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- Updated: May 21, 2017
Amidst the dry and dusty Integral Coach Factory (ICF) cricket ground, stands a diminutive figure that few apart from those associated with the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) have heard of.
He has spent the past four decades serving as the chief pitch curator at the Chepauk – a stadium famous for the tied Test match between India and Australia in 1986 and more recently the home ground of the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL.
Even today, when his days of employment are behind him, he continues to wear his blue uniform. It may have a tattered look to it now, but K. Parthasarathy still pumps his chest out with a look of pride.
Son of a former first-class cricketer, Parthasarathy also enjoyed a stint in the sport in the local leagues. But, that was riddled with problems and his career never really took off. In his own words, he became a victim of internal politics due to his father’s frank attitude, who would always call a spade a spade. This often led to Parthasarathy having trouble with the selection committee.
While a career as a professional sportsman did not quite take off for him, a brief stint of umpiring was followed by his true calling. His decision to man the pitch proved a huge blessing to the TNCA. Such was his dedication throughout the period that he still works as a freelance pitch consultant ahead of crucial fixtures.
“I’m not your wife, the cricket ground is,” he said while recounting what his wife once told him. “A pitch curator has to put in a lot of out-of-work hours and my wife’s support through the 40 years of my career has been instrumental.”
When you get into a conversation with him, it’s easy to notice the passion in his eyes the moment you talk about anything to do with the sport. He comfortably glides into what one has to do to prepare an “ideal pitch”, saying that it is “a deeply intricate process and begins days, often months before an international match”.
Yet, rains are the biggest curse for Parthasarathy. “There have been days when I have just wept because it rained the night before the match.” However, Parthasarathy admits that over time he has learnt that one cannot control certain things.
As you delve deeper into how he would approach a regular day before the match, he recounted a three-level structure that he would build in his head during his time as the chief curator. The first goal was to deliver the sort of pitch that he wanted and to ensure that the players were satisfied with what he had produced.
The second goal was to see India come out victorious.
Finally, he would consider his job fully done after receiving remuneration from the association. More often than not, he would have to fight, or even stage a protest for this.
Although he wouldn’t have changed his profession for anything, the lack of monetary support does irk him as a retired man. “After spending more than half my life on various grounds, I get a paltry sum of Rs. 1,800 per month as pension.”