Thursday, December 9, 2010

TE is no more

"I fell in love with his batting the first time I saw him play,” Mala, my friend and cricket mate TE Srinivasan’s wife said to me, as we stood next to his mortal remains, minutes before his funeral last Tuesday. “I knew nothing of cricket, though,” she continued, “TE’s batting had that kind of effect on you. It was like listening to Madurai Mani Iyer or MS Subbulakshmi for the first time, even if you knew no music.”

Srinivasan, TE to everyone who knew him, played a solitary Test for India, but had a huge fan following in the south, especially in Tamil Nadu, thanks to his carefree approach to the game and audacious strokeplay.

TE was also one of the characters of the game, quick-witted, mischievous and blessed with a zany sense of humour, bordering on the wild. This aspect of his personality must have impressed former England captain Michael Atherton to mention him in his autobiography. Unfortunately Atherton gets it all wrong like many English and Australian cricketers on matters Indian. He describes TE’s batting as “wild and unorthodox”, a blasphemous statement as anyone who ever watched TE bat would know. The swing of TE’s bat was a purist’s delight, it came down straight as an arrow as he took on the bowling, especially of the quicker variety, with aggressive intent, style and flair. Some of his theories on the game were unorthodox, but his technique was pure. He loved to hit the ball on the up and deal in boundaries rather than do anything as tiring as running between the wickets.

Atherton also reveals a talent for fiction in his references to TE, when he quotes Sunil Gavaskar as stating that TE might have played more Tests for India had he not been born in a low caste. This is a ridiculous assertion as TE was upper caste as they come, and surely Gavaskar knew that? Unless of course, TE fooled the Little Master with one of those crazy stories he liked to tell against himself sometimes, as when he misled Ghulam Ahmed, then chairman of national selectors. Greeting Ghulam at an airport, TE quickly realised that the veteran off-spinner, not unlike other selectors of the time, had not recognised him. “Good morning Sir,” he said, “I’m V Sivaramakrishnan sir, the opening batsman.” “Ah, Siva, good morning,” was Ghulam’s reply. Incredibly, he then asked TE, “How’s our friend TE Srinivasan?” giving him a glorious opening for one of his pranks.” TE’s reply was not only instantaneous but completely mad. “TE, sir? That rascal is up to no good sir, always drinking and getting into trouble.”

I played a lot of my early cricket in the company of TE, back in the 1960s. We were intercollegiate foes, and many were the stirring contests we were involved in. He honed his batting technique on a cement wicket at the Nungambakkam Corporation School, where he asked boys to bowl or even chuck at him from 18 yards. As a result, he was unusually strong against fast bowling, rare among domestic batsmen of his vintage. This proficiency also meant that he was slightly suspect against slow bowling, especially in the early part of his innings. He did not find instant success in first class cricket, his first hundred, a brilliant knock against a Karnataka attack led by Prasanna and Chandrasekhar, coming more than five years after his Ranji Trophy debut for Tamil Nadu. His first century at the Duleep Trophy level too came after a long wait. He began with a string of single-digit scores, cursing his luck at having to face “bloody left arm spinners” all the time on arrival at the crease. When it actually happened, the hundred against North Zone at Bangalore in the 1977-78 season drew a string of superlatives from the scribes and commentators watching the game.

TE is famous for his verbal jousts, sometimes with opponents feared by his colleagues. Teammates cannot forget the expression on the face of Aussie paceman Rodney Hogg, when TE cornered him after the first day’s play of a tour game at Hyderabad and told him, “Why don’t you stop bowling off spinners and try to bowl fast instead?” He is also reputed to have informed the media as soon as the 1980 Indian team landed in Australia, “Tell Dennis Lillee TE has arrived.”

TE battled brain cancer with great courage and good humour. When I said to Mala, “We all admire you for the way you took care of TE; how incredibly brave you have been,” she said, “On the contrary, TE looked after me even when he was desperately ill. He kept my spirits up with his good cheer, never complaining of his pain or suffering.”

Judged by his single Test appearance, perhaps TE was an underachiever, perhaps the selectors did not give him his due, but he gave spectators and colleagues sheer joy with his stylish batting, his bravado, his raffish gait reflecting his hero-worship of ML Jaisimha of Hyderabad and India. He was quite simply one of a kind.

18 comments:

Sam said...

Sad to hear the end of a much loved stylist who really brought so much flair to batting. I remember seeing him first in a match at Viveka playing a wonderful knock for IOB against State Bank (with V V Kumar in full flight!) and in long a partnership with R Ramesh (another stalwart from that era who is no more!)

I remember bowling my off spinners to him at BS nets in Chepauk and then he bowled his gentle leg spin at me. He seemed so down-to-earth and with absolutely no airs and full of encouragement to the league cricketers practicing there, while he was already a state/zonal cricketer (not quite national at that time).

For those who saw him play from league matches to state to zonal cricket, TE will always be remembered for the great flair with which he carried the willow.

RIP, TE!

And Ram, thanks for the touching piece on him!

Sam

K Bharath said...

Ram
Superb and no one could have penned this better than you and its a very touching write on TE.
I too had my share of stories with TE and sometimes his pranks would be risky too....
Thanks for the wonderful write up.
RIP Cheena..You are with us always

vramnarayan said...

Thanks, Sam, thanks Bharath. Wha's the use of all the cricket we played if we don't sdhare a few memories?

venkat said...

