the age group teams despite running up good scores. Undaunted he played cricket for close to three decades even flying in from the US to play league matches. He also managed several league teams in the city mentoring youngsters, in addition to playing league cricket as an opening batsman. 

He initiated his second son Nivethan Radhakrishnan (named after Anbu’s parents) very early into cricket – at the age of three!!!. He bagged a hat-trick with his right arm off spin aged 8 and scored a century in a U12 match off just 60 balls a year later. The special talent that he was, Nivethan was already a junior Olympiad winner in Maths and Science from Sri Sankara School by then. 

Age restriction in the TNCA league – off to Australia
Just when things seemed to be going in the right direction, a new rule brought out by the TNCA restricting players below 13 years to be registered in the league frustrated Anbu Selvan. Nivethan was just 9 years old and was performing well in cricket. This new rule was likely to put him out of league cricket for another 4 years. Angered at this age restriction, Anbu Selvan went overseas to Australia and his son began practising and playing cricket there.

Impresses Greg Chappell and Glenn McGrath
Aged 11, Nivethan had become one of the youngest to play in the U 16 league in the Green Shield in Sydney. Thrilled at his talent Aussie legend Greg Chappell called Ryan Harris to take a look at him. When a MRF trainee tried to bounce Nivethan out at the nets session at the academy in Madras, he was promptly dispatched away prompting Glenn McGrath to remark ‘You will have to try the spin tricks with him. Bouncing him up will not work on the lad.’ 

Signs up with TNPL at 14
At 14, Nivethan came back to Madras from Australia and registered for the TNPL selections for Karaikudi Kaalai. After Robin Singh watched his stroke play in the selection match, he signed him up for the TNPL that season. However, soon after Robin left for the Caribbean PL and Nivethan did not get to play any of the matches in the TNPL. There were not too many takers for him in the TNCA league as well though he did play a few league matches here before returning to Australia.

Extremely talented player
Former Ranji Trophy winning captain and current Chairman of Selectors of TN S Vasudevan ( watched him closely in an inter academy tournament organised by the Gandhi Nagar Sport Club a few years ago just before Anbu Selvan decided to leave for good.  Vasudevan recalls left hand bat Nivethan scoring a lot of runs in that tournament and found him to be extremely talented allrounder and very useful especially also with his ability to bowl well with both hands.
Like Sriram Krishnamurthy, Nivethan leaves the TNCA
Frustrated at the way Nivethan was being discarded here and seeing that the special talent was not being recognized in the way it should, Anbu Selvan did not want his son’s career to go the way of the father and hence moved away permanently to Australia much like another left hander Sriram Krishnamurthy(, who has now settled down in New Zealand after moving away from his home town following a lack of acceptance of his services. Sriram has coached New Zealand A and U19 teams and been with the Northern Districts (Williamson, Southee and Watling, among others) in the last few years.
Still the Passion to coach TN Ranji Team
While he has achieved fair amount of success in New Zealand, Sriram Krishnamurthy says that the passion and desire to serve Tamil Nadu cricket is still intact, a decade after he left Madras for good!!! He even has his support staff ready, in addition to the documentation of the purpose of what the state needs to do to achieve its goal. 

Sriram’s model is to nurture a cricketing system that produces confident and well rounded young men who care about others and are passionate about playing for the state which he feels is missing now. He is hoping that one day in life he would get that opportunity to do some cricketing work for his home state. He says if it does happen, that homecoming would be the homage to all those people who motivated and inspired him (Madanagopal, RBI’s S. Ramesh and N.S. Ramesh, the late PK Dharmalingam and CB Selvakumar). 

1977 Kedarnath's plea was rejected by his father, 2012 the next gen father takes his son along to Australia exclusively for cricket
Just over four decades ago, India's batting legend Gundappa Viswanath invited opening batsman from Madras S Kedarnath ( to move to Bangalore so he could play Ranji Trophy cricket for Karnataka. When Kedarnath reported the delightful news to his father at his home on Nair Road, his enthusiasm and hope came crashing down for his father asked him to stay put in Madras and rejected permission to move to Bangalore. And that ended Kedarnath's Ranji hopes aged 22.
Credit to his father the fiery Anbu Selvan, who played TNCA league cricket for over 25 years and at one point in his career managed as many as 7 teams, Nivethan had no such restrictions. Many a time, parents are confused on the cricketing path and opportunities that lie ahead for their children. At an early stage, when Anbu found that things were not going in the right direction in Madras, he took a bold decision in cricket leaving the TNCA, with whom he had been associated for almost three decades and moved to Australia to showcase his son’s cricketing talent there. Also around that time, he quit a high profile job at JP Morgan Chase in the US and has since spent all his time entirely on developing his son’s cricket. 
Big runs - First Grade cricket in Sydney
In the last four years, Nivethan has made rapid strides in Australia. He has been part of the New South Wales Elite Pathway programme that spots and nurtures extraordinary talent. 

In the 2019-20 Season, he scored over 600runs for first grade team Hawkesbury topping the batting charts for them scoring at an average of 52 in the longer version of the New South Wales Premier league. He also topped the batting aggregate in the Poidevin Gray Shield scoring over 150runs in six matches in addition to picking up 6wickets.

Top Wicket Taker for Sydney University Club
In the season just ended (2020-21), playing for Sydney University Cricket Club, he was on the top of wicket takers list picking up 23 wickets including a best of 4/24 in addition to scoring close to 200runs. In the Poidevin Gray Shield, Nivethan was the highest wicket taker with 12wickets including a best of 5/20. He was also among the best batsmen notching up 125runs including a half century.

Quits Academics for Cricket
Like former Tennis Star Nirupama Vaidyanathan(, who quit academics at 17 to pursue a professional tennis career in the 1990s, Nivethan too has quit academics as a teenager to focus full time on professional cricket in Australia. With discipline, commitment and hard work as his hallmark and a burning desire to succeed at the highest level, he has performed well in the first grade in New South Wales and has now been suitably rewarded with Tasmania picking him as a rookie in the state squad for the upcoming domestic season.

An Exciting Career ahead of him- Simon Insley
Talking to this Writer from Hobart, Tasmania, Simon Insley, GM- High Performance, Tasmania said that Nivethan has been picked for Tasmania primarily as a batsman who can also bowl off spin. “While Ambidextrous is a special quality to have, we have not picked him for that” he told this writer late on Wednesday evening from Australia. 

