Kantharatnam MIilroy Shanthikumar: Working & Playing Hard. Loving & Giving Big!

By Varun Desai

Called the Pearl of the Indian Ocean,
Sri Lanka is a small island had been
ravaged by civil war. A sense of
hopelessness amongst Sri Lankan
Tamils about their struggle drove
them to be either exiles, refugees or immigrants.
As a result, a large number of the largest minority
community from the island country migrated to
the West and to Australia.
Kantharatnam Milroy Shanthikumar was an
individual affected by the war like everybody else
was. A prolific Cricketer, a reputed Umpire, a loved
Team Manager and a respected Cricket Selector,
Shanthikumar decided to migrate to Canada in
Youngest in a family of six siblings, Shanthikumar
was born in Central Jaffna, Sri Lanka. The family
produced some fine cricketers who played Cricket
for their respective schools and universities.
Shanthikumar’s hero was his older brother,
Donald Ganesh Kumar. Donald was selected to
the National School Cricket team as an excellent
all-rounder and a Junior. He scored a brilliant 175
against St. Sylvester’s at Police Ground Asgiriya in
the mid-1960s. Despite the racial crisis prevailing
in Sri Lanka, Donald was the only Tamil in an all-Sri
Lankan Combined team that toured Australia.
Shanthikumar’s talent showed as early as in his
teens. In 1972, the young teenager claimed 7
wickets for 56 runs in the first innings for the Jaffna
Combined Schools team against the Australian
Combined Schools. Besides playing against Malaysia
and Singapore national teams, Shanthikumar also
played for the Srilanka Combined Schools Team
against Tamil Nadu in 1972, captained by former
Indian skipper Venkataragavan. The Australian
Schools team manager recognized Shanthikumar’s talents and
mentioned that he was the best fast bowler they had encountered
in Sri Lanka. As a token of appreciation, players from the Australian
team signed the match ball and presented it to Shanthikumar.
A right-arm opening bowler and hard-hitting right-hand batsman,
Kantharatnam Shanthikumar was in the Sri Lankan squad at the
1979 ICC Trophy in England and later in the 1990 Canadian
squad. Between 1974 and 1981, Shanthikumar played First Class
Cricket. In Sri Lanka, he played for the powerful Tamil Union Club.
Between 1981 and 1986, he captained the Bahrain national team.
Shanthikumar’s exemplary performance for the Club helped it
retain the championship throughout his tenure. Shanthikumar also
had a season with Norwich CC in the Lancashire League in 1980,
where his best performance was against Tong Cricket Club, Baildon,
England (6 for 11).In Canada, Shanthikumar played for Grace Church
and Centurions CC in the Toronto leagues and won championships
between 1987 and 1994.
Following a career as a celebrated Cricketer, Shanthikumar put
down his bat and adorned the white coat of a Cricket Umpire. This
time too, his inspiration came from a family member. “One of my
brothers was an umpire in Toronto who passed away young. He
was very passionate about umpiring. My brother’s demise at such
a young age prompted me to take up umpiring to continue fulfilling
his passion”, shares Shanthikumar. In 2005 Shanthikumar successfully
completed the Canadian Level 3 Examination. The same year, he
completed the international West Indies Umpires examination in
theory, practical and oral. Since then, there has been no looking
back for Shanthikumar. He has been a member of the ICC Americas
Umpires panel since 2006 and the Toronto and District Umpires
Association Umpire’s Association since 2004.
As an ICC Americas panel umpire Shanthikumar has travelled
miles, visiting countries like Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Peru,
Mexico, Chile and Suriname. Shantikumar has successfully officiated
in many international tournaments in and outside Canada. He has
superintended many matches like the America’s Cup in the USA and
Canada for over twenty years.
Memories of umpiring keep haunting Shanthikumar, and he cannot
stop talking about them.” It was a game where Pakistani star players
Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir played. When Wasim Akram bowled
the first over, I could not even see the first few balls. It took me a
while to figure out what was happening. Then Abdul Qadir bowled
his amazing googlies. The ball turned so much in
the opposite way that even the wicket-keeper
was beaten,” laughs Shanthikumar.
Umpiring in Canada has changed a lot over the
years, observes the veteran Umpire. “Standard of
umpiring is very high in Canada. I have been to
many countries and can confidently say that the
quality of Canadian umpiring is equally good.”,
affirms Kumar. “That said, we still do not have
a Canadian Umpires’ association in Canada. The
best umpires in Canada always do not get the
opportunity to showcase their talent. “
Shanti Kumar has been the National Selector for
Cricket Canada from 2016 to 2020. Being one of
the top umpires in the country, Kumar’s trained
eyes do not miss out on talent. As a national
selector for Cricket Canada, Shanthikumar has
vigilantly watched the action of top players week
after week in Toronto. “I consider many factors,
like how a player performs under pressure, how
serious he is about the game, his attitude, his
loyalty and most importantly, his commitment.
When I became a selector, I travelled to other
provinces to look at the cricketers as well”,
shares the expert selector who neither tires nor
compromises on quality.
The selection of cricketers was not an easy
process, though. “Yes, we had a free hand to pick
the team, but the Board had the final say in the
end. Many a time, our selections were questioned.
Team selection is not one person’s decision. It is a
collective decision of all the selectors. Most of the
time, 90 percent of the team would be agreeable
by all the selectors; only 10 percent of the players
are debated. But that is what is practised all over
the world across Cricket Boards.”
As a Manager, Shanthikumar accompanied the
Canadian Under-15 team to Bermuda and helped
it win the Americas Cricket Championship after
completing the tournament with an unbeaten
record. The team under his management also
won the Under-19 Americas Cup and qualified to
play the World cup.
Team management is always challenging, and crisis
management is a hallmark of a good manager,
believes Shanthikumar. He shares an incident
to prove his case in point. In South Africa, the
team was on its way to Namibia. Few of the team
members did not have visas to go to Namibia. Acquiring a visa in South
Africa within two days is difficult. Shanthikumar managed to get the visa
within the stipulated time, and the entire team was together.
There is no dearth of cricketing talent in Canada, feels Shanthikumar.
“I enjoyed my stint as a selector very much, and I have the satisfaction
of finding new players and allowing them to showcase their gifts on an
international stage. Cricket needs to start early, as early as age six or
eight. In this regard, Cricket Canada has taken some major initiatives in
grassroots development through talent identification and development
programs, enabling selectors to put together a strong team promising to
be an indicator of things to come for Canadian Cricket.”
A retired telecommunication professional and a doting grandfather,
Shanthikumar has little regrets and no expectations. Supported by a loving
family, friends, advisors and colleagues like Mohammed Shaikh, Ranjit Saini,
Mr. Ingleton Liburd and many others, the old timer’s parting advice to
his successors is,” Do what you can do for Cricket Canada. Do not think
about what Cricket Canada can do for you. Be honest about what you do;
rewards will follow.”

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