Very affectionate remembrance. I was waiting for this piece. I am two generations too late to have watched him play, but I have heard so many stories about him. Another cricketer who missed out because of selectoral shenanigans.Is it true that, he told Gavaskar that he had to change his technique? And if he did, was it the reason why he never played too much cricket at the international level?

Shirin said...

Lovely piece. Honestly, I've heard very little of the man, belonging to the late 1990's generation of cricket fans. But it's always a pleasure to read about the unknown heroes our great game has seen. Thank you for sharing the memories.

Hariharan said...

Another mid 20s cricket fan who has always heard TE Srinivasan's name mentioned in bated breath, bathed in lovely adjectives. He is one of those cricketers whom I will always wish I had watched play. May his soul rest in peace.

On another note, this is a befittingly lovely piece, Sir. I wondered why this wonderful blog had remained dormant for quite a while. Hope to see more of your writing.

Anonymous said...

I recall the 70 s when TE had captured the inagination of all cricket lovers with a couple of very attractive knocks , one against North Zone in Duplle and again a century in Deodhar trophy. He was an excellent backfoot player, hall mark of classy bat. Sad that he never quite acheived as much as his talent warranted, a combination of zonal selectrorial bias and the amateur spirit with which people from south used to play cricket ( Vis a Vis a more utilitarian Mumbai )
His passing away is like taking away part of our past specially people who are in their late forties and 50 s and who used to follow Tamilnadu cricket.
I read a few years back , how courageosly TE was coping up with the ailment. Deepest condolences to his wife and daughter

S.Srikanth

Anonymous said...

who is TE

Anonymous said...

Had read about TE in glowing terms in a few articles, and if I remember correctly, in this blog too a couple of times. A couple of generations behind and so could not see him bat,but reading about him, I can conjure up images of him bat....
Also would like to mention that I had read about TE's demise in the news, and was more or less certain that Ram Sir would write a piece about him, thanks Ram Sir for writing this !!
RIP TE !!

- Sandeep M

Anonymous said...

Greetings from Chikkadapally!, now living in Japan..
Had the great pleasure of watching TE score an awesome 100 against the Pakis playing for South Zone back in '79. Kris Srikanth made a memorable 90 at the same time and they both tore apart the the likes of Imran Khan. Shame TE couldn't play more than the one test he did. Truly a great player. RIP TE.
On a side note Do you think that TE (and Vijaya Paul) couldn't get in to the test XI because they were directly competing with the legend GRV for the no.4 spot?.
Very nice blog - thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ram for this touching piece of obit on one of the best entertainers on and off the cricket field.

Once he visited my uncle Mr.S.Sriraman,then Secretary of TNCA,after his stint playing club cricket in Australia.When he was about to leave,he asked my uncle which bus he should take to go to Chepauk.When my uncle suggested him to take a taxi, "no way mama,it will cost me 22 rupees"!!

A very down to earth person and I feel that his demise has taken away some of my past :-(

R.I.P. TE!

S. Radhakrishnan said...

Dear Ram,
This is S.Radhakrishnan. Your column is superb. TE was a class
apart from others. His backfoot coverdrive was a treat to watch.
World cricket is unlucky not to have seen the likes of TE, Shahid Akbar and Ramnath Parkar.

Balaji said...

Dear Ram,
i saw 'manmathan ambu' during the weekend and was reminded of TE by the character played by Ramesh Aravind, who suffers from cancer and tries to keep his humour intact amidst all the pain.
As someone from the districts(neyveli town) who did not have acess to 1st class or city league matches, we followed the game only through newspapers and live commentary. i still rememeber the match against karnataka in which TE and V Siva played memorable knocks.
May TE remain immortal in our memories and thank you sir for this article.
Balaji

Ramnarayan said...

Many thanks, Balaji.

K Balakrishnan said...

am from Tripunithura, Kerala,
We still remember the blistering boundaries & towering sixes of TE We prayed for inclusion of TE in Test Squad We asked him his Nakshathra for performing pushpanjali at our local temple for support him when he toured Australia .............Still remember the match when TEs team was chasing 183 by Bharat Reddys team in Pooja Cricket . Am sure it was after 1983 becaose of the target was 183! We were expecting a match winning innings by TE when he walked in at one drop. Rajmannar was firing from one end. Then Reddy brought spinner ( I think it was oneVenkatramani ..not very sure about the name. TE was OUT first ball caught behind. Eventually TEs team lost the match We still remember we had tears in our eyes when TE walked out. That was the last time when we saw TE. Those were the times when cricket was passion not money we had debates why Selvakumar ( opening bat ) was never considered why TE was not in test squad. RIP TE!

Ramnarayan said...

Thank you, Balakrishnan.

Vidyuth Jaisimha said...

Beautifully written, sad that all the god guys tend to leave this world much before their time. Bet he s having a ball up there with dad--Cheers

Anonymous said...

T E Srinivasan was an amazing player and a great human being. He was known to close friends as Murali, my grandmother called him that, I remember him announcing to my grandmother how excited he was to marry Mala, he was equally ecstatic about his future wife as his love for the game of cricket if not more. Very down to earth, yet maintained an air of sophistication and class hailed from a great Tamil Brahmin family. Sorry to hear of this at a young age, but I remember him to be always positive, and cheerful. God bless his soul and his family. He was high class all the way!