“He was part of the U19 set up in Australia and has been on the radar of Cricket Australia for the U19 World Cup.”
“Nivethan has been a top performer in the Premier league in Sydney and was the Young Player of the Year there. He has nice skill sets and we want to give the best opportunity to develop his cricket and showcase his talent. Like everyone, he too has a dream of playing cricket for Australia. He is young and one has to be patient with him.  If he works hard and plays some good cricket, scores a lot of runs and takes wickets, we do believe he has an exciting career ahead of him.

Following the professional contract, Nivethan has already moved to Hobart last week from Sydney and will be training with the Tasmanian State team ahead of the new season that starts in mid September.

With a strong performance in the Sheffield Shield, this ambidextrous bowler and the top order batsman from Madras could stake a claim to the Australian National Team sometime in the near future. One will have to wait and watch as to how he shapes up in the new domestic season in Australia.

This section will track his progress in Australia.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Srinivasa Perumal Anjaneya Temple Royapettah High Road

New Sannidhis for Srinivasa Perumal and Alarmel Mangai Thayar are being constructed at the Royapettah Road Anjaneya Temple and the Consecration Ceremony will take place on the morning of July 11
Just under a Century ago, new Sannidhis for Srinivasa Perumal and Alarmel Mangai Thayar were consecrated at the Vedantha Desikar Temple in Mylapore
New Sannidhi for Srinivasa Perumal and Alarmel Mangai Thayar in Mylapore was consecrated in the summer of 1924 at the centuries old Vedantha Desikar Temple (Vedantha Desikar Temple Mylapore) in Mylapore with the help of generous financial contribution from brothers Srinivasan Iyengar and Gopalan Iyengar, the grandfather of former Ranji Cricketer K Balaji (The Hindu Ranji Cricketer K Balaji), of The Hindu family.  Over the last century, the temple has become a very popular one with round the year festivals including Brahmotsavam for Srinivasa Perumal in Vaikasi (there is one taking place currently with simple pallakku procession inside the temple) and Navarathri Celebrations for Alarmel Mangai Thayar. 

In 2021,  the consecration of Srinivasa Perumal and Alarmel Mangai Thayar Sannidhi at the Anjaneya temple near the Sanskrit College on Royapettah High Road, will take place almost a hundred years after the Mega Samprokshanam at the Vedantha Desikar Temple. 

While the restrictions on devotees’ entry still continues in the city, the date of the Consecration has been fixed for Suday July 11. The Chief Priest of the temple, Kannan Bhattachar, told this writer that the sacred events will take place between 10.30am and 11.30am in Kanya Lagnam on Poosam Star. 
Mega Street Procession in 1924
In 1924, a mega procession of Srinivasa Perumal of the Vedantha Desikar Koil took place around the Mada Streets following the consecration. There is likely to be no such processions at the Anjaneya temple next month as street processions are currently disallowed. 

At the moment, the Samprokshanam is planned as a simple internal event inside the temple without  the presence of devotees. However, if the restrictions are lifted over the next fortnight and devotees are allowed inside temples in the city, then it is likely that devotees could participate in and watch the consecration on July 11. However, a Kalyana Utsavam will be performed that evening at the temple.

While this was primarily an Anjaneya temple with Sannidhi for Rama, Sita and Lakshmana and Venugopalan, the trustees came upon the idea of building new sannidhis for Srinivasa Perumal and Alarmel Mangai Thaayar just behind the Anjaneya Sannidhi a few years ago.

B. Balaji, trustee of the temple told this writer earlier this week that the construction work was started in 2019 and has been fully funded by the temple. The Consecration was originally slated for May and then the plan was to hold it this month. But with the lockdown restrictions, work had been delayed. The authorities have finally decided on performing the Samprokshanam on July 11.

The Temple, run by the Chettiar Community since the 18th Century, is one of the oldest temples here for Lord Hanuman. Utsavams include street processions on the occasion of Rama Navami, Hanuman Jayanthi and Vaikunta Ekadasi (Garuda Vahanam).

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Kedarnath S Opener from the 1970s

In great form in 1977, he believed he was on the verge of a Ranji Debut until the Selector broke his heart with an open declaration
After watching him bat, I was confident he was State material as he was technically very sound and invited him to come to Bangalore so he could play for Karnataka in the Ranji but he could not make it. It is a pity he did not play Ranji Cricket - Batting Legend Gundappa Viswanath

A Dominating Opener, there was a Lazy Elegance to his Batting - Abdul Jabbar, his teammate of a decade at SBI
40years as PSBB Coach, 300 kids/25 coaches at his two decades old cricket academy, 5years promoting music artistes and a joyous Mimic of old cricketers
In 1977, a young batsman came back to the pavilion to rapturous applause after almost scoring a century in a city vs districts match at the beginning of the season only to be greeted by a selector with a ‘you will not play for the state till I am here’. He was almost in tears when he came back that evening to his palacious home on Nair Road in T. Nagar, Madras only to be told by his father too that he would not be selected till that man was on the selection panel. Later that year, he scored a big century at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in front of the legendary GR Viswanath, who immediately asked him to take a transfer and move to Bangalore so he could play for Karnataka. His father asked him to stay put in Madras and there ended this man’s Ranji hopes. He went on to score over 30 Centuries for SBI and has over the last two decades been running a cricket academy where there are now a whopping 300 kids and 25coaches!!! Here’s the story of an opener for whom State Cricket remained elusive. 

Another one from YSCA’s Guru Team
Like for many T Nagar based cricketers from the 1960s and 70s, cricket began for S Kedarnath at the Somasundaram Ground with YSCA Gurumurthy ( playing tennis ball cricket at the West end of the ground alongside his school mate TA Sekar. It was playing the five day test cricket at that ground did Kedarnath build a strong technique especially facing the fiery tennis ball bouncers of Sekar. Alongside practicing and playing matches at the Somasundaram ground, he was also initiated into Mirudangam under the mentorship of Acharya T. H (Vikku) Vinayakaram. For a decade, cricket and music went side by side. Kedarnath also played a bit of tennis at School. Hi

His father, who was a pretty good tennis player in his younger days, worked at the Railways, initially with the Eastern Railway and later at ICF in North Madras. His elder brother S Badrinath too was a good opening bowler at school and college. 

