Downtown

They have cricket and a coach to thank for

T.S. Mohan at a coaching session. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Nearly two weeks before 25 June 1983, when a disbelieving cricket world witnessed a David-versus-Goliath at the Lords, the C.R. Pattabiram Trophy limited overs cricket tournament threw up a similar encounter in Madras.

The match, played at the Vivekananda Cricket Ground, did not decide the winner of the tourney, but nevertheless led to considerable buzz, as Reserve Bank of India (RBI), a mighty team inhabiting the exosphere of League cricket, had been made to eat humble pie by a less-known Sridhar CC.

The match was marked by drama. Members of Sridhar CC were on the horns of a moral dilemma, finding themselves having to bat or bowl against their coach T.S. Mohan, who was playing for RBI, his employer. Mohan’s brother T.S. Manohar, who was captaining Sridhar CC, recalls, “I had to deliver a Kurukshetra-type discourse to get one of my players to bowl to his guru, Mohan. C. K. Vijayakumar, our off-spinner, would not bowl to Mohan and I had to talk him into doing so. He eventually claimed Mohan’s wicket.”

Vijayakumar was among a bunch of youngsters that was being coached by Mohan.  Most of them in their early teens, these cricketers were drawn from localities proximate to Santhome High Road, including Karneeswarar Koil Street and Karneeswarar Pagoda Street. Mohan’s house is on Prof. Sanjeevi Street, a stone’s throw from Karneeswar Koil Street.

Most importantly, all these localities were close to the St. Bede’s cricket ground, where these youngsters would hang around when coaching sessions involving senior players were under way.

“They were athletic and talented, but needed a team,” says Mohan, 61 years old now.

Mohan started Raju Memorial Cricket Team, naming it after a friend who died an untimely death, and accommodated these youngsters. “Around the time, Mohan started running Sridhar CC too, a team that was facing the threat of removal from league cricket,” says Manohar.

Soon, this team was entirely constituted by these youngsters. During the 1980s and early 1990s, others would join the team and be coached by Mohan.

“Sridhar CC was like a family team. Sometimes, during matches, food for the players would go from our house,” says Mohan.

Mohan belongs to a family where cricket is seen as a gift to mankind and exploits on the cricket field are highly valued. Therefore, preparing food for budding cricketers was a labour of love. (Mohan’s other brother is also into cricket — he is none other than T.S. Mukund, the famous ‘Mukka’ who played for Mambalam Mosquitos. Mukund is the father of Abhinav Mukund, who has played international cricket, representing India.)

For almost all these youngsters, cricket and Sridhar CC together constituted the centre point of their lives. Routine and geographical proximity were among factors that facilitated bonding among these players. They would be coached at St. Bede’s ground, which was, for most of then, just a skip, hop and jump away from home.

“It was more than bonding. A sense of belonging developed among the players, because Mohan took an interest in their lives. These youngsters came from diverse backgrounds. Some of them came from affluent families, and some were economically disadvantaged. Mohan believed cricket could help the latter. And as first step, he ensured some of these youngsters, who were studying in schools such as PS High School — North that did not promote cricket in a big way, got admission in Santhome Higher Secondary High School. This shift led to these youngsters getting greater exposure to competitive cricket. It was a time when Santhome would make it to the finals of every tournament it participated in. Some of the others studied at St. Bede’s, where cricket was promoted,” says Manohar, adding cricket coaching with its demands helped these youngsters become more disciplined, which helped in the other areas of their lives.

Cricket opened up opportunities for many of them — some of them got admission into premier colleges and some, landed plum bank jobs.

“Balaji and Anand got engineering seats in Anna University and CIT Coimbatore on sports quota. Kubendran and C.K. Venkatraman joined SBI. C.K. Suresh and C.K. Vijayakumar joined Indian Bank. C.S. Jaishankar joined Bank of Baroda” explains Manohar. And, a good number made a mark as cricketers on a larger stage, as players and administrators.

“S. Sharath went on to represent Tamil Nadu. S. Srinivasan played for Central Zone. Shyamsunder shone in Under-19 cricket — his high point was the 169 he scored against Australia representing Indian Under-19.

And then, R.I. Palani rose to become joint secretary of Tamil Nadu Cricket Association,” says Mohan.

Mohan acknowledges that his association with those young players during the 1980s and early 1990s was mutually beneficial. “They made me. A coach is only as good as his team. In the 1980s, Sridhar CC moved up the notches steadily and reached Second Division when India Cements acquired it,” he says.

Mohan now coaches a few India Cements teams, and had earlier been a fielding coach for Tamil Nadu’s Ranji Trophy team and in 2008, was fielding coach to the Chennai Super Kings. Despite these accomplishments, he says he wants to be remembered as a man who used cricket to make a difference in the lives of 15 youngsters from his neighbourhood.


Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 6:25:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/They-have-cricket-and-a-coach-to-thank-for/article14429897.ece

Next Story