Bharath Reddy © Getty Images
Bharath Reddy © Getty Images

Tamil Nadu mainstay Bharath Reddy was born on November 12, 1954. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at yet another of those wicketkeepers who had lost out in the race to the Indian wicketkeeper’s slot in favour of the big names.

During his decade-long illustrious career Syed Kirmani allowed few others to don the Indian gloves; towards the end of his career came the magic stumpers — Kiran More and Sadanand Viswanath; the aggressive Surinder Khanna played a few ODIs; the fourth man who managed to displace ‘Kiri’ at the helm was Bharath Reddy.

Despite not being the soundest of batsmen Reddy was a quality wicketkeeper: his career almost completely overlapped with Bengal’s Sambaran Banerjee (a better batsman who could even open the innings). But when Kirmani was dropped, the man from Tamil Nadu eventually got the nod ahead of Banerjee for his superior skills behind the stumps.

Reddy’s tally read 9 catches and 2 stumpings from 4 Tests; he also scored 38 runs at a paltry 9.50. At First-Class level Reddy played 95 matches and scored 1,743 runs at 17.73 with 9 fifties. He also took 171 catches and effected 50 dismissals. He ended up playing 3 ODIs.

A mainstay for Tamil Nadu, Reddy still holds the records for second-most stumpings (after Patamada Belliappa) and third-most victims (after Dinesh Karthik and Belliappa) for them.

Early days

Born in Madras, Reddy was selected for Indian Schools to tour England; in the match against Midlands Schools India Schools were bowled out for 95 in the first innings, but Reddy’s unbeaten 101 guided the tourists to an emphatic 207-run victory.

Back home, Reddy made his First-Class debut in the Moin-ud-Dowlah Trophy for Vazir Sultan Tobacco Colts XI; he led his side on his First-Class debut, scoring 60. He followed it with 2 ducks — in the Irani Trophy match against Bombay and in the Duleep Trophy match against East Zone — before he eventually made his Ranji Trophy debut against Andhra, scoring 52 not out.

He established himself as Tamil Nadu’s main wicketkeeper soon, and his big chance came when he was selected for Indian Universities against the touring West Indians in 1974-75. He stumped both Gordon Greenidge and Roy Fredericks but scored only 11 with the bat.

With Kirmani virtually irreplaceable in the Indian side, Reddy had no option but to wait. Selected for the Gopalan Trophy match of 1975-76, Reddy scored a pair at Colombo but finished the match with 4 catches and 2 stumpings, impressing everyone with his excellent glovework.

Reddy went to Australia in 1976-77 as a reserve wicketkeeper to Kirmani. He played 3 matches — against Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania — but did not impress with either the gloves or the bat. Despite that he was retained for the tour of Pakistan that followed.

International cricket

Reddy made his international debut in the third (deciding) ODI at Sahiwal, in 1978-79. The match was marred by controversy as the Sarfraz Nawaz resorted to bowling very high, unplayable bouncers that the umpires refused to call a wide. As a result Bishan Bedi became the first captain to concede an ODI. Reddy did not get a chance to bat and neither did he effect a dismissal.

In a rather surprising move the selectors dropped Kirmani for the 1979 tour of England, selecting both Reddy and Khanna instead. Reddy played 3 tour matches — against Northamptonshire, MCC, and Leicestershire — without doing anything special (though he picked up 4 catches in the third of these matches at Grace Road) before making his Test debut at Edgbaston.

Geoff Boycott’s 155 and David Gower’s unbeaten 200 enabled Mike Brearley to declare at 633 for 5. Despite the lack of wickets Reddy held 3 catches, dismissing Brearley, Derek Randall, and Graham Gooch. In the first innings he scored a 57-ball 21 with 3 fours and added 43 for the ninth wicket with his captain Srinivas Venkataraghavan. He scored a duck in the second as India slumped to an innings defeat.

Reddy scored another duck in his next innings — the first innings at Lord’s — where Ian Botham bowled them out for 96. England scored 419 (Reddy had 2 catches and a stumping to his name) before Dilip Vengsarkar and Gundappa Viswanath saved the Test for India. He did not get a bat in the rain-affected third Test at Headingley and held a solitary catch.

In the fourth Test at The Oval (remembered usually for Sunil Gavaskar’s 221) Reddy scored 12 and was out there with 5 when stumps were called with India 9 short of victory. He also had 3 catches and a stumping. Reddy finished the series with 11 victims (9 catches and 2 stumpings). This remained a series tally for any Indian in England till More overtook him in 1986 (MS Dhoni has also subsequently passed gone past Reddy in 2011).

Reddy also went on the twin tours of Australia and New Zealand in 1980-81 but did not get to play another Test. He played 2 ODIs — against Australia at SCG, where he scored 8 not out and caught Rodney Marsh, and against New Zealand at The Gabba, where he scored 3 not out and caught John Parker. He did not play another international match.

Captain of Tamil Nadu

Back home Reddy was named the captain of Tamil Nadu when Venkat was on international duty. In his first match as captain (if the Moin-ud-Dowlah match from a decade back is ignored) against Kerala, Reddy held 8 catches (including 6 in the second innings).

In the process Reddy created new records for most dismissals in an innings (later equalled by Reuben Paul in 1997-98) and most dismissals in a match (bettered by Paul in the match mentioned above) for Tamil Nadu.

Reddy led Tamil Nadu to the Ranji Trophy semi-final in 1984-85 where Tamil Nadu lost to Sandeep Patil’s Bombay (now Mumbai) on first-innings lead. Surprisingly, Bombay knocked them out the next season as well on first-innings lead — this time in the quarter-final. It turned out to be Reddy’s last First-Class match: he scored a duck and did not manage a victim.

Post-retirement

Reddy worked for Chemplast for 25 years as a player and a manager and played an instrumental role in their domination in the local league. Along with Tamil Nadu cricketer AP Rajasekhar Reddy runs training camps in Chennai and has earned a name as a talent-spotter, his most noted ‘discoveries’ being Karthik and Lakshmipathy Balaji. He also runs the Bharath Reddy Cricket Academy in Chennai. In 2007 he resigned from Chemplast to join ICL.

His daughter Sriya (often spelled Sreya or Shreya) is an anchor and a video-jockey who has also acted in a dozen movies in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and English. Sriya was nominated for the Best Actress category in the 2010 Filmfare Award — Tamil Film Industry for her performance in Priyadarshan’s Kanchivaram.