As Karunanidhi Passes Away at 94, Here’s Remembering Kalaignar’s Love for Cricket

Apart from being a seasoned politician who outlived the political careers of many contemporary leaders, M Karunanidhi, the five-times Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s patriarch, was a man who wore many caps.

An immensely popular Tamil actor, Karunanidhi was a theatre and art enthusiast who wrote as many as 40 screenplays. His love for literature and the performing arts earned him the title of ‘Kalaignar’ – ‘the artist’.

But a lesser known love that Karunanidhi harboured till the end of his life was one that most Indians including his political rivals, would relate with – love for cricket. <!–

–> Karunanidhi was an avid cricket lover and according to those who knew him closely, he was a regular follwoer of the sport. His daughter Kanimozhi had once told The News Minute that the Karunanidhi was crazy about cricket and though he had always led a busy life, the DMK chief would always manage to find time for a cricket match. He sometimes even cancelled his meetings and appointments to watch a cricket match and would often watch cricket matches in the company of his colleagues.

His love for cricket is also evident from the leader’s appreciation of his favourite cricketers who have included the likes of Kapil Dev, Sreenath and in latter years, Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni.

In 2011, Karunanidhi had awarded a whopping Rs 3 crores cash prize to members of World-Cup winning Indian Cricket team under captain MS Dhoni, separtely awarding R Aswwin, the only player from Tamil Nadu on the team, with a separate Rs 1 crore reward.

In 2013, he had tweeted from his Twitter account that he used to be a fan of Kapil Dev but now his favourite cricketer was MS Dhoni.

Kalaignar was also a fan of Sachin Tendulkar. In 2014, the leader congratulated Tendulkar who had just released his biography ‘Playing It My Way’ and said he was reading the book. In 2010, then Chief Minister Karunanidhi had sent a personal telegram to Tendulkar after the latter’s double century in a one-day match in Gwalior. He had also paid tribute to the cricketer after the latter was awarded the Bharat Ratna in November 2013.

Karunanidhi was regular with tweeting praises about cricketers including Sachin, Rohit Sharma and many others.

In March this year, an endearing video of the 94-year-old leader playing indoor cricket with his great-grandson went viral on social media. The video, which coincided with DMK leader and Karunanidhi’s son MK Stalin’s birthday, was a source of joy for DMK cadres who had been worried from the beginning of the year following Karunanidhi’s deteriorating health.

According to a Times of India report from 2013, the DMK patriarch understood cricket and would often go to Chennai’s MA Chidambaram stadium to watch matches. He also liked to watch live matches held outside Chennai.

An adroit politician, Karunanidhi knew how to keep in touch with his followers, be it through popular culture, art or sport. And in a cricket crazy country like India, his love for cricket surely helped him increase his appeal as an endearing, down-to-earth leader.

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Updated: August 7, 2018 — 4:43 pm

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