Krishnamachari Srikkanth has been quite an entertainer — on and off the field, and even post his playing days. H Natarajan recalls a very funny — and bizarre — incident involving Srikkanth that created much laughter in the cricketing world, but which embarrassed the Tamil Nadu dasher no end.
Krishnamachari Srikkanth is unquestionably one of the great characters of Indian cricket. He could do and say outrageous things that have provided as much entertainment as he did when driving fast bowler through the line or over the infield. Srikkanth was a restless, fidgety person who between balls in an over was in the habit of walking away from the crease, towards the square-leg umpire, humming slokas. But on his debut Test in 1981 against England in Mumbai, he nonchalantly strolled outside the crease when the ball was still in play. John Emburey swooped on the ball and ran him out. The Englishmen were laughing at the manna from Heaven they could not have expected even in schools cricket. The Indian camp would have been understandably livid. And Srikkanth had to walk back in utter embarrassment after getting out in the most ridiculous fashion in a Test match.
Which brings to mind something relevant Sandeep Patil narrates in his book “Caught & Told” which he co-authored with Clayton Murzello: “Vasu Paranjape, who knows a bit of palmistry, was amazed to see Krishnamachari Srikkanth’s palm. Srikkanth said: ‘Look, I have no lines on my palms, so I have no worries.’ To which Vasu replied: ‘You are right; there are no worries for you. All the worries are for those who watch you bat!’ “
Srikkanth also had this habit of twisting his nose and closing both his eyes in a flutter. This was a matter of great entertainment to his teammates — some of whom were known pranksters. Sandeep Patil relates another incident on the 1982 tour of Pakistan involving Srikkanth in “Caught & Told“, “Jehangir Khan, Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath and Javed Miandad were being felicitated at a Lahore hotel. Our manager, Maharaja Fatehsinghrao Gaekwad, was mindful of the protocol: “No masti (pranks),” we were told. Gavaskar ventured to ask about Srikkanth who, he said, kept making faces while clearing his nose. The Maharaja said: ‘Cheeka [Srikkanth], don’t do it.’ Srikkanth found it hard, but he agreed not to clear his nose. ‘I won’t let my team down,’ he committed. But clearing his nose was like breathing for Srikkanth; he could not live without doing it! And true to form, he cleared his nose the moment he shook hands with Gen Zia ul-Haq! The entire team was in splits.”
But an incident involving Srikkanth which took the cake, the bakery and the baker happened on October 13, 1984 — a day on which Srikkanth would have cursed Alexander Graham Bell for inventing the telephone!
A voice identifying himself as national selector Hanumant Singh rang up S Sriraman, the then Tamil Nadu Cricket Association president, to ask Srikkanth to pack his kit and leave for Pakistan as replacement for opener Ghulam Parkar — the Mumbai opener was out of action with a fractured thumb.
Sriraman’s son, who took the call, passed on the message to Srikkanth’s wife Vidya in the absence of Srikkanth. “In fact, the caller rang up my wife twice to give the news,” Srikkanth told me in The Hindu office in Mumbai when I met him in an absolutely shattered state.
Srikkanth revealed what transpired after the call: “Receiving the news on reaching home after net practice with the state team, I got in touch with Mr Sriraman, who asked me to leave for Bombay and meet BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] executive secretary Keki Tarapore.”
Srikkanth, who received the ‘good news’ around 7.30 in the morning, breezed through his packing at a pace faster than he scored his runs and took the noon flight to Bombay where, to his utter dismay and embarrassment, found out that the call was a hoax!
That the BCCI reimbursed his flight expense was small consolation for Srikkanth, who requested me to tell my photographer not to click a picture of him in that state of embarrassment.
The caller made the hoax call with the knowledge that Parkar was selected for tour of Pakistan primarily for the One-Day Internationals (ODIs). With Parkar injured, the dashing Srikkanth, who was also a brilliant fielder, would have fancied himself as a logical replacement. Srikkanth was not in the standbys for the tour, but then Ravi Shastri flew to New Zealand as reinforcement in 1980-81 when he wasn’t in the standby list either.
If the walk back after the run out in his debut Test was embarrassing, being victim of a sadistic hoax call was not just embarrassing but painful as well for Srikkanth.
(H Natarajan, formerly All India Deputy Sports Editor of the Indian Express and Senior Editor with Cricinfo/Wisden, is the Executive Editor of CricketCountry.com. A prolific writer, he has written for many of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. A great believer in the power of social media, he can be followed on Facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/H.Natarajan and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/hnatarajan)