TE Srinivasan December 10, 2010

Unexpected beauty

He was among the finest Indian batsmen, and had a colourful personality that lent itself to several apocryphal tales. It's a pity how he was ignored back then and even now in death

Both in life and in death, TE Srinivasan deserved better. When he succumbed to cancer, he had just turned 60; when he succumbed to the political machinations in the Indian team, he was 30 and had played just one Test, in Auckland. Sunil Gavaskar apart, TE probably understood batting better than any of his contemporaries; he didn't merely make runs, he knew how runs could be made.

He was ignored after that one Test - the next series was at home against England, but the Tamil Nadu batsman did not make it even to the South Zone team - just as his memory was ignored by the Indian team in Wednesday's one-day international against New Zealand in Bangalore. A tribute would have been fitting. A two-minute silence before the match perhaps. Or a show of kinship with players wearing black bands.

Indian teams in the past have been quick to pay respects even to non-players. After Mark Mascarenhas was killed in an accident, the players wore black bands during a Test. Mark was a cricket buff, and more importantly, Sachin Tendulkar's agent and friend. TE was something more. A Test match player, and therefore special, his place in history assured.

The Indian team has a chance to make up for its apathy when the teams line up for the final one-dayer in TE's hometown, Chennai.

TE turned out for the MCC and India Pistons in Chennai. In the 1970s and 80s, he filled the grounds even for league matches. When word spread that he was batting, the crowds appeared miraculously, cheering him on; when he was out, a big chunk disappeared just as miraculously. In the years between the eras of CD Gopinath and Krishnamachari Srikkanth, TE was the finest Tamil Nadu batsman - a case can be made for his being the finest ever, his back-foot play alone placing him above the rest. He was the quintessential Tamil Nadu batsman too, capable of unexpected beauty at unexpected moments but prey to self-doubt at other times.

He walked to the wicket with a swagger, collar up in the manner of his hero ML Jaisimha, looked around the field with the air of a man who understood it belonged to him, and struck the ball with startling power for a man his size. TE carried the swagger into first-class and international cricket. The stories were exaggerated in the re-telling, and good one-liners were attributed to him in the manner in which people like Dorothy Parker or Oscar Wilde were given credit for things they didn't say.

"Tell Dennis Lillee I have arrived," is the best-known of them; and TE got so much publicity out of it he wasn't going to deny the story of his first quote in Australia. Nor did he bother to deny the story in Mike Atherton's autobiography where Gavaskar is quoted as saying - erroneously - that TE didn't have a long career because of his "low caste" status.

He batted No. 3 in the second innings of his only Test where he scored 29 and 19. The man who replaced him for the home series, one of the most boring ever played on Indian soil, Kirti Azad, had scores of 14 and 17, 24, 16. TE had been cast aside for an inferior batsman who could bowl a bit.

TE would have been a natural for the World Cup a year later. He would have been 33, but this man who swore by Test cricket but was just as comfortable in the one-day game, as centuries against the clock in the Duleep and Deodhar Trophy had shown.

It is possible TE was born in the wrong decade. The Indian system was excessively feudal, and bowing and scraping to captains and officials was expected of players working their way to the top. TE didn't suffer fools gladly, and spoke his mind clearly. It made him fascinating company but the word always got back to those he aimed his barbs at. He rubbed too many people up the wrong way with his credo - anything for a laugh. Gavaskar mistook TE's casual humour for arrogance when it might have been merely a case of over-compensation by an essentially diffident personality.

TE also had the right to expect better treatment from his cricket association, the sort of support that Srikkanth, for example, claimed as if by right. But the quota system was in operation then, and cricket associations had to choose.

Soon after he was struck by the cancer that was to end his life, TE contemplated building a hospital for cancer patients. He had come into money after selling some land. It would have been a worthy project; the contrarian that he was, TE could charm people just as easily as he could do the reverse.

It would be a travesty if the Indian team were to keep silent over the death of this gifted and articulate player who gave pleasure to so many.

Suresh Menon is a writer based in Bangalore

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • srikanthan on December 13, 2010, 7:51 GMT

    Nice to see an established journalist pay tribute to a man who deserved a better deal way back in 70 s. TE Srinivasan caught the imagination with almost two back to back centuries against a good North zone attack and one against west zone in 77-78 I think. Was an excellent backfoot player, hallmark of class and indication of special talent.Acheivements on field did not quiote match up to the talent. Was partly the victim of selectorial bias and partly attributable to the amateur spirit with which playesr from south used to play the game. For some of us who used to follow Tamilnadu cricket closely inthe 70 s, it is almost a part of past has been taken away.He palyed for the excitement and love of the game.Excellent player of fast bowling

  • Dummy4 on December 12, 2010, 20:55 GMT

    T E Srinivasan fondly known as TE was perhaps the MOST Stylish Batsman after the Great M L Jaismha....Quite possibly,may be that TE chose to model his approach to the Game Exactly like his IDOL M L Jaisimha...

