South Indian cinema stars may be accustomed to dual roles. And autorickshaw drivers in Chennai may be notorious for fleecing passengers. But how about a driver who makes a seamless transition from his auto stand to a cricket pitch?
Meet P.Radhakrishnan. The 53 year old driver can be found at the Ayanavaram stand in Central Chennai from Monday to Friday. He doesn't merely wear his love for cricket on his vehicle panel, on which incidentally, he has the names of the victorious Indian Team that lifted in Prudential Cup in 1983. Once a promising opening batsman who played in the fourth division league, Radhakrishnan met with an untimely road accident in the prime of his career and had to give up playing cricket.Â But there was just no way this gritty individual would return to the pavillion without a fight. "I was medically unfit after the accident", laments Radhakrishnan, "but the fire to do something related to cricket was within me."
On weekends, Radhakrishanan doubles up as a cricket coach. For fifteen years, with the help of Lion's Club member Ramesh, he has been running the Dolphin Cricket Academy in Thiruverkadu on the outskirts of Chennai, which is also where he lives. Forty students are coached here. Although he barely earns five hundred rupees a day as an auto driver, Radhakrishnan charges a paultry fee of just thousand five hundred rupees per student for the whole year! It is his dedication that has made him the darling of the neighbourhood. One of the young players in the academy, Manikandan swears by the coaching of his "Auto Anna." The fact that "his isn't looking to make a quick buck, despite being in need and not seeking any publicity for his work makes him such an endearing person", says Arun Kumar, a parent who sends his son for coaching.
As he goes through his double innings with a trademark smile, Radhakrishnan has just one wish. It's not a government grant. It's not corporate sponsorship. It's a dream to see one of his boys making it to a Ranji team, if not the Indian eleven itself!