M.P. Ganesh: a man of many hats

More than meets the eye: The all-in-one M.P. Ganesh. — File Photo  

Charisma could well be his middle name. Mollera Poovaiah Ganesh has donned many a hat in his illustrious career. And every one of them has sat snuggly on this gentleman's head.

From a sepoy in the Indian Army, player-Olympian, coach, manager, Regional and Executive Director Sports Authority of India (SAI) to the current post as CEO of the flourishing Karnataka State Cricket Association, this 64-year-old Coorgi has done and seen it all. Even after over 40 years in the public eye, he is humble to the core.

Football's loss was hockey's gain. For as a young lad, Ganesh was more at ease with his leg work than wielding the hockey stick.

But embracing the Army uniform changed all that. Ganesh became part of a lethal attack force in Indian hockey. A silver medal at the Amsterdam World Cup (1973), losing out to the Netherlands via the sudden death in the final, turned out to be two of the worst setbacks in his career.

A lucrative offer to play in the Italian league spelt the end of Ganesh's stint in the Army and as a player in the Indian team. However, after four years, a knee injury terminated his professional stint as well.

Just when it seemed it was the end of the road for him, other doors and avenues opened up. State Sports Minister Gundu Rao spotted the commitment of the young coach Ganesh and asked the then Department of Youth Services and Sports Director, J. Anandan, to take Ganesh under his wings. “That was the start of my administrator's role,” he recalls.

The meteoric rise was just waiting to happen. Spotted for his sincerity and commitment, Ganesh was soon lifted to an administrative role with the merger of National Institute of Sports and Sports Authority of India in the mid-'80s.

Tough luck

“During the 1990 World Cup at Lahore, the Indian team was booed and bruised both on and off the field. We spent 16 days during the championship confined to our hotel rooms just warming up drills,” he recalls. They were even asked “by people who mattered” if we wished to leave the country and fly back to India. But manager M.P. Ganesh replied: “I am an Army man and I won't run away from the situation, volatile or not.”

After serving at Imphal and other centres, Ganesh opted to return to Bangalore and a post was created just for him as Director SAI (South) and then Executive Director, from 1991 to 2001, before being summoned back to Delhi.

“Being EC Teams was the most happening time in my stint at that level. I was interacting with the players, coaches and the Ministry. Being a player myself, I understood the needs of the players. India emerged from its shadow at the world stage at the 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the 2004 Olympics.”

He retired from the SAI in 2006 and returned to Bangalore. After dabbling in various associations, more for his passion for sports, Ganesh was hooked by the State cricket association to be the chief executive officer, a post that Ganesh holds with as much sincerity as he did all his other responsibilities.

Avinash Nair

Indian hockey's loss was Sports Authority of India's gain once. Today, he is the kingpin at the KSCA

What a long journey! From a sepoy in the Army to the CEO of the KSCA