THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As Thiruvananthapuram’s three-decade-long wait for international cricket comes to a close in a few days’ time, an 85-year-old man who was instrumental in bringing international cricket stars to the city for the very first time back in the 1980s is having a proud moment away from all the limelight. A C M Abdulla was the secretary of the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) in 1981 when the state association managed to fly in the legendary Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) which had players like Graham Gooch and Ian Botham, to play a match against a Board President’s XI at the University Stadium.“The match was a fundraiser for Kerala team’s masseur Govinda.
MCC was touring Sri Lanka and we brought them to Kerala on a chartered flight to play against an Indian side featuring the likes of Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri,” reminisced Abdulla, who now resides in the city.“The main challenge for us was to prepare a turf wicket for the match. As it was something that was still unheard of in Kerala, we sought the help of Karnataka State Cricket Association and curator G Kasturi Rangan who helped us with the track,” said Abdulla who was the secretary of KCA from 1973-74 and 1979-87.
Thanks to an excellent turnout for the game, which saw the President’s XI triumph over the English side, KCA managed to raise more than the Rs 50,000 target that was donated to Govinda. The successful conduct of the match also paved way for more international action in the capital.
“As we had a wicket now, we were entrusted to hold the Duleep Trophy as well as an Under-22 match between India and West Indies in 1982,” said Abdulla who started out as a physical education teacher. This was followed by a One Day International (ODI) between India and Australia in 1984 that was washed out due to rain while the Aussies were chasing a target of 176.
Four years later on January 25, a West Indies side featuring the likes of Viv Richards and Richie Richardson trounced a Shastri-led India by nine wickets in another ODI which remains to be the last international match to be played in the city -- but not for very long now.
Abdulla, who lives a quiet life after retirement, hasn’t yet decided whether to attend the India vs New Zealand T20 International at the Trivandrum Sports Hub on November 7. “I have been invited to the match by the KCA president but I am not sure whether I would go. After all, cricket has changed a lot since my days,” said Abdulla.
Born to a family with a rich cricketing history in Thalassery, Abdulla started his career as a PE teacher at St Joseph’s School there after graduating from the National Institute of Sports, Patiala. He became the secretary of the Kerala State School Athletics Association in 1962 before taking up the role of the Chief Sports Organiser in the state government in 1971 from where he retired in 1988.