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What's the score? I. Sivaram with his veena
Finesse and accuracy come naturally to him. As an international cricket umpire, I. Sivaram excelled at judging the course of play. The job required him to be at his best, every ball and every moment. Slight slackness would mean disaster. Off the field too, he pursued a love that commanded absolute dedication and commitment. His love for the veena is a well-guarded secret.
The ‘dreaded' finger of the cricket field wove magic on the veena. “Cricket and music are in my blood,” says Sivaram with pride. “My mother taught music at home. So the initiation was natural and easy. My father was a cricketer and also a state panel umpire. I played league cricket (in Hyderabad) but my father advised me to take to umpiring.”
Music and cricket umpiring progressed together. Sivaram made a name for himself in cricket and his sound umpiring placed him among the top names in India. But he could not shut music out. “I was attracted to the style of (late) Chitti Babu and I had the honour of playing the veena in one of his albums. I was introduced as his ‘Ekalavya shishya'.”
Since his mother was a lecturer in a music college in Secunderabad, combining training with cricket umpiring was not an issue for Sivaram.
His maiden album “Maanikya Veena”, released recently, reflects his love for music. “This is my first solo album and, post umpiring, I have been spending more time on music. I would like to come out with some more albums and would also like to devote more time and energy to music. Of course, I will remain actively associated with cricket. I have served it for 40 years now.”
Sivaram, who officiated in nine ODIs (seven Tests and 25 ODIs as TV umpire), sees a similarity between cricket and music. “Both are arts. Cricket needs a cool mind, concentration and planning at every stage. The same applies to music. You need to do regular raga-alap, there has to be a proper plan, mind has to be cool and you need a lot of concentration. But most important, you have to passionate to pursue both.”
Veena, notes Sivaram, is close to his heart. “The sound of veena is so powerful; it not only keeps the mind at peace but at the same time activates the inner soul. It is said that all good things happen if you hear the sound of veena. It is the instrument of Goddess Saraswati. The vibrations from the instrument give inspiration and enliven your life.”
Did music help him in his work as an umpire? “It did. On the field, whenever there was a tense session, I always used to sing when standing at square leg…it used to help a lot. I was blessed with very caring parents and the skill to umpire and indulge in music. I have been lucky.”
Sivaram is retired from active umpiring but continues to pursue his love as an umpires' coach, not to forget his devotion to music.
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