SBI's Chandru provides him the league break
When Kedar was 13years old, R Chandrasekaran of SBI ( who has run many league teams in the city over the last five decades, roped in Kedar for BRC, a team managed by him at that time. Kedar recalls his debut league match “We were shot out for 30 or so at the AM Jain Ground against Globe CC and I ended up top scoring with 13 not out. It was an amazing experience to top score in league at that age!!!”
                                                      SBI's Chandru

“In that early phase, I was moulded by TS Viswanathan (Services) and R Chandrasekaran. It was at BRC that I became an opening bat and began to score runs consistently. After my consistent performances, it was Chandru who suggested to me that I should play higher division”

Create the Next Gen Mathematicians
And thus he joined his brother at Friends XI in the second division league. Strong performances in the league earned him a place in the TN Colts team, the first big recognition of his cricketing abilities.  From a very young age, he had a liking for Mathematics and his ambition was to become a Maths lecturer and develop the next set of ‘Mathematicians’!!! It was with this aim that he joined B. Sc Maths at AM Jain College, where his longtime RKM school mate TA Sekar too became his college and cricket teammate. 

A Devotional and God fearing Person
Once India’s fastest bowler, Sekar ( recalls Kedar from those early years “He was from a family of traditionalists. Kedar always sported the sacred white ash and the Kumkum on his forehead. He was the ‘credible’ boy for our family. Whenever I said I was going to Kedar’s house, my parents would immediately agree for they believed I was in safe hands at their home. We practiced many hours at his spacious independent house. I would change into whites at his home and go for matches from there.”
Kedarnath did not play for TN schools or any other schools based representative cricket and his years at school were sandwiched between the cricket bat and the Mirudangam. And of course temples! He was a highly devoted boy and with the sacred ash on his forehead would often visit the Vaduvudai Amman temple ( in Thiruvotriyur and the Kapaleeswarar temple (Kapali Jayakanthan Shivachariar) in Mylapore. He was also a regular at Vaitheeswaran Koil, Srirangam and Tirupathi, something he has continued right into his 60s.

One of the Best Onside batsmen
‘Jillu’ B Ramesh, who played for Jolly Rovers/ Chemplast for 15years, was Kedarnath’s team mate at AM Jain College and also played with him at Friends XI in the TNCA league. He remembers how he secured the opening slot in the college team “Kedar was a devoted guy even as a young boy and was a regular at Tirupathi. When he was on one such temple trip, I opened in his place for the college and scored a big knock that  landed him at No. 3 in the subsequent matches!!!”
“Even in those years, he was one of the best onside players. He had good eyesight and a solid technique. During the college years, he seemed to have more time than most others and it was difficult to ‘remove’ him. He was a classy player and had the makings of playing for a long time for the state.” 

A Terrible Sight- Sekar hits his childhood mate
Sekar ( recalls the city college selection trial when he hit Kedar on the forehead with a bouncer “I hit quite a few batsmen in the country with bouncers but this would count as one of the worst. Blood oozed out of his face and the entire shirt and pant had turned RED. When I went home that evening to take a look at him, his forehead was swollen big. It was a scary sight. His mother who had known me from my RKM school days asked me ‘Enna da panneeta’ that left me quite embarrassed.”

Central Zone leg spinner, who continues to play league cricket in Madras aged 65, S Madhavan ( was at the other end when Sekar's bouncer knocked over Kedar "It was a terrible sight and he was out of action for a while. But when he came back, I remember he hooked Sekar with the same confidence that he had before the injury. Such was his class."

Viveka Performances catches SBI man’s eye
Bombay and TN Ranji batsman S Srinivasan, a resident of Gopalakrishna Road - a few hundred yards away from Kedar’s house - too was a team mate of Kedarnath at the Somasundaram ground. It was he who lured Kedar to Post Graduation in Maths at the Vivekananda college, a decision that resulted in him getting a high profile job at SBI thus putting an end to his Mathematical dreams “Kedar was a free flowing batsman. The ground strokes he played in Tennis kind of helped him in his early free flowing stroke play in cricket. We had forged many partnerships in the ‘test matches’ at Somasundaram ground. When he graduated, I lured him into joining Vivekananda College for I believed that with him at the top of the order, our batting would be strengthened significantly. He was also a brilliant slip fielder and would pluck unbelievable catches. The ball never seemed to pass him, such was his alertness at slip. His presence at the college was a huge boost to the whole side and his contribution was invaluable as the college swept the titles that year." 
Kedarnath thought he would be able to further his interest in Mathematics and agreed to join but his cricket performances that year in 1976 meant that he was to go away from Maths forever. He was also to captain Friends XI to league promotion.

The Delightful flick of the wrist
Speaking from the US, IOB’s M Sundar, who opened with Kedar on a few occasions and played against him many times in the 70s and 80s says that he was one of the finest technically, well equipped and a compact opening batsman. “His strokes were sheer timing & finesse. One stroke that stood out always in his repertoire was the flick of his waist which was a delight to the eyes especially when I was at the other end. Against a formidable Madras University team, we put together a century partnership and won the Ramadurai Trophy match despite being clear underdogs.
Following Kedarnath's performances for the Vivekananda College, it was SBI’s Chandrasekaran, who had given him the first break in the TNCA league end of the previous decade, once again who recommended his name at the bank as a long term cricketing prospect for the Bank. For 15years, Kedar’s academic proficiency was in Mathematics and his mind was clear on wanting to become a Math lecturer. But his appa asked him to forget his dream of becoming a lecturer, for securing a job at SBI was considered high profile in those days for a middle class household and he obeyed his appa’s instructions and joined the Main Branch in 1977 after discontinuing his post graduation after the first year. In his very first match for SBI, he scored a half century against Indian Bank at RKM ground in an YSCA Trophy match.

A Dominating Opener
TN mainstay of the 1970s Abdul Jabbar played for ten years with Kedarnath at SBI. Talking to this writer from Hyderabad, he recalls Kedar's approach to batting He was a natural opener who liked to dominate the bowlers from the word 'Go'.  He played many a good knock in his career but the two that stand out for me were the ones against Rusi Modi XI in the Buchi Babu tournament & against Chemplast in the finals of The Hindu trophy when we were chasing a big target. He was a very wristy player and there was a lazy elegance to his batting. Even his short innings of 20’s & 30’s was a treat to watch.”

