Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Radha Krishnaswamy

A Cricketing Career at 60!!!
From a State Atheletics Champion at 20 to the Indian Team's Fitness coach at 60
Wife of Former TN Opener carves a name for herself in Indian Cricket
Radha Krishnaswamy played the role of a dutiful wife for over three decades. Her husband V. Krishnaswamy (Kicha to his friends in the cricketing circles) had played Ranji Trophy cricket for TN through the 1970s and later took on a mentoring role at IOB helping several youngsters make their mark in cricket (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2016/08/krishnaswamy-v.html). As he scaled up the ladder at the bank, Krishnaswamy went on an overseas engagement to Korea in the 1980s. And his wife accompanied him there and later across the country in the process sacrificing her own sporting interests.

And now past 60 and having retired from KVB as its MD a few years ago, Krishnaswamy is paying her back for her great role over the decades by now playing the role of a sacrificial husband, for Radha has, in the last year, found a high profile and hugely responsible engagement as the fitness coach of the Indian Women’s Cricket team.

She has just returned to Madras after an unforgettable personal one on one interaction with the Prime Minister of India following the Indian team’s glorious run in the World Cup in England (India lost to England by a slender margin in the Final at Lord’s). In the last month she has had the good fortune of walking through the long room at Lords and waving to the fans from the famous Lords’ balcony (remember Kapil Dev’s famous photo after the 1983 World Cup Final).  
Soon after, MCC (Madras Cricket Club) members welcomed her with a loud congratulatory cheer while Radha and Krishnaswamy were doing their regular morning 'run' (Radha is a Marathon runner and she always runs !!!) at Chepauk. She was not used to such applause and hence went past only to be called back and told that the hand clap was addressed to her, leaving Radha in tears of joy!!! She has clearly become a Cricketing Personality.

What a transformation - Three World Cup Finals
She has now watched three World Cup Finals - the 2011 World Cup Final as a Spectator from the stands, the World Cup Final at the MCG in 2015 from a hospitality seat (with special tickets handed to her as the fitness coach of the TN State team). And now the best of them all, her 3rd World Cup Final  this time as an integral member of the Indian Women's team at Lord's.

Early Initiation into best of Fitness Training
After having come to Madras from Coimbatore in 1968, Radha joined the St. Ebba’s school on RK Salai. It was her PT teacher Kunjamma who spotted the natural ‘running’ talent in Radha when she was in class VI. She got Radha initiated into Athletics and introduced her to TA Krishnamurthy, a top NIS Certified Coach. Thus, at a very early age, Radha was exposed to the best of training. She took a special liking for Triathlon during that phase and continued to perform creditably in sports even after joining college (Stella Maris), a period when she represented the University as well as Tamil Nadu.

It was also a phase when she fell in love with the handsome looking Tamil Nadu State Opener Krishnaswamy. 
She would always be seen at the cricket grounds in those days in the 1970s though she herself was not into cricket. Over the next three decades, her focus shifted to the family and she became a home maker, though she continued to be associated with fitness related training, first as a teacher of Group Exercises (in the class organised by TT Vasu's wife) and later as a fitness consultant for Reebok.

Soon after graduation, she joined Customs and Excise on Sports Quota and represented them for five years. But continuous transfers (for her husband) meant she had to keep shifting places and she resigned from the job.

Radha’s Entry into Cricket
The turning point and her first big association with cricket came in 2012-13 when during Krishnaswamy’s stint in Bombay as a GM (IOB), he suggested that she approach the Mumbai Cricket Association to explore an opportunity on fitness training for their women’s cricket team. Her first engagement was with the U 19 team there. Even before she could settle into that role, she once again had to play the sacrificial role as Krishnaswamy quit IOB and joined KVB as its MD in Karur. This meant Radha had to quit her engagement with MCA and make her way down South to Karur!!! 

