Chennai, April 27: The annual awards and scholarships function organised by The India Cements Ltd and the Tamil Nadu Sports Journalists' Association (TNSJA) on Saturday brought the past, present and future stars of the TN sporting fraternity under one roof. The event celebrated the achievements of some of Tamil Nadu’s finest sportspersons and also encouraged promising talent.
Legendary Indian tennis player Vijay Amritraj, former India leg-spinner V.V. Kumar and Asian Games gold medallist (200m) R. Gnanasekaran were felicitated with the India Cements-TNSJA Lifetime Achievement awards, while table tennis ace Sharath Kamal won the Sportsperson of the Year for 2018-19. Among the emerging talent, chess prodigy D. Gukesh and athlete P.M. Tabitha were given the Young Achiever awards. Ten up-and-coming sportspersons were also given scholarships to the tune of Rs 3 lakh.
With India Cements – which has given the city the hugely successful Chennai Super Kings (CSK) franchise in the IPL – offering its full support, the occasion was graced by CSK coach Stephen Fleming, batting coach Mike Hussey, CEO K.S. Viswanathan among many others.
Vijay Amritraj, who received his award from former hockey Olympic gold medallist V. Baskaran, was at his eloquent best as he reminisced about his illustrious career. He also heaped lavish praise on N. Srinivasan, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, India Cements Ltd., for the support he has extended to sports and particularly cricket in his distinguished career as an administrator.
Knowing well that Srinivasan had played and excelled in tennis as a youngster, Amritraj also didn't miss an opportunity to display his sharp sense of humour. “I do have a question for Srinivasan which I would like you all to pass on. At 16 years of age, he had a vicious forehand. I don't quite understand why he went into the wrong sport,” Amritraj said, prompting laughter from the gathering.
“Fortunately for me, he chose another sport so that I could excel in tennis. But what he has done for cricket is nothing short of incredible. He is a man ahead of his time. What Srinivasan has done is to be able to transform this sport from an Indian and perhaps Commonwealth sport to a world sport that now comfortably ranks among the top five most lucrative sports in the international arena,” he added.
CSK coach Stephen Fleming lauded TNSJA's effort to encourage sportspersons saying, "On behalf of Mike (Hussey) and me, it was an absolute honour. We get to go to many events and be a part of the Chennai fabric and society but I must say that today was special to see some absolute legends and to see some up and coming talent of all sports."
Sharath, who was recognised for his exploits in table tennis, has enjoyed a brilliant run over the past 12 months in particular. He won gold, silver and bronze in the men’s team, doubles and singles categories respectively at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and then went on to win two historic bronze medals in the men’s team and mixed doubles events at the 2018 Asian Games. Sharath said he has been working hard with the aim of winning an Olympic medal.
Chess prodigy Gukesh announced his arrival as one to watch out for in grand style by becoming the world’s second youngest Grandmaster (GM) at the age of 12 years, 7 months and 17 days. There was also recognition for RB Ramesh, who won Coach of the Year having trained many of these prodigious talents in the field of chess.
Vijay Amritraj (India Cements-TNSJA Lifetime Achievement award 2018-19); V.V. Kumar (India Cements-TNSJA Lifetime Achievement award 2018-19); R. Gnanasekaran (India Cements-TNSJA Lifetime Achievement award 2018-19); Sharath Kamal (India Cements-TNSJA Sportsperson of the year 2018-2019.