A memorable knock but a Cruel Message
Over that 12 month period in 1976-77, he seemed to be in prime form. After strong performances for Vivekananda College, he scored over 200runs in three matches including a knock of 88 against Mafatlal at Chepauk and the knock of 86 referred above by Jabbar against Rusi Modi XI at MCC College at the start of the new season in 1977 in the Buchi Babu tournament. Despite being in the form of his life, what is strongly etched in Kedarnath memory is  that tearful evening in 1977 after what he thought was a memorable innings “In the city vs districts match, I scored 96 under the captaincy of Krishnaswamy. It gave me a lot of satisfaction and I thought I may have done enough to get into the state team. The huge crowd that watched the match shouted out with confidence that I would be in the Ranji team that year.”

Even as he came back into the pavilion to the thunderous applause of the crowd and of his teammates, he was brought down to earth when a voice ( that of the Chief Selector) struck a cruel message right on his face ‘You will not play for TN till I am there’.”

The young man was almost in tears at this shocking statement and came home that evening to narrate the story to his father. Upon knowing who the selector was his father too endorsed that thought, much to the youngster’s shock. There had been a professional incident at Railways earlier involving the selector with Kedar’s father being the investigating assistant and it was unlikely that he was going to forget that!!!

Kedarnath recalls S Venkataraghavan (Venkat@75) wishing him well at the Taj Connemara (Venkat was to tour Australia and missed the Ranji season) ahead of the Ranji season and asking him to bat well in the Ranji matches. But that Ranji call remained elusive.

An impressed GRV calls him to Bangalore
This phase coincided with him joining SBI. Putting behind the cricket disappointment, he began to focus on his ‘first job’. That same year, he had the best experience of his life one that he says is unforgettable. SBI’s CGM Ramananda Rao wanted to watch a battle between two legends VV Kumar and GR Viswanath and organised a Bangalore v Madras bank match at the KSCA. Kedarnath scored 178 in a chase of over 400 against SBI Bangalore. 
A Top of the World Feeling
The batting legend was so impressed with Kedar’s back foot play and his technique as an opener that when he heard of TN’s rejection he asked Kedar to take a transfer to Bangalore so he could play for Karnataka next year as they were looking for an opener. It was a gesture that delighted the young Kedarnath. He was on top of the world as any youngster would be. He came home and announced with great delight to his father this invitation from India’s legend. Once again much to his disappointment, his father asked him to stay put in Madras and to play first division cricket for SBI in this city. The pronouncement put paid to Kedarnath’s Ranji dreams. It crushed his enthusiasm but Kedar has no regrets of his appa’s decision “He was from a traditional family and cared a lot for me. He did not believe in sending me alone to Bangalore at a young age for the sake of cricket. As a dutiful son, I had no answer and followed his directions. In those years, you did not protest against father’s decisions.”  
In any case, it was no straightforward task to get a full time transfer at SBI having been recruited for the Madras branch and to play first division cricket and other tournaments in Madras. Well over a decade earlier, when R Chandrasekaran was asked by Kerala to take a transfer to that state so he could play Ranji cricket there, the bank refused a full time transfer. 

He would have done well for Karnataka in Ranji
On a day when he lost his close friend and team mate of many years B Vijayakrishna, batting legend Gundappa Viswanath told this writer in a long conversation from his home in JP Nagar, Bangalore that Kedarnath was a technically sound batsman and felt that he should have played for Tamil Nadu. “After I watched him play for SBI, I wondered as to how such a player was not picked by TN. He had a frustrated feeling that he was not being picked despite running good scores in the first division league in Madras and also in other top tournaments. I found him to be special when he played in SBI's matches. That is when I asked him to come to Bangalore and play in the first division here after registering himself in the league. I was confident he would do well in the league and that we would be able to pick him for the Karnataka team in the Ranji Trophy. Unfortunately, he could not make it to Bangalore.”
“We played a lot of cricket together for a strong All India State Bank and shared many good partnerships. If he could be part of that SBI team that comprised the who's who of Indian cricket and scored runs in that team, he should have definitely played Ranji cricket for TN and it is a pity he did not.”

"Like KR Rajagopal ( who was very unlucky not to have been picked for India and gone on that Australia trip in 1967-68, Kedarnath was unlucky not to have been picked for TN in the late 1970s and played Ranji Trophy cricket" says Viswanath, with a tinge of sadness.

He put the bad balls away
Kedar joined VV Kumar at SBI in the year that saw the exit of the legendary leg spinner from TN cricket. VV Kumar (Spin Legend) him as a technically sound opener with a lot of patience and the ability to put away the wayward deliveries.

Coimbatore's PR Ramakrishnan, who himself was on the verge of a Ranji Debut earlier in the decade, is of the view that while Kedar was a good batsman, "it was a challenging task for him to break past the three openers who had established themselves through the decade for TN. By the end of the decade, K Srikkanth too came into prominence."
NP Madhavan too had come to stake a claim in the TN Squad towards the late 1970s having emerged as a star player from the Chengalpet District. Madhavan ( made his Ranji debut as an opener in 1980 recalls Kedar being a stylish batsman who he says was unfortunate not to have debuted for TN in that phase when he too was aspiring to be a TN opener.
Former India Wicket Keeper Bharath Reddy captained SBI towards the end of the decade. Talking from the US, he said 'Kedar was just a notch below Kicha, Shiv and Ramesh'.

It is well over four decades since the time he thought he was on the verge of a Ranji Debut. Kedarnath looks back at that year and says that he was frustrated at not being given a look-in in that phase – at least 1-2 matches in Ranji for him to prove his mettle at the state level. “I was in the best form of my life in 77/78 and not being able to get at least a couple of opportunities at the state level to showcase my credentials remains my biggest disappointment in cricket. But of course, my appa convinced me that I would not get in.”

Sekar says that Kedar was unlucky not to have played for the state “He was very stylish for a right hander. At that time, there were three others as openers and he should count himself unlucky. Though he scored a lot of runs at college and in the first division on matting wickets against top bowlers in a very competitive first division league, that first break for TN remained elusive and he just could not make his debut.”