A BOLD career move and away from her husband at 60!!
Having enjoyed her short professional cricketing stint with the MCA, she explored an opportunity with the TNCA after she came back to Karur only to be told by the then Hony Secretary, KS Viswanathan that it would not be possible for them to consider a role if she did not move, full time, to Madras. And thus for the first time in her life, she took a ‘bold’ career move and shifted to Madras while her husband continued to discharge his responsibilities at KVB in Karur.

She took on the role of the Fitness Coach of the Tamil Nadu U19 girls as well as the Senior State team for three years. It was during that phase and after gaining confidence with TN State team that she began cherishing the dream of coaching the Indian team. 
Just over a year ago, TNCA sent her to Bangalore for a fitness training workshop conducted by the NCA.  Soon after the workshop, Radha cleared the exam with ease (Remember, she had graduated with a distinction!!!).  As luck would have it, right around that time, BCCI made it a pre-requisite for the applicants for the post of the Indian fitness coach to have passed the NCA exam. And clearly with the experience of having been associated with fitness training for several decades (having been a fitness consultant for Reebok for close to two decades) and having had successful stints with the MCA and the TNCA, she stood a good chance. In September last came the letter from the BCCI appointing her as the fitness coach of the Indian Women’s team for the series against the West Indies.

And since then, her engagement has expanded series by series. The Indian team had not had a good run in one dayers and had to play the qualifiers in Sri Lanka.

A Dream Come True - Fitness Coach,The Indian Team
At the time she took on the role with the Indian team in September 2016, Radha found a few of the players with not enough physical strength. A few others did not have the speed while a couple of them were overweight. Over the last year, she has been tough on the girls impressing upon them the need for higher fitness levels especially to compete at big international tournaments like the World Cup.  

While previously the focus had been largely on ‘cricketing skills’, Radha has been able to gain the support of the Head Coach to get the team to also focus on fitness aspects.  During the first six months of this year, the Indian Women’s team has had multiple training camps that allowed Radha to focus on specific improvement areas for the cricketers such as endurance, improvement of strength and power as well as on agility. Clearly she now finds a great acceptance among the players.

Differentiated Exercises
During the period she has been with the Indian team, she has focused on ‘Single Leg’ exercises as contrasted with the ‘Double legs’ in the past as she found that in cricket most of the time it is a single leg that comes into play at important moments. She has also focused on ‘Selection’ and ‘Order’ of exercises for the cricketers to improve their fitness levels. 

An important addition to the fitness regime during her stint with the Indian team has been the introduction of RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). This is a new tool that helps in load monitoring for the players. Improving the shoulder strength has also been an area that Radha has been working on with the players. 

Clearly, the fitness level of the Indian team has improved dramatically over the last 3-6 months. While a majority of the players feel that the fitness regime has been tough and that working with Radha is not easy as compared with the past, the current bunch including the seniors in the team are keen on learning and absorbing the intricate aspects relating to fitness for they realize that fitness is likely to play an important role in them sustaining at the international level. And thus have been very co-operative with the fitness coach.

An Entire World Cup without a Fitness Issue
Having worked for a year, Radha has bonded well with the team and there is a family atmosphere that now prevails within the team. The Indian team has great respect for her with each player recognising the contribution made by her to improve their fitness levels. Radha takes a lot of pride in the fact that not a single player stayed out of any match during the World Cup even for a single over due to fitness reasons. And that's a great endorsement to the amount of work she has put in on the players over the last year.

Radha believes that going forward fitness training will become an integral part of the team culture going forward.There is a general realization among the players that fitness helps them perform better and that strength helps them recover faster.  Into the future she has plans to organize Boot Camps and hill training sessions as part of off season training for the players to improve their overall fitness levels.

A Great Moment - One to One with the PM
Radha's greatest moment was when she met Hon’ble PM Modi last fortnight. In a one on one interaction with him, she told him that her vision had always been to get every Indian to serve the society in some capacity. A visibly happy PM narrated his vision to her and said that he was keen to build a toilet for every Indian. 
Much later after food had been served and it was time to bid goodbye, PM Modi called and reminded her on the vision of serving the society and asked her not to forget the idea of building toilets for every Indian, leaving her completely stunned at his ability to have remembered the discussion of an hour earlier, even though he met with the entire team during that period. It was heartening for her as a citizen of the country to hear from him that sometimes he worked three days in a row sleeping just 2-3hours a day.

