Forty seven years ago, a relatively young Karunanidhi was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Flanked by his two like-minded companions, both ministers in his cabinet, the trio would make trips to the Chepauk cricket stadium to proudly display their share of the love for the game. The two ministers were PU Shanmugam, a four-time minister in the DMK government and S Madhavan, a former Industries minister. Both Karunanidhi's closest companions in terms of their taste in cricket.
They hardly missed a match. If not in the stadium, they would ardently listen to the match commentary. Today, the 90 year-old DMK supremoâs love for the game has not diminished one bit. His company may have changed but the passion still remains intact. In 2014, the DMK leader tweeted a picture of himself reading batting legend Sachin Tendulkarâs autobiography âPlaying it my wayâ. Praising him for his humility despite his huge success, the politician had only praise for the retired sportsman.
The five-time Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu has always led a busy life. But when it came to cricket, he would make time. Cricket matches were screened only on one channel, Doordarshan, back then. âHe would be travelling and attending meetings. Every time there was a match, he would call home and ask for the score. I would pick the call sometimes and ask what match. He would tell me to pass the phone to my mother,â said Kanimozhi, his daughter about her fatherâs craze for cricket.
If that was not quite enough, the DMK head would re-schedule or even cancel appointments if important matches were going on. âHe would somehow adjust meetings, or even cancel them,â his staff member told The News Minute. âHe always has some company while watching matches, sometimes just District Secretaries who would have come to meet him. He will keep commenting on the match, discussing whatâs happening and the others would be lost as to how to react,â said Kanimozhi.
Karunanidhi was never an indifferent spectator. Whenever India lost a match, he would go into a foul mood wondering why they ended up on the losing side. Over the years, Karunanidhi has always been vocal about his support for cricketers. After Sachinâs emotional retirement speech, Karunanidhi said that he was moved by the cricketerâs âtouching and tearful farewell speechâ. He said "You (Sachin) have walked into history and history is bejewelled by your presence. It is quite natural that the Government of India has announced the Bharat Ratna for you in recognition of your unmatched records." âYou have set grand standards,â he said. have received d book #Playingitmyway, the autobiography written & published recently @sachin_rt.
He was asked a few years ago who his favourite cricketer was. His answer, âBalajiâ. Also a fan of Kapil Dev, his favorite was Chennaiâs adopted son-in-law MS Dhoni himself. The politician makes it a point to attend Chennai Super Kings matches in the city to get to see his favourite sportsman. But after a surgery a couple of years back, the DMK chief doesnât go to stadiums often. In recent years, he found a new companion in the form of K Ponmudy who was the minister for Higher Education in Tamil Nadu during DMK's rule. That was not all. After Indiaâs 2011 World Cup victory, Karunanidhi awarded Dhoni and his team a whopping Rs.3 crore. He also gave Rs. 1 crore to off-spinner R Ashwin who hails from the state. Now thatâs really saying something. Karunanidhi is also extremely proud of former cricketer and captain Srikkanth who comes from Tamil Nadu. Even Muttiah Muralitharan who has married into a Tamilian family is a visitor at the Karunanidhi residence.
(This is an updated version, first version appeared in 2014)