Srinivasan says that once he met and played alongside GRV, Kedar had become a huge fan of the legend. For him to have gained the confidence and admiration of GRV is a huge achievement and a great feeling. “Unfortunately, for him, the opening slot in TN was not open at the right time. If he had got one opportunity, he may have tried to prove that he belonged to this stage but he just did not get it.”
After 77/78, Kedarnath never really came back into contention for TN with younger players Srikkanth, NP Madhavan and CS Suresh Kumar coming into the fray. Like R Madhavan ( who after the dejection of not being included in the Indian team in 1984-85 despite running up big scores did not reach that level again in Ranji cricket, Kedarnath resigned himself to the fact that he would not play again and settled down quietly at SBI. He continued to play for the bank in the first division in Madras. His cherished memories are of playing with his mentor for All India State Bank “It was difficult at that moment but I consoled myself quite quickly and moved on to give my best for SBI and enjoying the moments with my Guru Vishy. I always look back at my cricketing days to remind myself as to how blessed I was that I could watch him bat from the other end.”

Launch of Kedaram
In 2016, he launched ‘Kedaram’, an academy to promote musical talent by providing them opportunities and a platform to perform. S Madhavan who too played cricket alongside Kedar at the Somasundaram ground in T Nagar and for Friends XI in the second division shares common musical interest with him “He was a very good mirudangam player though he did not pursue his interest in that field. However, it was that passion that led him to launch Kedaram and promote artistes providing them with opportunities to perform. Every time I am at his academy, he would always ask me to sing and our discussions would center around Raagams."

Never a wrong word about another player
Sekar says that Kedar has always remained a very nice fellow. “I sometimes felt he was too nice to be a cricketer. He had a terrific sense of humour, was always a good team man, a god fearing person, did not fight with anyone despite the frustrations he went through at that time. At the end of a day’s play, his mimicking of other teammates especially of Chandru and VV Kumar gave all of us great joy.”

Not a Dull Moment with Kedar around
Jabbar echoes Sekar’s sentiments Kedar was a very easy going person and was never taken seriously by anyone not even when he mimicked on the face of the player. He is blessed with a rare talent to mimicking. With him around in the dressing room, there was not a dull moment, not even when we lost a match. He had that special capacity to wittily transform those moments.”

Has given me so much joy through his mimicries
While he may not have earned the recognition he should have on the field at the state level, the best of his off field action was certainly recognised and acknowledged by teammates. Viswanath wonders as to how Kedar pulled this off and continues to do so "I do not know how he does that but in a flash he would change from one voice to another and do that so beautifully. It is always lovely to hear his mimicry. Whenever I feel bored, I call him over the phone and ask him to mimic the old players from the 1970s. And he would immediately take me to a world of joy. He has been blessed with the ability to provide happiness to others through his mimicries."
"Having known him for over four decades, I have always found him to be a nice human being and a very God fearing person" says Vishy. He is also happy that Kedar has been running a cricket academy for two decades. 

He may not have played Ranji Trophy  for TN or Karnataka but Kedarnath is proud to have scored over 30 centuries for SBI including 28 in the first division league. In the week of his wedding, he says he came back from Trichy and scored 186 NO in the first division league. Another innings that instantly comes to his thoughts is the match in the MCC Dyanora Trophy, when aged well past 30, he scored 90 against a strong MRF attack comprising of  Sekar, Zaidi and Razdan and chased 290. He recalls a young Sachin Tendulkar who was then on the verge of his making his India debut coming to him and saying that it was the best back foot knock he had seen. Touching 35, he scored a century against K Arun Kumar  and Niranjan Kumar at their fastest on a green top at SPIC. 
One of the Pillars of SBI Cricket
Abdul Jabbar puts Kedar's contributions for SBI in perspective “He was one of the main contributors in SBI’s success during my time. Both of us knew the importance of our wickets to the team's cause. He was a superb timer of the ball and it was always pleasing to watch him bat. I enjoyed batting with him during those ten years. 

In 2001, he quit SBI and started a coaching academy in T Nagar. While he has now run it for two decades, one does wonder as to how a cricket academy can manage 300 kids at one point of time -  25 coaches at his academy is his answer!!!! 

In important phases in his life, things went against him. Over four decades later, he is truly happy that God has given him lot more than what he may have wanted though he does miss not playing Ranji cricket. He has coached the PSBB School for close to four decades, run a cricket academy for two decades and an academy for budding music artistes now for five years. In his cricketing life, he considers it an honour to have played alongside the greats of Indian cricket for the All India SBI side and particularly savours his relationship with legend and his mentor ‘Vishy’. 

Just before his father’s death in 1988, he expressed his regret at his disapproval in 1977 “He told me with a great deal of sadness that he should have allowed me to go to Bangalore to pursue my Ranji ambition”, Kedar remembers of being by his father's bedside.

An astrologer once told Kedar that he was destined to climb 99steps of the ladder with ease but would always stay one step away (remember that snake at 99 in Paramapadam where one comes tumbling down!!!) and he has for long accepted that as part of his life. 

Even as the Pandemic has kept most of the cricketers, current and former, indoors, he received a call recently from his ‘Guru’ Vishy asking him to mimic the cricketers of yesteryears especially VV Kumar. He looks back at his life and wonders as to what more could he have asked for from God than receiving such a request from the batting legend and giving him delight with his voice four decades after GRV had asked him to join him in Bangalore!! He could not accept that invitation in 1977 but this one in 2021, he surely did and sent him a recording mimicking several of the former players that sent Vishy into joyous laughter at his home in Bangalore.

Chidambaram Deekshithar TNCA Umpire

The Deekshithar in TNCA Cricket

Kalyana Venkatesa Deekshithar of the Chidambaram Nataraja Temple became a TNCA Umpire last decade and wanted to pursue his ambition of becoming a BCCI umpire but the Mega Kumbabhisekam of 2015 meant he had to focus for a full year on the consecration work ahead of the exams

The Deekshithar's family have around 200days of annual service at the temple

In 2011-12, BCCI Umpire R Rajesh Kannan (BCCI Umpire Rajesh Kannan) visited the famous Nataraja temple in Chidambaram following a cricket training camp he had overseen in Cuddalore. That is when he met S Kalyana Venkatesa Deekshithar who was in his early 30s then. Moved by his interest in cricket, Rajesh Kannan initiated the thought in him of becoming a cricket umpire. He handed him the laws of cricket and mentored him to take up the examination conducted by the TNCA. Kalyana Venkatesa Deekshithar came through the examination and much to his delight began umpiring league matches in Madras. Many times he would take a bus from Chidambaram on Friday night, umpire the matches over the weekend and return on Sunday night. There were times he would come in from Bangalore to umpire a cricket match. At that time, he cherished the ambition of becoming a BCCI umpire. But temple work in the middle of the last decade led to his return to Chidambaram and put paid to the mega umpiring ambitions of the Deekshithar in TNCA cricket!!!

