Memories of enduring innings, at crease and in the teamtext_fields
Hailing from Kannur, more known for football than cricket in those days, Odayammath Koroth Ramdas was one of those who made Kannur a breeding centre of cricket stars. In late 60's and 70's one could not think of a Kerala cricket team without the steady opening pair of Ramdas and Suri Gopalakrishnan. OK's long innings ended on Wednesday morning in Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Science & Technology (SCTIMST) hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, a place OK had made his home after retirement from State Bank of Travancore.
OK Ramdas is arguably one of the best opening batterof a rare genre in that era when Kerala cricket did not have much to boast of. In early 70's OK Ramdas along with his opening partner Suri Gopalakrishnan formed one of the most formidable opening pairs. Those were the days OK and Suri alone had to carry the Kerala batting on their shoulders. Not to mention that the quicker limited-over formats of the game were yet to be born then, and batters could afford to stay in the crease first and then let runs come in. The bowling attack they played against were the likes of Abid Ali, Roger Binny, Govindraj Jayaprakash,VV Kumar, Kalyanasundram, TA Shekar and most importantly the spin triplets of Chandra, Prasanna and Venkat who could easily make OK and Suri the best opening pair of South India in 1970s. Kerala then did not have many gains to boast of in the South Zone Ranji Trophy series, more so being pitted against Test-star studded sides of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad, besides Andhra.
Every opposition against Kerala believed if they could get OK and Suri early, Kerala batting order can collapse like a bunch of cards. Naturally then, the team total of Kerala used to get not much more than an add-on to the opening partnership score. It was a phase in Kerala cricket where their middle order batting was at their fragile worst and often failed to capitalize on a good start produced by these two gifted opening batsmen. Consistence and patience could be cited as the hallmarks of Ramdas' batting style with a display of copy-book style defence punctuated by convincing sweeps that would fetch runs.
OK made his first class debut in 1968-69 against Mysore. He played 35 matches for Kerala. He has 1647 runs with 11 fifties to his credit. Not many Kerala batters had scored more 50's in Ranji Trophy than him then. His career best of 83 runs came in a Ranji Trophy match against Tamil Nadu in Trivandrum during the 1972-73 season.
OK Ramdas had the privilege, and challenge, of facing the famous Indian spin quartet of Bedi, Chandra, Prasanna and Venkat. South Indians at Ranji trophy matches and Bishen in SBI tournaments. He used to rate all four of them as masters of their own craft but personally OK felt negotiating with Erappali Prasanna as the toughest job for him. No wonder there as Prasanna was a cunning bowler, true genius, who traps the batsmen with his amazing variations.
Among the pace bowlers he played against, OK found TA Shekhar and Kalyanasundaram (Kali) the toughest to deal with. In that era without protective gear, it was very difficult to deal with these bowlers of amazing accuracy, swing and above all the speed.
OK Ramdas also played one match against visiting Ceylon (Sri Lanka as it was renamed later) team. OK scored a fluent 30-plus runs in that Ceylon vs Kerala XI match. Most importantly, in that match he played against fast bowler named Khelgamuwa. Gamuwa wasrated by none other than Geoffrey Boycott as the best fast bowler he had faced on a matting wicket. Ramdas cherishes that match as one of the fondest memories of his glittering career.
OK Ramdas had the rare distinction of representing both Kerala and Calicut universities (which came into being in 1968) in his college days during 1965-70. He also captained Calicut University in inter varsity matches and captained Kerala in Ranji trophy for one match. OK quit the crease with his last first class match in 1980-81 against Tamil Nadu.
But that was not the end of his association with sports and cricket. After retirement OK Ramdas has served his favorite sports in many different roles. If he left the bank officer's desk by then, during 2003-2006 he served as Sports Manager for SBT which by then had become a patron of sports in Kerala. In later years, he served as a selector and coach of all India associated Banks cricket teams.
He also served as the Chairman of Selection Committee Kerala Cricket Association, and team manager of South Zone in the Deodhar Trophy Tournament 2001. He also acted as Liaison Officer to the Match Referees in the two one day Internationals in 2002 and 2005 in Kochi. He served BCCI as a match referee for Ranji Trophy matches.
OK also aired the commentary for Bicentenary match held at Thalassery between India and Sri Lanka in 2002. He also lent his voice for Doordarshan for an ODI between India and Pakistan veterans held at Cochin 2006. That was in addition to a Malayalam Commentary for Star Sports in World Cup 2015. He is also a member of Indian cricketers association (ICA).
He had a stroke two weeks ago, while undergoing a throat surgery, which left his right side paralysed. He was put in ICU and on Wednesday 13 July morning, he breathed his last, leaving behind an era of cricketing memories and sporting associations.
He is survived by his wife Shobha and son Kapil Ramdas.
(The author is a raconteur of Kannur cricket)