Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Marredpally Cricket Club Reunion on August 27, 2016

I played for the Marredpally Cricket Club, Hyderabad (MCC) for almost two decades - from 1983 till sometime in the 2000s. I started as an almost 16 year old in a team led by the legendary M.L.Jaisimha. Santosh Reddy with his Oxford accent and brilliant fielding and batting skills, Arvind Rao (with his colorful language and sheer grit), Govind Raj (India player who played a game or two) were the senior members that I remember, Sudhir Reddy, Raghuram Reddy, Anant Reddy made up the college going crowd, Hari Mohan (senior) was wicket keeper and Fazal Abbas and I made up the 16 year old brigade. That was pretty much the team - give or take a couple. We rarely made a 11. But we had the best of times and always walked off - win or lose - as if we were the winners. Much of my cricket thinking got shaped through those years.

In precisely two seasons, the team got fully revamped. Vivek Jaisimha became our captain though Uncle Jai still played. With fresh reinforcements from young cricketers - Vidyuth Jaisimha, Venkatpathy Raju, S Chakravarthy, Sanjay, Sunil Phillips, Imtiaz, Vijay Bhasker etc we caused a few jolts in the established cricketing system. We beat the reigning champions Syndicate Bank (with a Test player and several Ranji players), gave Andhra Bank and SBI (Azhar played that game - we got them all out for 202) a scare. The result of our heroics - 8 of us made it to the Ranji Trophy probables.

But surprisingly in all those years - we never won the league championship. The team mentioned above produced one Test player in Venkatpathi Raju, 5 first class cricketers, and then we slowly went out own ways. I continued playing though and enjoyed Sunday games even more.. After gaining confidence from designing a few wins, in matches and then in tournaments, I felt confident enough to try it with our MCC team. I wanted us to win the league championship by design. By then, 1993-94, we were back to our old rag tag ways, still struggling to make a XI and playing for the sheer fun of it.

We decided at the beginning of that year, 1993-94, that we would go out and win the championship. Two professional players were allowed - so we got Vivek Jaisimha, Raj Kumar and Sanjay to register as pros, of whom two would play any game. The rest of the team was - Me (captain), Chandrasekharan (ex TVS Madras and a very stylish middle order batsman), Ram (my younger brother, JNTU captain and left arm spinner), Srinivas Babu (opening bat, ex Nizam College captain), Pavan (middle order bat), Suri (middle order bat, off spinner, Junior state player), Subbu (wicket keeper batsman). This plus the pros were supported by an absolutely errant and perpetually quarter-bottle-of-rum-carrying Vernon Paul (Osmania University all rounder, superb athlete and a great character, now no more), Sai Muralidhar (Junior state player, middle order batsman and off spinner), Raj Kumar (junior) helped with scoring, Yasin made up the numbers and played a few games. What Mr. Raghavaiah did, I am not sure but he must have come for a few games and been part of the reserves. I don't think he played a single game that year.

Having set our goal, I tried to enforce a culture of team meetings, strategy meetings at Irani cafes, team bonding sessions (chai and drinks after the games, especially the wins). Some discipline and focussed thought I thought would help but we always celebrated well. It helped to have a party loving crowd too - Chandra was always game for a good time and initiated many and we polished off many bottles of rum through that season. Wonder of wonders, we won at the end of it. It worked almost like clockwork save the one match against Ameerpet that we lost, more due to lack of clear thinking than anything else. The picture below was taken at Gymkhana in 1994 after we won the championship and it was such a pleasure to have Uncle Jai with us.
MCC Team 1993-94 - Standing L to R - Chandrasekharan, Raj, Pavan Soman, Sai Muralidhar, Yasin, Suryaprakash, Ram Mohan, Subramanyam (WK)
Sitting L to R - Raghavaiah, Raj Kumar, Vivek Jaisimha, M.L. Jaisimha, Hari Mohan, Sanjay, Srinivas Babu