A 1000 year tradition
Kalyana Venkatesa Deekshithar belongs to the hereditary family of Pothu Deekshithars who have been performing pooja at the Nataraja temple for over 1000 years. His grandfather performed service at the temple for over five decades, while his father Sethu Mahadevan, who has initiated a large number of students into Vedas, continues to perform archaka service at the temple having started out in the 1970s.
Kalyana Venkatesa Deekshithar learnt the Vedas for about five years from Parameswara Deekshithar in Chidambaram. Given the financial challenges of the time and the huge joint family that he was part of, he pursued his academics and completed MBA in Finance from the Annamalai University. While his father and grandfather along with his uncles continued the temple service, Kalyana Venkatesa Deekshithar went into the corporate world for a few years. It was also a period when there was severe pressure from the HR & CE to take over the administration of the temple and the mood inside the temple was unsettling with most unsure as to how things would unfold. 

Deekshithar anchors the Chidambaram Koil Team
As a young school boy, he had been active in cricket and played a number of tennis ball tournaments in Chidambaram. “I was a medium fast bowler and a middle order batsman and an integral part of the team.  With our good performances in those tournaments, our team came to be popularly known as the ‘Koil Team’.” 

Deekshithar in the TNCA league
He wanted to pursue his cricketing interests but the financial challenges of the time led him into the corporate world.While he could not move to Madras as a teenager to explore his cricketing interests, later on he joined the lower division league team Madras Indians, one run by Indian off spinner R Ashwin and practiced with the team in Madras. However, a ligament tear and aggravation of that injury cut short his playing days in the TNCA league “I had the joy of playing in the league for Ashwin's team and interacting regularly with his father Ravichandran. It was to overcome the disappointment of the leg injury and to continue to be associated with the game that I took to umpiring, inspired by the motivational words of and encouragement from Rajesh Kannan.” 

Kumbabhisekam work cuts short his Umpiring Plans
Following temple activist TR Ramesh’s (Worshippers Society TR Ramesh) ground work at the Chidambaram temple and Subramaniam Swamy’s handling of the case, the court directed handing back the temple to the Pothu Deekshithars earlier last decade after HR & CE had taken charge for a few years. When it was time for the Kumbabhisekam in 2015, the draw of lots at the temple turned in Kalyan Venkatesa Deekshithar’s favour and he was to be part of the committee for the consecration. This meant a lot of preparatory work through the year and he could not prepare for the Umpiring exam that was coming up at that time and he thus let go his umpiring ambitions. 

Having been in the corporate world and on the cricket field the previous decade he is now back full time in Chidambaram to continue the archaka service. During the pandemic, he has also been taking online Vedic Classes for about 15students to try and get the next gen entrenched in the Vedas.
                      With S Ravi in Madras

In the past the family had had around 100 days of annual archaka service at the temple. With his two sons becoming eligible for service,  the period of service in a year is likely to double to around 200days. This will keep Kalyana Venkatesa Deekshithar full time at the temple even though the last 12 months has been a tough period for him financially with restrictions on devotees’ entry into temples and consequent reduction in Kattalai. He is hoping that this will turn around soon with the reopening of temples.

While he is now focused on archaka service, once in a while he lets his mind get back into memories of the matches he played in Madras for Ashwins’ team and his days on the cricket field as a proud TNCA umpire that gave  him a lot of joy. 

Truly, one of a kind Deekshithar!!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The decade when TN Cricket was rocked by age scandal

Over Aged Players predominantly from Santhome School were barred from taking part in matches in the second half of the 1980s after the scandal came to light but TNCA did little by way of tough actions to prevent this issue from resurfacing

'Talented boys who played true to their age were majorly impacted by this scandal' - Bharath Reddy, Country's most Successful Club Cricket Manager
Till the 1970s, there was no age categorization at the junior level in TN cricket with the only specification being 'schools cricket'. One only had to be a bona fide student of a school to play in the tournaments. The turn of the decade was marked by the creation of a number of age group categories. The 1980s saw various models being tried out - U17 and U15, U19 and U16 with U12/U13 too added later on. As the decade unfolded, this threw many different kinds of challenges and by the second half turned itself into an ugly scandal.

The 1980s saw Santhome dominate school cricket in the city but it was a phase that witnessed a number of its players caught in the fudging of age certificates. This came to light prior to the U15 state schools team's trip to Bangalore in November 1986. The TNCA was caught unawares when a stay was secured on a few players who had been selected for the state schools. A large majority of the players were from Santhome School and one from Gill Adarsh. Almost all of these 'over aged' players went on to play first division cricket for many years.

A Pre Cursor that served as a warning
Earlier that season, at a schools tournament organised by Don Bosco, this overage issue had flared up specifically relating to Santhome players and the team sent a different set of players for that tournament. And then much to everyone’s shock, those same set of players produced a different age proof certificate for the U15 state schools selection. With parents of other talented boys protesting right after, the TNCA relented and banned the boys for that State tournament after having selected and announced the squad of 15. While the plan was for the standbys to gain automatic entry into the squad, the TNCA actually organised a retrial and the squad was chosen afresh.

PSBB KK Nagar’s Promodh Sharma was one of those players in the standbys that season. He remembers the turn of events that week in October 1986 “As someone from PSBB, a not so recognized school in the cricketing fraternity, I always got the feeling that I was not watched at the nets by the selectors.  I believe that having an unknown kid bowl a few balls and having him bat for a few minutes may not be enough to spot the talent or potential. If the kid came from a school which did not have a cricketing pedigree, the chances diminished further.”

It was this feeling of Promodh and cricketers like him that Rajan Bala wrote that month way back in 1986 “During the trials, parents who were favoured got preferential treatment. Others were not even looked at and eliminated”.

“While I was in the camp and the thought process was that the standbys from the squad selected in October 86 would gain entry into the team after some of the players became ineligible following the over age issue, the TNCA conducted another trial and the standbys did not feature in that."

After the issue of over age came to light, Rajan Balan, in his story, questioned the very credibility of the trophies that Santhome had won in the previous years.

