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How i started the cricket team

My life in the office was sailing along smoothly. My activities were multiplying day by day. There were innumerable functions taking place most of them organized by me along with sports and cultural activities. The Club activities were taking up most of my time. Eventually I started in 1963 a Cricket Team in the Bank with a difference. The story behind it goes thus. The Managing Director of the Bank from Central Office was on a routine visit to Bangalore and as is my wont I planned a get together of all the staff from Bangalore Branch and Bangalore City Branch to meet the M.D., Mr.Ramananda Rao. Mr. Rao was not a stranger to me. Way back in the early 40s he was working in the Bank at Calicut and was a close friend of my father who was also working at the same branch at that time. He was staying in a hotel which we used to visit occasionally in the company of father. He rose fast in the Bank’s hierarchy and occupied a number of top posts and was presently the Managing Director, a post next only to the Chairman. He was a great lover of sports in general and cricket in particular. In Madras when he was the Secretary and Treasurer, the top man at the Circle level, he was instrumental in forming a very good Cricket team along with top Hockey and Football teams. All our teams were sprinkled with a number of national and international players most of whom were recruited on the sports quota. By a policy decision the Central Office allocated considerable sums of money annually for promoting sports in the Bank. The Local Head Offices in Madras, Bombay, Calcutta and Delhi were also permitted to recruit outstanding young players to serve as nucleus of teams to be raised at the four Circle Headquarters mentioned above. The smaller branches were allocated funds on a lesser scale for purchasing sports equipments only. When I met Mr.Rao in the Branch Manager’s chambers, I was formally introduced to the M.D. by the Branch Manager as the livewire Secretary of the Club upon which Mr.Rao asked me why I had not started a cricket team at the Branch. I told him that without good support from the Bank I could not venture into forming a good cricket team which needed a lot of money and men. Thereupon he told me that if I felt that I could produce a good team to compete at the high level, the Bank would support me with enough funds and would also help recruit a few national and international players level based in Bangalore. I jumped at the idea and promised that I would form such a cricket team within a month. He instructed the Branch Manager to render all assistance to me. I started working on it and met a number of city based cricketers who had the requisite qualifications. I had the advantage of having watched them in local cricket. I had permission to recommend five/six players for recruitment. I picked a medium fast bowler, a solid batsman, a left arm leg spinner, a right arm leg spinner and an off spinner. They were all-rounders too. After an initial test they were approved and subsequently appointed. As the clearance had to come from the head office at Madras I was ably assisted by the Secretary, Circle Welfare Committee, a friend of mine, at head office who helped push the applications for appointment. As I had to have a specialist wicket keeper I made a special request to the Bank and was able to rope in one who was also an opening batsman. All the recruited players were graduates which were the minimum qualifications prescribed and additionally they have also played cricket at the University and State level.

Having formed the nucleus of a strong team I selected a few youngsters from the existing staff to complete the team. In April 1963 I affiliated the team to the Mysore State Cricket Association for participating in their League and other tournaments. Thus was born the State Bank Cricket Team which was to create history in the coming years. To start with the team entered the fifth and last division of the League in the first year and was promoted to the next higher division by virtue of having finished first among 12 competing teams. It was the same story in every succeeding year finishing as champions in every division until finally climbing the summit, the Champions of the First Division competing against other heavy sides comprising top players of the State. It was a unique achievement in the annals of cricket in Mysore State- champions of every division at the very first attempt not achieved by any other team especially an office team. I conveyed the news to our M.D., Mr.Ramanand Rao who had given a great helping hand to form the team. He congratulated the team members in writing. Over a period of five years cricket and my team in particular was my breath and life. And during this period I was instrumental in recruiting several outstanding players who went on to play for the State and the Country. I must mention here about two such cricketers whose recruitment posed a problem. One was G.R.Viswanath who went on to achieve great fame and became a legend in his own time. He was only a matriculate but had won acclaim in schools cricket. He did not meet the two basic requirements to be recruited in the bank –that of being a graduate and a national level cricketer. As he was a promising cricketer and would be an asset to our team I had to put in an extra effort to get him recruited as a clerk despite the lack of qualifications. It was a good move on my part because the boy by his exploits on the cricket field went on to become one of the outstanding cricketers of the country earning name and fame for not only himself but to the institution he belonged to i.e. the State Bank of India. A few years later he was rewarded with a promotion as an Officer on sports quota after his magnificent century on first appearance in a Test. The other one was Syed Kirmani. He was a wicket keeper batsman. As the team had already two good wicket keeper batsmen his candidature did not find approval of the Bank Management and they had rejected my recommendation. I was returning home one day on my scooter after a match when Mr.Tarapore, the State Coach chased me on his scooter and stopped me. He told me that Syed Kirmani, his ward, must be helped to get into the Bank as he was not only a promising cricketer but his father a low paid steno in the Government was contemplating shifting his family to his native Hyderabad which would mean that the State would lose a talented cricketer. I renewed my recommendation and the fact that Kirmani was not only a graduate but has represented the country’s schools cricket team which toured England helped me in putting up his case. My persistent effort paid off and the boy was recruited. The fact that Kirmani flowered in later years into an outstanding wicket keeper batsman for the country and played nearly 100 Test matches is beside the point. These two players were the two feathers in my cap. My team not only won many local tournaments but many others around the country with an array of stars in our ranks.

Around this period I formed the Mysore State Inter Bank Sports and Cultural Association membership of which was exclusively for the different Banks in Bangalore. The aims and objectives of this organization were to promote sports among the staff working in the Banks and to co ordinate their individual efforts under one umbrella. I served as its Secretary for a number of years and organized competition between Banks in cricket, football, hockey, ball badminton, tennis, table tennis, chess, caroms and athletics. It created a new awareness among Bank employees and a healthy competition.

I also organized annual inter branch tournaments for State Bank of India employees working in the several branches of the Bank in Bangalore in all the indoor games. I worked relentlessly on these activities and to some extent neglected home life and more importantly my career in the Bank. Because of these activities my face became very familiar in not only in the Bank but also in the sports and journalistic circles. The fact that I sported a black cap (RSS variety) helped people recognize me instantly. There is a small story how it came about that I wore a cap, perhaps the only one who wore one in the Bank. I was even nicknamed ‘the thopi’ by close friends. In the late Fifties I had gone on a trip to the famous hill shrine of Lord Muruga in Palani with Raji and the children. There I and the children had our heads tonsured as was the practice. I started wearing a black cap to cover my hairless head when I reported back for work hoping that when the hair grew back I could discard the cap. But unfortunately the hair was not growing as much as I desired so that I could do away with the cap. The cap remained on my head for ever giving me a distinct look perhaps giving a distinct if not a distinguished look.

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