‘I wasn’t the most talented, but I am a fighter’, says recently retired Subramaniam Badrinath

Hindustan Times caught up with S Badrinath for a free-wheeling interview on his career, where he spoke about the many achievements, the few disappointments and the road ahead.

cricket Updated: Sep 07, 2018 11:14 IST
Manish K Pathak
Manish K Pathak
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
s badrinath,csk,tamil nadu
Badrinath played two Test matches for India. (FILE IMAGE)(Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Subramaniam Badrinath had just turned 38 when he decided to call time on his career, a career which was a stellar one. A domestic giant, Badrinath played close to 450 matches across all formats and had an incredible career in India’s domestic circuit.

He has now dabbled into coaching and commentary. Hindustan Times caught up with him for a free-wheeling interview on his career, where he spoke about the many achievements, the few disappointments and the road ahead.

Q: What prompted the decision?

Badrinath: Well honestly nothing prompted me. I definitely believed I can still play, but the question was always about motivation. I have always been driven by motivation, by the passion to play cricket. When I started playing, I was driven to play for Tamil Nadu, wanted to win Ranji Trophy with them, then wanted to play for the country, then of course for Chennai Super Kings.

But for the last one year, I did not feel the drive, I am a firm believer that if I do not commit myself 100 percent to the game then I should not play. It is my decision, I want to be present 100%, but personally, the motivation level was falling. I was not playing for Tamil Nadu, I did not have any chance of playing for India, I had no IPL contract. When these things are not there, the motivation levels drop and it is the right time to take a call.

Q: You have had a stellar first-class career, how do you personally look back and rate it?

Badrinath: Personally, it has been very good. I came from a very humble background when I started playing cricket, and with very humble ambitions have reached here today. There were struggles all along the way, I was struggling to get into the Tamil Nadu team, but then it is all part of the journey. Now when I look back it has been a great journey, I have played close to 150 first-class games, something which I could have only dreamt about, but God has been kind.

Q: There is this general feeling that you were unlucky to not have played more International matches. What do you think about it?

Badrinath: You could say that, it has been a dream for me ever since I started playing cricket to represent my country. But having said that, I do not have any regrets, I tried my 100 percent, whatever was there within my control, I tried. Left no stone unturned, but I cannot select myself, there are people who do it. I cannot choose the time, the era when I was born and thus, I have no regrets. In my career which has lasted 18 years, there will always be questions like what could have been, what could not have been, but there will not be any sportsman who will say he has achieved whatever he wanted to.

‘I believed I can play the big shots. It was hard work, and combined with club cricket I became a good T20 player’ (IPL via Getty Images)

Q: Despite being labelled a ‘defensive player’, you had quite a successful IPL career. What were the changes you made, how did you adapt?

Badrinath: It wasn’t easy, to be very honest. I remember between 2006 and 2008 I made a lot of changes to my game, and like you said I tried to adapt my game to the evolving pattern. I worked a lot, I used to bat a lot with the help of a bowling machine, made a conscious effort of hitting the ball in the air. I couldn’t pull that well early on in my career, I learned how to pull. International bowlers always target the Indian batsmen with short stuff and in the IPL you need to tackle the short stuff. And I learned to play the scoop which helped me a lot.

Between those years, when I played club cricket when I represented Kemplast or India Cements, I used to play a lot of strokes. I was toying with the bowling at club level and I pushed myself to play a lot many strokes, even if I got a century, I tried to get it in 70-80 balls and I started achieving it. This gave me confidence, I believed I can play the big shots. It was hard work, and combined with club cricket I became a good T20 player. It panned well in the end.

Q: 18 years of the first-class grind, then a brief stint with India, and then IPL. What is the difference between the domestic game and International cricket or say an IPL?

Badrinath: As a batsman, I would say the level of fast bowling. The bowlers we face in Ranji Trophy are skilled but International bowlers are rapid. Even in the IPL, the level of bowling is something else. The ability to bowl pace is a marked difference. And of course, there is mental toughness, it is how you handle pressure, if you keep thinking it is International cricket you will not succeed. You have to face the ball, not the bowler.

Q: How has domestic cricket in India changed over the years?

Badrinath: It has changed drastically. The biggest change has happened over the last 10 years. When I started playing cricket, first-class cricket was of prime importance. You did not have any other opportunity to show your skills, playing Duleep Trophy was such a huge thing, playing for India A was a huge deal. You had to make these matches count, you had no other cricket to get recognised.

Now the picture is so much different. There are so many leagues, there is IPL, so many India A games, Board President’s XI game, India B to show your skills. It is having an effect, especially on the spinners. They are not the way they used to be. Earlier the spinners used to be a lot braver, had better skills, now is the age of mystery spinners, wrist spinners etc.

Game has evolved, first-class has rapidly changed.

Q: You moved out of Tamil Nadu, went across to Vidarbha and then to Hyderabad as a mentor/player. What type of captain and what type of coach are you?

Badrinath: Look, in cricket, the captain is the boss, he is the most powerful guy. The coach steps back as soon as the toss happens and the captain takes over.

Coach’s job is to prepare the guys, speak with them, think according to the player’s perspective and the important thing is to make them realize on their own about their faults rather than drilling things into them. He has to provide all the resources and backup to the captain, but once the match starts, the captain should be the main man. Captain needs to have his space and he needs his players to have the confidence to win matches.

A captain needs to be stable, he has to drive home the message that all matches are not smooth rides and there will be ups and downs and yes, he has to back his players, especially the bowlers.

Personally, I am not too technical about things. I feel mind is the most powerful, the important thing is to believe in a process. As long as my players follow the system, the results will come.

Q: What is the impact of T20/IPL on young cricketers coming through the ranks? Have the priorities changed?

Badrinath: According to me most of the impact is positive. IPL is a great tournament, it a great platform to test your mettle.

Coming to the second part, what a player wants is dependent totally on the individual. You cannot judge a player about what he wants, if he only wants to play the IPL that’s what he wants. However, there will always be players who still want to play Test cricket, who still value first-class cricket, but what concerns me is that the numbers are coming down.

Earlier it was only about playing for your country, now there is a different brand, people who want only in the IPL, but I do not think there is anything wrong. IPL gives you name and fame, so why not?

’He is a man of few words but I used to watch and observe him from close quarters what he does. The stability he had was immense’ (Getty Images)

Q: Over such a long career, who has been the best captain you have played under?

Badrinath: This is a very easy question. Obviously, the best captain I’ve played under is MS Dhoni. I’ve learnt a lot from him as well. He is a man of few words but I used to watch and observe him from close quarters what he does. The stability he had was immense. If you see why CSK has been able to win many crunch situations, Dhoni has a key role to play. he maintained the calmness which rubbed on to the team and players were able to execute their plans better when the pressure was amplified.

Q: So, what are your future plans?

Badrinath: As of now, I have signed a commentary deal for the next couple of years. Coaching may be in TNPL, but not very sure as of now. This year also, I’ve received offers to coach many first-class teams but haven’t taken it up. I just want to relax, and want to spend time with my family.

Q: How do you want to be remembered?

Badrinath: Ahh, it is difficult, but I was always a fighter, always had the never-give-up attitude. What my dad thinks about me matters to me. I was not very talented, but I sure did fight, I worked hard and this is what I want people to remember about me. Whatever be the situation, self-belief drags you through it.

First Published: Sep 07, 2018 11:08 IST