    As long as JAI & TE were at crease in Hyderabad & Chennai,the Crowds would gather from nowhere to watch them & Leave the Grounds the moment they were out..Such was the Charisma they possessed. I have never seen a better Player of the Hook shot than TE and his back foot Drives & cuts were a Joy & Treat to watch....It is a great pity that he was never given the recognition & chances that he richly deserved for the Talent he possessed....The likes of TEs & MLJs will never be seen again..Privileged are those who have witnessed the likes of TE & MLJ...Thanks for the immense joy that these great Batsman gave us in terms of Class,Stlye & grace...They were certainly great ROLE Models for the Generations of their times!!!!

  • Dummy4 on December 12, 2010, 3:03 GMT

    Beautiful Article Suresh, I am 16 years old, and though i'm born and raised in the US, I am an Indian cricket fanatic. I have an extensive knowledge of cricket, but had it not been for this article, I would have never heard of TE Srinivasan. Even as recently as a few years ago, there was a lot of biase in the selection of the national team. That seems to have gone now, and hopefully it remains so forever. Such mistreatment does still occur at the domestic level though, and that needs to be sorted out. A couple of years ago, even Sehwag threatened to switch to Haryana because of some nonsense going on within the selection committee. This was really a fantastic artcle you wrote, brought to my attention a cricket who i would have otherwise never heard of. I agree with some of the comments made about naming a stand at the Chidambaram stadium in his honour. It was unfortunate that he passed away right before the final odi was played there.

  • Vikramaditya on December 12, 2010, 0:04 GMT

    @Hari Murthy: I do not understand why you feel it is a pity that India adores Sachin Tendulkar (or Amitabh Bachchan). Do you think Sachin Tendulkar is undeserving of the love and respect that Indians and lovers of cricket have for him? Not good enough, you say? Why do you have to disparage another personality in a tribute to another? I am sure TE Srinivasan had many admirable qualities that made him great. Why don't you stick to those.

  • varadarajan on December 11, 2010, 14:29 GMT


  • Dummy4 on December 11, 2010, 10:42 GMT

    Thanks Suresh, for the movingl article.TE was a good batsman. He failed in the politics of cricket just as another Chennai son Badrinath is failing today. It is pity that in India cricket and films are over obsessed with Sachin Tendulkars and Amitabh Bachchans. May TE rest in peace.

  • BALASUBRAMANIAN on December 11, 2010, 9:54 GMT

    Well, it is truly a great loss in the sudden death of Mr.T.E.Srinivasan, who oldtime cricket fans like me remember not for the runs he scored, not for the records he spoke, not for the products he endoresed(in fact there were none in his days) but for the dirty politics played by the men who mattered in the BCCI, which was dominated in those days by people from Bombay, in seeing that he was not in the Indian team. Also it was a pity (and a shame on the present day cricketers) to have shown scant respect to him by their not even wearing the customary black arm bands, leave alone observing two minutes silence, again most probably because there were hardly any in the commentary team who remembered him or wanted to remember him. Just as opined by some others in this column, a stand in the M.A.Chidambaram Stadium at Chepauk would be a fitting tribute to this wonderful & gifted cricketer. BETTER LATE THAN NEVER.

  • viju on December 11, 2010, 8:07 GMT

    Nice Obit Suresh, and glad that Cricinfo carried it - better late than never, I say! TE will be remembered by all the ardent cricket lovers, for his stylish batting which matched that of GRV's, who himself is a Chennai favourite. It is a shame international cricket did not get to see much of him as he possessed the talent to play well against quality bowlers, both pace & spin - ask any Hyderabad blues player that went to West Indies with him when the famous fast bowlers bowled to him. He played without any helmet or protection and scored handsomely- I wish Tiger Pataudi will write something on this! To us cricket lovers from Chennai, TE will always be one of the best who brought in the crowds whenever he was batting. It was cricket at its entertaining best and his approach to batting was always positive and scored his runs attractively. In those days of dull batsmanship TE stood out and he should be hailed just for that reason alone. RIP TE

  • Anup on December 11, 2010, 6:22 GMT

    Very nie article. About a joy-to-watch batsman who was denied a fair run due to politics. Please continue to write about these men who bring wonderful memories of their skills to the viewers. It is getting boring to keep reading about the big stars all the time. You pretty much know whatever writers have to say. Much of my fascination for cricket came not from watching youtube or live cricket matches, but from my Dad and uncles describing fascinating stories about heroes of their generation in our living rooms, about Ranji matches, about tennis ball matches involving a test/ranji player etc Please continue writing about these wonderful men like Mr. TE who made cricket (and our world) more exciting and enjoyable

  • Dummy4 on December 11, 2010, 3:00 GMT

    Mr. Suresh Menon - what an article ! it is more than T.E.'s talent = frankly, have not read a better tribute paid to any cricketer in my enthusiasm for this game for more than five decades. Yes, Gavaskar mistook his jovial comments as arrogance and it is a pity when lesser talents were given chance, T.E. Srinivasan was repeatdly ignored. Agreed - he blossomed lat, but still was within 30s when he was in prime. In 1977 he should have gone to Australia and as rightly pointed out by the author, his replacement in home was Kirti Azad, an inferior batsman as compared to T.E. who can bowl a pity ! His strokes all-round the wicket can only be matched by the stalwarts such as Gavaskar, Gundappa and Viswanath and Sachin Tendulkar - the master of all. It would be a travesty of justice if a stand is not named after him in Chepauk Stadium. The TNCA should act which would be the fitting farewell to this talented batsman from Tamil Nadu.

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