The School's Head and Coach should have been Questioned
Hemant Srivatsa(, owner of Murrays Auction, was a top cricketer in that era. He had played for South Zone and Indian Schools by the mid 1980s and had joined first division team Alwarpet when he was just 15years old. More importantly, he has always been very vocal about how the game should be played. Everytime he has spoken to this writer over the last decade, he has expressed happiness at having quit cricket very early in his life. It should not have been that way for he was a formidable fast bowler who could rip into the opposition but he was done in by the system. 
He remembers the sour events in the second half of the 1980s “Many of the kids may not have known what was going on behind them. They were too young especially the U15s. In those days, the school used to send the list of players to the TNCA. While the TNCA enquired the over aged cricketers in full public view and the manner of their questioning was appalling, what they missed was questioning the school and its then coach. They should have called the head of the institution, the physical director and the coach to the TNCA and addressed these questions to them in front of the students but they failed to do so.”

The players were excluded for that tournament but then normalcy returned after a few months. TNCA failed to go to the root of this problem and did not work towards cutting the root so this issue did not crop up again. 

LU Arun (, who was in the original squad, featured in the reselected team that went to Bangalore where he showcased his talent with some brilliant knocks that helped him gain a place in the South Zone team. PB Anand of Gill Adarsh was the captain selected in the original squad but he was one of the players who had become ineligible because of the overage issue and a districts cricketer VJV Narasimhan captained the TN Schools to Bangalore. 

September 1987- New Season and Over Age Issue again
Just under a year later, this issue re-surfaced again this time in Thanjavur in the City vs Districts match. Aashish Kapoor was the captain of this team but a stay on the eve of the match sent jitters in the TNCA. They were without a captain and once again many players had become ‘ineligible’.

Shocked as a Selector
PR Ramakrishnan who was in the TN Ranji squad in the early 1970s was part of the Selection panel that was present for that match. He says he was shocked the first time he heard it. Aashish Kapoor was to be the captain of the city team in Thanjavur but he was termed ineligible. “There was no age group cricket in the 60s and 70s and hence there was no question of this (over age issue) arising in that phase when I played my cricket. However, when it did crop up soon after age group cricket was launched, it came as a big shock to me. Cricket was supposed to be a gentleman’s game and this was fudging of records and a clear fraud. They were not fit to be ‘Cricketers’. There were influential parents, and the coach of the schools played a big part in this for without their consent much of this could not have been done. It had become some sort of a ‘racket’.”
He remembers Chairman of Selectors M Srinivasan’s reaction that day “Srinivasan was very dedicated and fought for talented youngsters. When suddenly a bunch of players became ineligible, he panicked and was at a loss of words. But City had to find replacement players, and soon.”

Ramakrishnan also recalls the scenario in the districts “In Coimbatore, we had put in place a strong system very early on. We were tough from the very beginning and acted with clarity. In fact, GR Prasad would  always go to the head of the institution and get their endorsement ahead of every tournament. It was important for the head of the school to certify as per the birth certificate in the school’s records and school's head had to be made accountable as far as the birth certificate endorsement was concerned.”

Cricket an ideal platform for Engineering Seat
Cricket was taking off in the country after India's victory in the 1983 World Cup and with every passing year parents began taking increasing interest in their son's cricketing activities which in some cases crossed the acceptable limits. It is something that Rajan Bala wrote way back then “Parents were seeing representative cricket for the State Schools as a platform to get admission into Engineering Colleges. And this triggered a series of actions that led to the overage scandal.”

Negatively Impacted the Talented Players
Talking to this writer from the US, the most successful of club managers in the country in the last four decades, Bharath Reddy ( who had just completed his playing career in the mid 1980s and had begun focusing on cricket at Jolly Rovers, said, “The talented boys who played true to their age were majorly impacted by this scandal. Imagine an 18 year old playing in a U17 match against a 15 or 16 year old boy. The over aged boy is clearly at an advantage and with an exaggerated performance through such methods at the U15 and U17 levels, he is likely to get more opportunities in cricket including a quicker jump into the first division league while the talented boys who lost out through such unfair methods would possibly have quit cricket in frustration and gone on to pursue academics.”
“Clearly it had a big psychological impact on many children and forced them out of cricket sooner than they would have expected.”

Promodh looks back at that year and says that the TNCA acted in a way to protect their interest like every other governing body has done over the years when staring at a crisis.  “They took a decision and drafted in replacements as part of their damage control. In the process, some were lucky and others not so.”

Over age issues in Tennis in the US
R Vijayakumar, who was coached by AG Ram Singh and Rajan Bala in the 1980s and was a Tennis Coach in the US just over a decade ago, has been witness to a rampant over age issue in tennis in the US. He told this writer many years ago that there is a method to the madness. "Those that start this process at the U13 level carry this right up to the U17 level. In that period of 5-6 years (having started out at 11 or 12), the over aged kids would have won all the tournaments in U13, U15 and U17. Hence by the time they are 18 or 19, they are already seen as a local champion having achieved big success in the age group tourneys. That boosts their confidence levels as a winner. Hence there is a distinct advantage in playing against those aged way  below you especially in the 12-19 age group."

Bharath Reddy says that this over age issue was not restricted to Madras and that in the days he played for South Zone schools there were over aged boys playing from other states"‘Even though they had passed the schooling age, they would get back into school when they saw an opportunity to play at a national level like the Zonal Schools tourney or the Indian Schools trip or a schools match against a visiting team.”

How was the over age issue handled
As soon as the issue came to light, there was a lot of rumbling all around. While the players were replaced for the particular tournament, they came back later. Ramakrishnan is disappointed at the way the TNCA handled it then “The powers that be at that time had the opportunity to nip it in its bud at a very early stage.They should have taken strong action against the players. The TNCA should have arrested it then and there. It deserved big punishment in the longer term interest of the game, but really the TNCA did not do what it should have done at that time. ”

TNCA should have banned the school(s) for three years
Hemant Srivatsa who captained and helped districts beat the city captained the U19 TN team as a player from the Districts (he was at GCT, Coimbatore) in the mid 1980s. He says that the moment this came to light, not once but on multiple occasions, the TNCA should have banned the school(s) from participating in inter school tournaments. "That would have set a strong precedence and been a deterrent. But tough decisions were not taken at that time.”

