Krishnamachari Srikkanth – a colourful character

Kris Srikkanth…Caricature by Austin Coutinho

Krishnamachari Srikkanth, born on December 21, 1959, was a swashbuckling opener for India who defied notions and went about his merry ways. In an era where Sunil Gavaskar was the epitome of the opener’s discipline, Srikkanth emerged to carve his own niche and showed that there was a different side to opening. He was audacious, but effective. He was a prelude to what was to come later as openers took to aggression in Test cricket.
 
Srikkanth made his Test debut against England at Mumbai — an encounter he would like to forget. In the first innings, he was dismissed for a duck, but his dismissal in the second was tragic-comic. He walked out of his crease believing the ball was dead and an alert John Emburey hit the stumps to catch him out of the crease and dismiss him. However, he eased into the role as games progressed and fit into India’s scheme of things.
 
While Srikkanth’s numbers don’t make a fantastic reading (he averages a mere 29 in both formats), it was the start he used to provide upfront that was invaluable. His attacking streak was a perfect combination with the calm of Gavaskar and helped India find a long-term option to partner the great man. Even when Gavaskar moved down the order in the years that followed, Srikkanth remained at the top — missing out only a few series.
 
Perhaps his most significant contribution came during the final of the 1983 World Cup where he was India’s top scorer against a formidable West Indian attack. Showing his typical intent, Srikkanth played attacking strokes and took on the bowlers. India managed to score only 183 and stunned the world by defending that paltry total against the likes of Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes and Clive Lloyd to name a few.
 
An intriguing fact is that his highest score in Tests and ODIs is identical — 123. Both those tons came against the arch-rivals Pakistan in 1987. He also rolled his arm over and enjoyed a brief golden run against the touring New Zealanders in 1988. In that ODI series, he recorded two five-wicket hauls, becoming the first Indian to record two fifers in a ODI career.
 
In 1989, Srikkanth had a brief tryst with captaincy has he led India on the historic tour to Pakistan. That tour was significant in more than one way. India drew the four match Test series 0-0, which was a phenomenal achievement given the strength of the Pakistani bowling attack. A 16-year-old Sachin Tendulkar took his first steps in international cricket and impressed one and all.
 
Remarkably, he was dropped from the Test side after that tour and didn’t play feature in the longest format until 1991-92 tour to Australia — his last. He played his final one-day game during the 1992 World Cup.
 
Even after calling it a day, Srikkanth remained in touch with the game in various capacities. As a commentator and television expert, he maintained his flamboyant ways and would express himself without fear. While he was a part of the team that won the World Cup in 1983, he also played his part in India’s second triumph. As the chairman of selectors he picked the side that took the country to world glory in 2011.
 
Virender Sehwag may have come later to define attacking opening for India, but it was Srikkanth who started the trend. He will always remain one of the most colourful characters in Indian cricket.
 
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)