Money & Careers

Having a field day

K. Srikanth, Selection Committee chairman .   | Photo Credit: R Ragu

His laid back and almost nonchalant attitude resembles his languid cover drives or his impetuous hooks. And yes, if anything he talks even faster than he scored his thousands of entertaining runs. The chairman of India’s cricket selectors is a busy man: he’s fielding a call on his cell phone and waves us in. Finishing his call quickly, he welcomes us with a quick handshake to his lovely home in Neelangarai.

Dressed casually in trousers and a half-sleeved shirt, Kris Srikkanth is all business; he leads me to the shady summer house in a corner of the lawn and suggests we do the interview there while the photographer gets some pictures.

But that’s not to be: there isn’t enough light out in the summer house, and instead the photographer makes Srikkanth pose in the portico of the mansion. Clearly this is a man who’s seen his share of the media: he tells me to go ahead with my questions while the lens is clicking.

Today his role as chairman of the cricket selection board and his business interests (he and his eldest son, Aditya, run a company that provides mobile value added services, Internet and gaming for both original equipment manufacturers such as Nokia and Internet Service providers) leave him little time for other things, especially his media career (which had to be put on hold because of his commitment to the Indian cricket board), but he is not regretting a moment of it.

“It’s been quite enjoyable,” he says about his role as chief selector. And why not? As he himself points out, the Indian team has had a fantastic run of success since he took over in last September. The team won test series against Australia and England in India, and a series abroad (New Zealand), the first Indian team to do so since Pataudi’s tour in 1967-1968. It also won the one-dayers against England, Sri Lanka, Australia, West Indies and New Zealand.

Quite a remarkable streak of success, and some of the credit must definitely go to Srikkanth.

Life has been good to this straightforward and easy-going man. “God has been very kind,” he says with his disarming smile. “I’ve captained India, was part of the victorious World Cup team of 1983, have enjoyed success as a media personality and now this [selection board],” he reflects.

Not to mention his high-profile role as brand ambassador for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being brand ambassador, building up support for the team,” he says.

Srikkanth has a reputation for being outspoken (“I’m a plain-speaking guy,” he says ). He has obviously learnt quite a lot about the art of getting on with people after having taken over as chief selector. He smiles as he tells me, “It’s a very interesting job, but thankless too. Everyone has an opinion or two on selection matters and I’ve learnt to take the criticism that goes with the job.”

He adds, “It’s very stressful, trying to find the best combination and with people intent on second guessing you.” If that is the case, then he’s handling it quite well; he looks relaxed and confident as he speaks.

He makes it a point during the interview to stress value systems and the need for youth to have the right role exemplars. “I’m a firm believer in values; I always make it a point to be respectful to my seniors.” Born into a traditional middle-class Tamil family, he has deeply imbibed those values. “I’m a very religious person,” he tells me.

The buccaneering cricket star has also turned motivational guru with the successful launch of his DVD on success and motivation from a cricketing standpoint. Srikkanth may have made his name and fame as a cricketer, but it was by accident. “I had no ambition to play for India,” he confesses, “though I am today what I am because of cricket.”

The opener, who breathed fresh air into Indian cricket because of his swashbuckling style, points out that he’s a qualified electrical engineer from the College of Engineering, Guindy. “My education gave me the confidence to do the things I did, knowing I could always fall back on my engineering degree if things didn’t work out. Also people respect me more because of my education,” he says.

Viv Richards, not surprisingly, is his all-time favourite cricketer, whom he got to meet in the 1983 World Cup. He’s also a great admirer of G.R. Vishwanath and Dennis Lillee. Tennis was his second love, says the goateed, evergreen cricketing hero. “But I don’t get to play much these days,” he rues.

What kind of a person is Srikkanth? “I’m fun-loving. My friends are still the same from my school days,” he says.

He’s got a busy cricket season coming up, but his focus is on the not-so-distant 2011 World Cup in the subcontinent. “If we can win it, that’ll be the icing on the cake,” he signs off.

Kris Srikkanth fact sheet

Born: December 21, 1959, Madras (now Chennai)

[Tests: 43, 2062 runs, average 29.88, 2 hundreds/12 fifties, top score 123]

[ODIs: 146, 4091 runs, average 29.01, 4 hundreds/27 fifties, top score 123]

Test debut: India v England at Mumbai, Nov 27-Dec 1, 1981

Last Test: Australia v India at Perth, Feb 1-5, 1992

ODI debut: India v England at Ahmedabad, Nov 25, 1981

Last ODI: India v South Africa at Adelaide, Mar 15, 1992


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