There are many wonderful memories of those two decades but among the indelible ones remains the victory celebration we had after beating Sacred heart CC in a match we almost lost. We got all out of 165 which is a low score in that ground. They got off to a flying start and were 20 for no loss in two overs. Then started a huge slide. Wickets tumbled, Pavan went tumbling at short leg and picked two brilliant catches, Chandra latched on to a flier in the slips off Sreenu who bowled a very hostile spell that day and before we knew it, Sacred Hearts was out of 70 or so. Sreenu bowled a fiery spell for 5 wickets. I got 5 in a supporting role. So elated were we that it needed a bigger than the usual chai and biscuit in Irani cafe routine to celebrate. Chandra stepped in as always - he was then Branch Manager for Kotak Mahindra - and he generously sponsored a treat of several beers at the Outswinger pub. It remains one of the most brilliant celebrations we ever had and all those who were these can never forget it. It ranks higher than the other two big celebrations we had - both at Laxmi Vihar - the Jaisimha's residence - one after we beat Syndicate Bank and another after we beat Nizam College. Two other memorable celebrations come to mind - one after a win when we all landed up at Chandra's house in Lakdikapul and partied till late at night, and another when we all landed up at Vernon Paul's house for a New Year celebration and much drama happened.

Now after these 20 plus years Chandra responded to a facebook post by Babu who posted a picture of me and him when he was in Hyderabad last time with the above picture in the background. Chandra suggested a meet. I seconded the idea. One thing led to another and finally last Saturday, the entire gang met. Vidyuth represented Vivek who was busy elsewhere and Uncle Jai, Raghavaiah was untraceable but all else made it save Raj Kumar (junior). Vernon Paul (missing in the picture as well) is no more. Others who played with us and passed on are Maheshwar Prasad, the fun loving batsman from Andhra and Sushil, medium pacer. The party started at 130 pm and the team came together in typical MCC fashion, each one at his own time. There was a toast to those who passed on. This is how the team looks now. Chandra once again stepped in and sponsored the celebration  - he is our good times man (Babu did his bit as well) and everyone responded and came by. Ranjan came and joined us too. And it was very sweet of the other India cricketer from MCC - Venkatpathy Raju - to come and join the party a little later in the evening. Pavan came late so he missed this picture.
MCC Reunion August 27, 2016 - Stnading L to R - Chandrasekharan, Sai Muralidhar, Sreenu, Suryaprakash, Ram, Ranjan
Sitting L to R - Raj Kumar, Vidyuth Jaisimha, Me, Sanjay and Srinivas Babu (and bat - the same one that Chandra bought in 1993-94 and we used it for 2 decades and still do. Also was also part of the movie Golconda High School)

As always, lots of jokes, memories, fun and banter.

Amongst all the banter, I thought I'd recollect my best memory of each person from my MCC days

Vivek Jaisimha - a seven wicket haul against Nizam College, a jaw dropping 90 on a green wicket against Railways and a 100 for Nizam College against MCC. I also loved the way he sent me open in two games - one against Nizam College where I got a 100 in 36 balls and one against Syndicate Bank on a wet wicket and I top scored with 24. Thanks to that I actually opened for Under 22 Hyderabad. Vicky was a huge influence on us with his vast cricketing understanding - he went about things in a quiet, understated way.

Vidyuth Jaisimha - though he did not play that year, Vidyuth was the key for so many of us playing cricket for MCC and at a higher level. He told me to play for MCC when I was about to stop playing cricket for lack of finding a team when I was 16 and that's how I played whatever I did. He recruited Venkatpathy, Chakker, Fazal, Sanjay and so many of us. He had the eye, the conviction and the clarity to convince his Dad that we were good enough. Vidyuth has been the harbinger of good news for me on some momentous occasions - once when I got selected for Under 25 Hyderabad ahead of all others in our lot, another when I was picked to play Ranji Trophy. Vidyuth was amazing at gully and picked up catches that were out of the world, making them look so easy. He was also a constant source of encouragement for us and much of what we finally did is owed to him.

Srinivas Babu - a 65 he got against IDPL in that ground in his no nonsense, attacking manner, brilliant slip catching especially one sharp one against EMCC in a match we won. Babu was always fit and continues to be - apart from being a nice harmonising part of any team. Also unforgettable for taking Ram and Ranjan out for tea and they all came back late so we had to concede defeat (anyway a lost cause) due to missing lower order batsmen

Vernon Paul - his two consecutive sixes to finish a close game in Gymkhana. Nonchalant hitting. Also for his bottle carrying ways in his old blue Chetak. He somehow made it to the party at Chandra's place, got totally blown and never remembered what happened and how he got home. He gets an honorary seat at the MCC table for his amazing drinking ways.

