Subramaniam Badrinath- The Ice Man India never made full use of
A look at perhaps a jewel that Indian cricket didn't unearth- Subramanium Badrinath.
I did a few years of my lower-grade schooling in Mumbai and for the few years that I was there, my teachers found me to be a very hard working student, but someone who never quite managed to get into the elite grade. By elite, I mean, someone who always missed out on featuring in the Top 10 rank holders in the class by a small margin.
I was always the perennial 11th place and my teachers would suggest to my parents that, “He is unlucky to be in the wrong section. Anywhere else, he would get into Top 10 with ease."
Maybe I was in the wrong section. Maybe I lacked the extra edge. I don't know.
As I was growing up, I found a story parallel to my Mumbai story in a cricketer. His name was Subramaniam Badrinath.
The right-hander was always among the highest run-getters in Ranji Trophy; someone who became the backbone of the Tamil Nadu line-up, their Mr. Dependable. There are certain players, who after a period of time become important cogs in their batting line-up, but with Badri, it was totally the opposite.
Starting off as an opener, he scored his maiden Ranji trophy hundred against a Karnataka attack, consisting of Dodda Ganesh, Mansur Ali Khan among others to announce himself in Indian cricket.
But soon, Tamil Nadu found themselves lacking substance in the middle-order. And guess what did they do then? They pushed Badri to No. 4.
He came to be known as the “Umbrella Man” during his time with the Chennai Super Kings. Few knew that he had become one much earlier for his state side Tamil Nadu.
Season-after-season, the runs kept piling on. In every condition, against every attack, his appetite only went upwards. In 2005/06 season, he amassed 636 runs at an average of close to 80 and was rewarded with the captaincy of the side in 2006, the very year Ravichandran Ashwin made his First-Class debut under him.
The runs continued to flow, but the selectors kept ignoring him. The likes of Venugopal Rao, Mohammad Kaif etc went ahead of him and kept the Tamil Nadu flag flying high. He represented India A and did well in those tours as well but with regards to not getting a national call-up, there were no derogatory remarks, no outrageous statements, nothing.
IPL 2008- The 2 months that changed his life
2008 saw the birth of what turned out to be a phenomenon in Indian cricket- the Indian Premier League. By this time, Badri had elevated his game significantly. After starting out as a grafter, he had widened his range of shots immensely and proved effective in all formats.
Coming into bat at the number 4 position for the Chennai Super Kings(CSK), he played many effective innings for them looking assured against both pace and spin and scored 192 runs in 16 matches at a very acceptable strike-rate of 147.39 while also developing an ability to bring them out of a hole.
But apart from putting up the runs, something else also happened during his stint with the CSK. He met Michael Hussey, someone who also had to rack up the runs for years before making the cut into the Australian setup.
And in him, Badri found solace, the support that he needed. Hussey encouraged him and gave him the confidence that his time would come soon.
Apart from a good IPL, he had scored heavily in the Ranji Trophy once again, with an aggregate of 659 runs. However, despite the runs, the call for the ODI tour to Sri Lanka didn't come and this time, he didn't sit quiet.
Badri came out and questioned the selectors decision to not pick him, clearly having remained patient for the longest time possible. A couple of days later, the Gods finally smiled on him. Sachin Tendulkar had gotten injured and Badri was sent as a replacement.
In his very first ODI, he impressed and how. Chasing 143 for a win, India found themselves 75 for 5, when he walked out to bat against a relatively unknown Ajanta Mendis. He applied himself superbly, played as late as possible, picking the ball from the bowler’s hand rather than off the deck, and guided India past the finish line with 3 wickets in hand, remaining unbeaten on a measured 27.
He also found applause come from MS Dhoni, who had this to say:
"He was under pressure on debut, especially against Murali and Mendis, but he played them really well. He took up the challenge and responsibility and showed some character."
Test Cricket dreams
Although that proved to be his last ODI series for a while, that was just one part of his dream. A bigger one was yet to be fulfilled. To play Test Cricket for India.
That chance arrived a little under 24 months later when India faced the most unusual of situations against South Africa in Nagpur. Rahul Dravid was injured and India needed solidity in the middle-order since Murali Vijay was asked to bat at 3.
And so Badri made his Test debut, and like his early days with Tamil Nadu, he was put to the sword immediately. India was reduced 56 for 3 when he joined Virender Sehwag in the middle. Sehwag played in the only way that he knew and Badri was more than happy to go about his job with much calmness.
The duo put on 136 runs for the 4h wicket and Badri had done exactly what was expected out of him- be the rock that would thwart the storm. He made a gritty 56 against the likes of Dale Steyn- who was reversing the ball at pace- Morne Morkel, and Paul Harris and show everybody of what they had missed for so many years.
Sadly, though that was to be his last hurrah in Tests. For when Dravid returned, the famous trio of him, Tendulkar and VVS Laxman joined forces again and he didn't play a match in whites for India after the second Test of that series in 2010.
He had to wait for 12 more months to play for India, but in the series against the West Indies, he disappointed, while a youngster named Rohit Sharma flourished.
Following the retirement of Dravid and Laxman, there was perhaps one last bit of hope that he would be brought back, that his experience of countering varied conditions would finally come to use. But the selectors opted to go with younger talent, and with 2 Tests and 7 ODIs to his credit, it was all over for Badri.
He now represents Vidarbha in the domestic cricket and helped them enter the knockout stages of the Ranji Trophy where they eventually lost to Saurashtra.The desire, however, remains intact.
So like was the case with me, was Badri born in the wrong generation? Would he have succeeded with his strong technique in some other country? Did he lack anything? Again, I don't know. Let's only hope that once he retires from all forms of the game, his value doesn't get lost.