N. Sankar contributed to sports in a big way

Sanmar Group Chairman N. Sankar, who passed away on Sunday, was fond of sport and made an enormous contribution to its growth.

File picture of N. Sankar.   -  Bijoy Ghosh

Sanmar Group Chairman N. Sankar, who passed away here on Sunday, was fond of sport and made an enormous contribution to its growth.

A capable tennis player, he won the inter-university doubles title partnering N. Srinivasan of India Cements. He was also a fine cricketer.

Sankar headed the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) as its president in the early 80s. And he supported Jolly Rovers, a celebrated TNCA first division side, for a mind-boggling 56 years.

Eye for talent

Former India cricketer Bharat Reddy, Sankar’s right-hand man in cricket, told Sportstar, “All Jolly Rovers matches in the league would be telecast to him live. He had made arrangements for that. He took the club forward and hired the best talent.”

Reddy revealed, “He came to know that K.R. Rajagopal, one of Jolly Rovers’ early stalwarts, was not keeping well. He organised a helper for him at ₹60,000 a month.”

At the golden jubilee celebration of Jolly Rovers, Sankar brought together all the living members of its first champion side. He also got Kapil Dev to release a book to mark the occasion — Cricket for the Love of it.

Sankar roped in former England captain David Gower to deliver the first K.S. Narayanan [Sankar’s illustrious father] Memorial Oration in 2016. Fond of left-handers, he flew Neil Harvey from Australia to inaugurate the pavilion at the IIT-Chemplast ground.

Reddy stressed that Sankar’s son Vijay Sankar shared his father’s love for the game and Jolly Rovers was in safe hands.

Sankar made significant contributions in tennis too. He was the president of the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) from 1989 to 1994. TNTA secretary Prem Kumar Karra said: “Sankar organised the Indian Bank tennis classic, the first million-rupee tournament in the city. Ramesh Krishnan won it.”

The first national clay court championship, now in its 29th year, began during his tenure. Sankar also sponsored the Sanmar-TNTA league, which is now in its 29th year.

Former TNTA official Hiten Joshi, said: “Sankar was astute and genial. All the subsequent developments such as a new stadium for Chennai and an ATP tour event were due to the seeds he had sown.” Indeed, Sankar’s contribution to sports is considerable.

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