Chandra - His knock of 85 against Sacred Hearts where he and Raj finished a tight game - we were chasing 280 and got it in 40 overs. Short arm pulls, flowing drives - Vidyuth exclaimed 'who is this guy?'. Brilliant batting. Chandra had a technique that was classic and one could instantly make out that pedigree. Then that superb catch in slips off Sreenu. And the unforgettable Outswinger party, now this and so many more good times with the king of good times.

Ram - His tight spell of 2 for 56 against MP Blues which was the first game in that season we won. Losing that would have set us back. We got 280. MP Blues was 150 for no loss and crusing. Ram got us the first desperate break when Ramesh who was batting on 80 stepped out and got caught at long on. Once we got that break, we bowled them out. And another tight spell at a crucial time against Vijay Paul's team where he tied a senior batsman like Vijay Paul down and finally got him out caught at square leg and we won easily after that.

Pavan - his slam bang batting for two overs precisely. But his two amazing catches in that Sacred Hearts game are the best I have seen ever. And the way he held the team together for many years patiently doing all the administrative work and getting everyone together. Pavan's cooking at our parties was legendary and continues to be.
This one with Venkatapathy Raju (third from left) and Pavan Soman (seventh from left), everyone looking suitably happier

Suri - Sensational batting and fielding. Always stood up when the team needed him. He is the Nino Valenti of the team - the tragic hero - all talent and heart. Easily the most consistent in all those years. temperamental, gets into fights, but does everything for the team. Much is owed to him. Among the many memories - his superb knock of 80 plus when we were chasing a 9 plus run per over target after I broke my nose trying to pull a short ball. In all that blood and gore, Suri smashed the opposition and won us a superb game - I am sure it was revenge for him. He is the highest century scorer for MCC as far as I know. His many wonderful catches - one where he stood an inch inside the line and reached outside to take a catch two handed catch off a sure sixer off Ram in the Osmania ground.

Subbu - One knock in Barkas where he got 80. Really good though for a losing cause. And another against MP Sporting, his old team - he got a 50 and helped us win. But the samosa incident at Parade grounds where he was caught with a samosa in his gloves while I was about to deliver the ball was easily the incident no one will ever forget.

Raj Kumar - His five against Ameerpet in a losing cause was a fine effort and his 100 against MP Blues in that opening game for a winning cause remain in my mind. He was a professional and did all that was needed to win.

Sanjay - His spell against Andhra Bank and Syndicate Bank in the previous years. His running out a BDL batsman on the third run after chasing the ball to midwicket off his own bowling. Sanjay aka Military and I played cricket from the U15 days.

Sai Murlidhar - a 32 he got under pressure for MCC and won a game. Other than that he was always a good time guy with lots of stories and a fine party presence. Sai is one guy you can always have in your corner. Terrific drinking capacity so an automatic MCC member.

Sreenu - The Sacred Hearts spell was outstanding but another spell in a close game where he literally grabbed the ball from my hand and told me - 'I will get them out'. Out of the remaining four wickets to get with less than 20 runs, he got three wickets with one of the fastest spells I have seen.

Ranjan - Apart from some brilliant slip catches, a crucial face saving fifty when we were down 15 for 5 against a lowly placed team and a five wicket haul against Amberpet.

And one unforttable knock of 100 plus by Shameem who played the innings of life to win a lost cause against MP Sporting. From 100 for 8 he pulled off the game with the tail enders carrying his bat through in probably the best match winning knock I have seen.

And then so many more tales and we enjoyed those many many years of Sunday leagues for MCC. I remember bowling and batting with a fractured finger, suffering a broken nose, a badly torn hamstring but it was all worth it. I will write now, an MCC blog, a long pending wish of mine and recount stuff more clearly. For now, this teaser. And all of you guys, thanks for making it - Chandra from Mumbai and Babu from Bangalore - and the rest of us from all over Hyderabad. Until we meet again.


Vidyuth Jaisimha said...

Super afternoon the other day. Was great catching up with the old MCC gang.Really well written piece bro.Those MCC days were easily our best cricketing years. Keep the stories coming..

Srinivas Babu said...

Wonderful recapture of past Hari. You have an amazing memory of so many joyful incidents of our life. I always feel proud to have played for MCC. Thank you.

PANZA-The Man Behind Times.. said...

Proud of you- Chandru...

MK Jagadish said...

Sai Murali was talented,expected much from him.