KANNUR:In the late ‘70s, it was at the bakery in the corner of the M A Road where the young lads would come and gather to discuss cricket. They were no ordinary youngsters, but the players who represented the state cricket team.
There they would discuss the game for long hours. ‘70s were the golden era for cricket in Kannur. Eight players from the district represented the State Ranji team while the north zone team’s all 12 players were from here.
The credit went to the numerous cricket clubs playing serious cricket which created a competitive atmosphere. Kannur was the Mecca of the game from where it spread to other parts of the state. It was Madhavettan’s bakery which used to be one of those clubs and he was also the secretary. The Aaron brothers -- Leslie Aaron and Sandy Aaron -- along with Raymond Gabriel, Rajagopal Menon and several others formed the Cannanore Cricket Club.That’s history now, though. The situation now is such that in the past 30 years, only one player from Kannurrepresented the state team at the highest level. The Fort Ground, which no longerexists, used to host big leagues and Ranji matches. However, talented players are now in need of a place to practice with the Fort Ground or the Police Ground not available. They are forced to travel all the way to Thalassery, or they decide to retire from the game for better prospects.J K Mahendran becomes nostalgic while recalling those years when cricket was truly the gentleman’s game.
He was just 12 years old when he picked the bat to play with those who were quite older than him.
Growing up listening to them and learning the game, he was one of the best players in the state those days. He was the first Kerala player to represent the Indian school boys’ cricket team which played against England and Australia. He was fortunate to share the dressing room with the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Amarnath. Now settled in Chennai, Mahendran gives all the credit to Kannur for his successful career.
“Those days our biggest asset was the ground. There was nothing else to divert ourattention. I used to bunk the class and practise in the ground hours together,” he recalls. The ground hosted four Ranji trophy matches and players like Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi played here.