Dubai: Indian speedster Shantakumaran Sreesanth, along with some of his Ranji Trophy team colleagues, have honoured the man who taught them the basics of the game at the India Club.
P. Balachandran, a former Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy player, has been a coach for 25 years and featured prominently in the careers of many talented Kerala youngsters like Sreesanth.
All the UAE-based Kerala Ranji Trophy players joined together to honour Balachandran, who was in Dubai to watch the Kerala Premier League. He was presented with a memento by CTK Nasir, who is one of the Directors of the UAE Kerala Premier League (KPL) on behalf of Kerala Cricketers Forum.
Sreesanth recalled his first encounter with Balachandran. “I was only 13 years old when I met Balachandran Sir, who was playing for Refineries team against Ernakulam,” he said. “I was the 12th man for Ernakulam and he was batting fluently. During the break, I told one of the bowlers to break his head with a bouncer, which he heard. My coach to be went on to hit 120 runs and, after the match, he asked my captain who is this special boy.”
In his speech, Balachandran recalled the incident, saying: “Years later, I realised that this boy is very special.”
Though this was Balachandran’s first experience of Sreesanth’s aggressive nature, the Indian pacer depended heavily on his coach. “Whenever I have gone wrong I used to call him from different parts of the world and he used to promptly guide me,” said Sreesanth.
Balachandran had left a lucrative job with Indian Overseas Bank to become a coach. He also worked as assistant coach to legendary Dennis Lillee at MRF Pace Foundation and was also part of the Talent Search Committee with Sunil Gavaskar. He also worked with Hanumant Singh at the National Cricket Academy.
One of UAE’s most prolific performers, CTK Mashood, who was also coached by him, said: “He was a coach who did not focus on merely teaching techniques but also grooming one to become a good cricketer. Some of his tips I follow even now in my daily life and has helped me to give my best.”
Among his students in the UAE are P.G. Sundar, the former Ranji Trophy player-turned coach, who guided Kannur and Palakkad to victories in the KPL, Fida Asghar and A. Manoj.
As master of ceremonies for the function, Machingal Radhakrishnan regaled the gathering with tales of the career of Balachandran, in which he recounted many incidents told by students.