Friday, October 12, 2012

Close of play

The picture is a bit old, taken a couple of years ago. That's because I didn't have any other representing the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA). The TNCA sends out one of the strongest teams for the Ranji Trophy, the domestic cricket championship. The Tamil Nadu team has been in the Ranji finals 11 times, but they have won it only twice. The first time they did it was in 1954-55; the man who led them to the title, Balu Alaganan, was perhaps the epitome of what a cricket player should be.

The 1954-55 season started with Balu Alaganan scoring a century against Travancore-Cochin. But right after, his form deserted him, to the extent that he offered to step down after the semi finals, believing that the best team should play the finals. His team mates, including CD Gopinath and AG Kripal Singh, and the manager, V. Pattabhiraman insisted that he continue to captain the side. Coming in at No.5 in the first innings, Alaganan scored a duck. He dropped himself down to No.9 in the second and with the last batsman, Murugesh, added 71 for the 10th wicket - a partnership that was key to Madras (as the side was then called) beating Holkar by 46 runs. Alaganan said that Murugesh "...gave me the confidence I needed. "Don't take me for a No.11", he said to me"; ever modest, eager to give credit where it was due.

Many boys and young men of the 1970s would have little recollection of Balu Alaganan as a player, but he did build the love of the game in them through his commentary. (Not to mention the kids' grasp of English and its usage). Sitting next to the radio, 'seeing' the grass and the skies and the fielders through Alaganan's descriptions: that was the way to follow the Chepauk test, even if you were inside the stadium. That voice is no more. Balu Alaganan has gone over to play for a different team, but will stay on the hearts of all cricket lovers!

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