Has the cricketing system changed since?
Promodh, who was impacted in the over aged issue back then, continues to play cricket now in Hongkong aged 50!!! He looks back 35 years after the over age issue first came to light and asks if the system in Madras / TN has changed at all in the period since he graduated out of school “The important question is what has been done since then to change the way the system works and to provide equal and fair opportunity to the talented. The system is changing albeit slowly with more accountability being brought in thanks to corporates who play a significant role in today’s cricket and being in the glaring eye of the social media.”

There have been cricketers who have reached the top even in recent years /decades bypassing the ( over age) system.

Bharath Reddy says that it has taken many years for a solution to be found. “It is only in the recent decade that bone test has come into play.”

Former Ranji Cricketer and coach of TN DJ Gokulakrishnan said the age old Issue of overage cricketers still  persist. "That's one of the reasons why on Rahul Dravid's recommendation, BCCI has come up with restrictions on a cricketer playing in only one u19 World Cup."

He says that the above restriction combined with a stringent punishment like a life ban for those found guilty is a welcome development.

Promodh(, who has faced many a corporate challenge in building a 80 million dollar global business in the garment sector, says that the system of bias and the role of godfathers still exist but he is confident that sooner than later this too will evolve and change to a format to reward the meritorious alone “We must believe we will see a day where talent has the final word over the power of position or social standing within and outside the confines of the ruling body.”

(This story has been edited a paragraph removed on Thursday evening - June 10)

Monday, June 7, 2021

TN Sripatham Petition HR & CE Minister

The TN Sripatham Sangam led by Kapaleeswarar’s Sankar present a written petition to the CM and the HR & CE Minister about their plight
"3.60Lakh family members of the TN Sri Patham carriers dependent on this service for their livelihood have been affected by the lockdown"
While they have an informal financial contract with the temples for Brahmotsavam and are paid a fairly large sum for the service, the lockdown over the last 12 months and the consequent cancellation of many of the big utsavams has hit them financially
Sripatham carriers are often a neglected lot. Their round the year selfless service usually goes unnoticed. They have been in for a tough time over the last 12 months with temple restrictions arising out of the pandemic hitting them hard. 

In a first of its kind move, the informal group of TN Sripatham Sangam has presented a written petition to the TN CM Thiru M.K. Stalin and the HR & CE Minister Thiru P Sekar Babu last Friday.  This was signed and presented on behalf of the TN Sripatham Sangam by Sripatham K Sankar, who is a Mestri of the Mylapore Temples Sripatham team.

The petition says that 3.60Lakh family members of the Sri Patham carriers in TN are dependent on this service for their livelihood. In the last 12 months, since the announcement of the first lockdown, the Sripatham families have undergone a lot of stress with many of them not being able to pay the house rent and the fees of their children’s education.  
He says that many of them are in a stage where even finding the finances for the next lunch has become a challenge. They also perform various other services relating to Theppotsavam and Brahmotsavam.

Sankar is a leader of the Mylapore Temples Sripatham and anchors the conduct of the processions in many temples in Mylapore. He has been serving as a Sri Patham carrier in Mylapore temples for the last 25years. His forefathers too had carried the Lords of Mylapore on their shoulders for several decades. He also organizes the ‘Pandal’ and 'Thoranam' in Mylapore temples during the big utsavams. Sankar and the team of 60Sripatham members carry on their shoulder Kapaleeswarar, Madhava Perumal, Kesava Perumal and Venkatesa Perumal of Mari Chetty Street in addition to  the Lord of many other temples in Mylapore. 

Informal Financial Contract with the temple
The Sripatham group have an informal financial contract with the temple for their service. Many of these temples pay them quite a large amount for their service especially during the Brahmotsavam when there are two Vahana Processions each day. In addition to this, the Sripatham also collect money from the residents and shops during the Brahmotsavam processions.

The last day of the Kapali Brahmotsavam 
For years, it is a well known fact around the Mada Streets that on the 11th day of the Panguni Brahmotsavam at the Kapaleeswarar Temple, the Sripatham collect huge amounts of money from the residents of the four streets including from all the shops. This year, the procession on that final day took several hours as the Sripatham were in collection mode from these residents. The Sripatham even decide on the amount of money that they (the residents / shops) should pay for their service during the Brahmotsavam and more often than not it has become a tradition for this amount to be paid to them on the final day of the utsavam. Else, the procession does not move like it stood for almost an hour in front of the Karpagambal mess on that 11th day!!! 

At the Kapaleeswarar Temple too, the Sripatham is chosen based on a tender process similar to the one Parthasarathy temple. 

Feedback from TN Sripatham members
Sankar told this writer that prior to the full lockdown, he and his team went around TN Temples including Thiruvannamalai and Mannargudi to engage in discussions with the Sripatham personnel in many of the temples to understand their issues. It was following the feedback from Sripatham across the state that they decided to present their case to the Government.

He is hoping that the newly elected government will look into the issues relating to the Sripatham and provide an appropriate solution. 

Five Specific Requests
In the written petition, a copy of which is available with this writer,the TN Sripatham members have placed five specific requests before the TN CM and the HR & CE Minister. He has asked them to be included in the list of workers in the unorganised sector, to reopen the temples to processions as soon as possible, to stop the tender process for Sripatham selection every year/periodic intervals, to take proactive steps to prevent accidents during street processions that have many times put the lives of the Sripatham at risk and to consider them for temple service posts when the vacancy arises.

Sripatham Models in TN
Multiple models are in existence in temples across the state. In the Parthasarathy temple in Thiruvallikeni, the Sripatham is chosen through a tender process and for well over a decade it is the traditionalists who have carried the Lord on the shoulder, while in Srirangam, the Sripatham are HR & CE staffers who double up in other temple work when there are no processions. Over the last 50 years, Srirangam Vethal Service, an informal group of over 300 volunteers based in and around Srirangam, have been providing selfless service of carrying the Lord, especially on long street processions, in addition to the official HR & CE appointed ‘Sri Patham Thangis’. It is with the support of these volunteers that the long trips of Namperumal are managed. At the privately adminstered Vedantha Desikar Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Mylapore, the Sripatham group is completing 75years. 

In many of the temples in Mylapore, it is the Sripatham Sangam members who are involved in all the processions. Sankar told this writer that he is confident that the TN CM and the HR &CE minister will provide a favourable solution in the next few days to help them overcome the current financial stress. He said that opening up the temples will help them with positive energy and a peace of mind that is so lacking currently.  It will also help them financially as they get Sambhavanai from devotees while on a procession.