KOCHI: Back in March, during the biggest match in domestic cricket, umpire K N Ananthapadmanabhan faced one of the biggest tests in his umpiring career till date. During the thick of action between Saurashtra and Bengal on Day Two of the Ranji Trophy final, Ananthapadmanabhan's partner C Shamshuddin got injured which left the former Kerala cricketer to officiate from both ends.
"It was a big challenge because it is such a high-pressure game and you have to have extra levels of concentration. But that is part of the job and since I love what I do, it makes things easier," said Ananthapadmanabhan.
He is in the news again, and this time, it is for a special recognition as he was added to the ICC International Panel of Umpires.
Before Ananthapadmanabhan, there have been three other umpires from Kerala including Jose Kurishinkal (Trivandrum), Dr. KN Raghavan (Kozhikode) and S Dendapani (Ernakulam) who officiated in international games.
However, he earns the distinction of being the first Malayali to be inducted into a panel of the international cricketing body.
One can't help but think that it is moments like the one in the final in Rajkot that helped him earn his place in the ICC panel.
Having officiated in 71 Ranji Trophy matches and 24 Indian Premier League games among others, the veteran is now looking at the next step.
"Obviously, officiating in that final was a very unique situation and I knew I had a job to do back then. The important thing is to justice to your craft and that's what I've always tried to do. I'm delighted to be included into the panel to be honest, and thankfully, all my hard work has paid off. I've always wanted to officiate in the big matches like Test matches and ODIs, and this is a step in that direction. I hope I can do justice to the faith that has been put in me," he said.
Before his stint behind the stumps, Ananthapadmanabhan was one of Kerala's most celebrated cricketers. He was the first player from the state to play over a 100 first-class matches, taking 344 wickets and scoring 2891 runs. Many believe that he could have played for India with a little bit more luck.
However, his rise as an official is an indication that Ananthapadmanabhan has not let that disappointment hold him back.
"This is a true recognition for his hard work, determination and love for cricket. He is one of the greatest cricketers Kerala has produced and was unlucky not to play for India. I hope he will bring more achievements through his role as an umpire. I wish him all success for his future endeavours," said Kerala Cricket Association president Sajav Varghese.
The other three umpires from India who are in the ICC International Panel of Umpires are C Shamshuddin, Anil Chaudhary and Virender Sharma.
"For Ananthapadmanabhan to be among four umpires from India in such a panel is great news for Kerala cricket. It's a sense of pride for all of us," said KCA Secretary Sreejith V Nair.