MSK: Rewarded for his administrative acumen
Not all nice guys finish last. Rahul Dravid is one such exception. So is Mannava Sri Kanth Prasad. Both of them believed that cricket is still a gentleman’s game. They are dignity personified both on and off the field. Unlike his good friend from Karnataka, MSK Prasad have had a shorter innings at the highest level. But his character and sincerity always stood out. Considering his brief international career, his appointment as chairman of the national selection committee came as a surprise to many, but those who watched him from close quarters always knew that he would be attaining greater heights as a cricket administrator.
Coming from a small city like Guntur, traditionally regarded as the backwaters of cricket, whatever MSK Prasad has achieved is extremely noteworthy. He is the first cricketer from Andhra to play for India. (Some might say the great CK Nayudu did play for the Andhra Ranji team, but that was only a ‘guest appearance’ at a ripe old age of sixty.) The stumper never had a formal coach and proper coaching in an academy. But Prasad’s natural ball gathering skills attracted immediate attention and catapulted him to the state junior side. His father, Ravi Prasad, who worked for the central government, happened to be an avid cricket fan and that helped MSK in pursuing his passion. His ascent to the top was not sudden and he had to rise through the ranks by sheer dint of hard work.
MSK Prasad shares his birthday with Sachin Tendulkar having born on April 24th. He is a couple years younger than the Little Master. He has one more similarity with the Master Batsman. Like Sachin’s wife Anjali, MSK’s wife Prashanti (his childhood sweetheart) is also a paediatrician. In all, he played 6 Test matches and 17 ODIs during the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons. Although his keeping was top class, he could not become a regular in the Indian team as he failed to click with the bat at the highest level. Probably the timing of his entry was not right. Team India then was struggling to rebuild the side in the aftermath of the match fixing controversy. The disastrous tour of Australia in 1999-2000, where Team India lost all the three Tests was his last international assignment. He continued on the domestic circuit before retiring from first class cricket in 2007. The gentleman cricketer from Guntur scored six hundreds and 24 fifties in the 96 first class matches that he played. He also captained the Andhra team and under his inspirational leadership, players like Y.Gyaneshwara Rao, D. Kalyana Krishna, M. Suresh honed their skills and earned national recognition.
MSK’s second innings as a cricket administrator has been more exciting. That he chose to quit a cosy central government job to take full-time plunge into cricket, reveals his passion for the game. He was with the defence organization BDL when Gokaraju Gangaraju of Andhra Cricket Association (ACA) approached him for taking up a challenging assignment. After long deliberations with family and friends, MSK took that tough call and moved toward his passion to assume charge as the director of operations of ACA. Under his supervision a world class cricket stadium is being built in Mangalagiri, near Vijayawada. He has started three residential academies which are running successfully. He travelled widely and developed infrastructure and proper cricketing facilities in almost all the thirteen districts of Andhra Pradesh.
Andhra cricket, till very recently, used to be a poor cousin of Hyderabad. But thanks to the dedicated efforts of MSK Prasad, presently Andhra cricket is in a much better shape compared to its neighbouring giant. With hard work and meticulous planning, MSK created a very good talent pool and already youngsters like K.S. Bharat are playing for India A team. Probably his elevation to one of the most coveted posts of Indian cricket is a reward for the administrative acumen that he has shown over the years. For long, MSK has been the face of Andhra cricket as its most accomplished player as well as its administrator par excellence.
(The author is a senior sports analyst)