The Indian team have been all praise for the special role of the support staff during the World Cup. "Radha (Ma'am) runs with the team and does whatever we do even though there is a difference of almost 30 years between the senior most players in the team and her. One of the biggest motivating factors for the entire team this year has been the fitness level of our 60 year old trainer. Our point was ‘if she could be this fit and train this hard at her age, surely we could. And that's what we did’  was the way they saw it.
Radha and her elder sister (Dr. Shantha Narayanan) still do long runs over the weekend on the beach road in Madras.  Radha also trains around 20 runners (including her sister) on long distance running and fitness related aspects. Till she took up the engagement with the Indian team last year, she was a regular on the global 21 km/42 Km Marathons participating in both domestic and overseas runs.

Kicha Opens a new innings
Krishnaswamy was a confident opener during his days as a cricketer in the 1970s. In recent years, he has had several financial and banking consulting offers coming up his way every now and then. But he has decided not to take up anything for he believes that it is  now 'Pay Back' time.

He is delighted that a new career has opened up for Radha at this age and that she is now able to professionally enjoy what she has been doing personally for decades. He says that when he was progressing in his banking career, she moved along with him sacrificing a possible full-fledged fitness training career.  

During the World Cup, Krishnaswamy was introduced to the BCCI CAO Ratnakar Shetty as Radha’s husband – a huge endorsement for a lady who was all along known as the wife of the popular TN Ranji opener from the 1970s.

While a young Radha would go from ground to ground watching Krishnaswamy play ( she was also present in Coimbatore when he made his first and only century in Ranji Trophy in the 1970s), life has now turned a full circle. Over the last year, Krishnaswamy has been in Sri Lanka (for the World Cup Qualifiers) and England (through the World Cup) doing packing and accounting work for her in the background while she focused on her professional engagement with the Indian team.

Having played first class cricket for almost a decade, he plays a guiding role back home on technical aspects and is the motivating force behind her success. 

Kicha says with a great deal of happiness that its now time for him to sit back and enjoy her success. It is a new innings for him, one that has just begun and one that he is beginning to enjoy. For a major part of the last 12months, he has had to find his own food for she has been away with the Indian team at Camps and tournaments!!!!
With so much attention on Women’s cricket after India’s run in to the WC final and with PM Modi personally directing offering the best of facilities for the improvement of women’s cricket, Radha could be in for an interesting couple of years with the Indian team.

The Indian coach has just been handed a two year contract and it is likely that the support staff that had performed so creditably at the World Cup too would be given a similar long term engagement with the team. If that happens it could mean Krishnaswamy carrying her fitness bag  (did she not carry his kit bag way back in the 70s!!!!) across various cricketing locations around the world. 

What a reversal of roles that would be for husband Krishnaswamy!!!


Dog said...

Very inspiring Prabhu...good to see them back each other up.. thanks for the article Very nicely written as always

Dog said...

Very inspiring Prabhu...good to see them back each other up.. thanks for the article Very nicely written as always

Anonymous said...

Wonderful and she deserves all the credit. ������������

Anonymous said...

Brilliant. Very inspiring.

Anonymous said...

Great JI

She is a great icon for women in general.

Please forward this to Women NGOs who down play India all the time.

Corporate lawyer

Sudarshan said...

Wonderful post!! Kudos to Ms Radha for inculcating fitness discipline to the women cricketers and thereby showcasing their immense potential to the world. Normally the support staffs don't get their recognition, hence so glad that Mr Prabhu recognised this and brought it to limelight..

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant and inspiring!

Anonymous said...

Great Prabhu.

Anonymous said...

Good one Prabhu .. well articulated.
(Former Ranji cricketer and now coach)

Anonymous said...

Good one. Very inspiring.

(Former U19 South zone player)

Anonymous said...


Very nice article and well written . . inspiring lady.

I had read the one on Krishnaswamy earlier