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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Buchi Babu Tournament ....... when Star players and Big teams played !!

In the famed land of Thiruvallikkeni (Triplicane)-  religion, nationalistic fervour, patriotism, sports, education and the individual dignity have interspersed for the benefit of the State and the larger interests of the Nation. It was the seat of freedom struggle  and associated with many doyens of Carnatic message … and sports (read Cricket) …. There are many Streets which have great historic connection …. A small lane nearer Hindu High School, Big Street (after the TUCS) – which otherwise would escape attention – small lane branching off Khana Bagh Street, approached from Triplicane High Road, Thiruvatteeswaranpet Jn. has significance to Cricket is what this post is all about …… 

Only recently, Dada (Sourav Ganguly) took charge as Jt. Secy. of  Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) – the man always at the centrestage spoke on the need of Bengal team participating in the Buchi Babu tournament. Sourav made it clear that he wants a mixture of youth and experience at the Buchi Babu meet ~ and people in Chennai know the name too well.  The annual Buchi Babu tournament takes place around this time – remember that in our school days have seen so many matches of the tournament (generally during Avani Avittam) – in mid 1970s and early 1980s, the matches were played in Chepauk, Marina and University Union.  It was 3 day matches – and teams like SBI, Mafatlal (later Nirlans), Karnataka, Hyderabad played (some point of team there was team from New Zealand too)....... I remember seeing Krish Srikkanth hoisting Hoshidhar Contractor for a straight six – on another day closer to lunch, after a beautiful cover drive and one straight down, Cheeka pulling Sandhu in the hands of a lone fielder ........ and we all parting the ground sadly.  Apart from TN stars S. Venkatraghavan, Dalvi, Belliappa, TE Srinivasan, Kalyanasundaram, Mukund,  R Vasudevan, Arunkumar, Bharatkumar, Cheeka, VB Chandrasekhar, V Siva, CS Sureshkumar, B Arun, WV Raman - some names that readily come to mind are : Parthasarathi Sharma, Brijesh Patel, Kirmani, Rajinder Hans, Eknath Solkar, Ashok Mankad, Jyoti Prasad, Ramnarayan, K Jayanthilal, Shivlal Yadav, Dhiraj Parsanna, Sandhu, Ghavri .... and more ..... the tournament obviously has fallen to lesser grade in the days of IPL. Those days it was dominated by teams from Bombay and Ashok Mankad was hailed a shrewd leader bringing in youngsters, who went on to become popular later (Lalchand Rajput, Hattangadi, Jignesh Sanghani, Contractor ....)
the marina ground

Of course those days was not aware that the tourney is associated to somebody who passed away in the first decade of that century. Though the tourney occurred during Aug where there could be seasonal rains in Chennai, it attracted huge crowds those days.  Today read that at a time when it  is increasingly difficult to find sponsors for domestic competitions, the Kalpathi Group has come forward to sponsor the all-India Buchi Babu tournament for the second year running. Apart from the three Tamil Nadu teams, the TNCA XI, the TNCA President’s XI and the Districts XI, the Kalpathi AGS-Buchi Babu tournament will feature holder Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai, Bengal, Baroda, Hyderabad, Kerala, Haryana, Gujarat, Orissa, Andhra and Assam. The teams will be divided into four groups in the league phase. This will be followed by the quarterfinals, the semifinals and the final. Since the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium will be unavailable because of preparation of pitches there, the final will be held at the SSN ground on August 30 and 31.  The matches now are two-day affairs with a maximum of 100 overs in each innings. The winner takes home Rs. one lakh. Apart from SSN, the matches will be held at IC-Guru Nanak, IIT-Chemplast, SRMC, Murugappa, CPT-IP, V.B. Nest, Southern Railway and SPIC grounds.

Buchi as I know is what Telegu parents fondly call their sons ... Venkatamahipathi Naidu, more famously known as Buchi Babu, was born into a rich Madras family of dubashis (interpreters who doubled as middlemen in business dealings between British companies and Indians) in 1868. He inherited estate and property, owned a sprawling bungalow in Mylapore, called Luz House, later  found the Madras United Cricket Club (now Madras United Club), which focused on taking sport to Indians in the city. The club's ground provided a space for locals to play, and Babu - an accomplished cricketer himself - helped organise matches, and provided the finances for cricket equipment for many players.  His dream was to have an annual Presidency match, where the best local players would take on the Englishmen of the MCC. He died in 1908, just before the first Presidency game,  in the initial stages the annual tourney was held during Pongal days.  His sons too later played Cricket in Tamil Nadu.  Thanks to Buchi Babu, several Indians made a name in Madras cricket.

Read that Buchi Babu died suddenly in 1908 at a time when their family was struck with many tragedies.  The tournament grew up much bigger attracting players who had donned Indian cap and people in hundreds filled up the stands of Chepauk, especially the A and D stands .... there perhaps is no mention of Buchi in Chepauk, though Tamil Nadu had a great impetus provided by him.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

13th  Aug 2014.

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