Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXX No. No. 12, October 16-31, 2020

He reported on sports – in India and from abroad

by Deeptha Vivekanand

Watch a match live on TV, read minute-by-minute updates on the web, catch all the action on an app, check tweets from players, and like their pictures on Instagram. That’s how the present-day sports fan follows his or her favourite game. The newspaper is, perhaps, the least preferred source to find out how that match ended. But, there was a time when the written word dominated the discussion. The hard-core sports lover’s quirk was to flip the paper over and read the Sports section first before turning it around to read the front page. And, if you grew up in the 1940s and 50s, the newspaper was your only window to the world of sport.

T.D. Parthasarathy

S. Sadanand’s Free Press Journal was the first newspaper in India to devote a full page to sports, way back in the 1930s. The Times of India followed suit. Although many readers disliked this move, it was considered a bold and revolutionary step. The Hindu was not far behind. Under the editorship of Kasturi Gopalan, it began to devote a separate section to sport in the daily newspaper. Ever since, The Hindu’s commitment to sports writing has been both consistent and legendary. In 1947, the group launched the first sports journal in India, Sport & Pastime, headed by S.K. Gurunathan, a celebrated cricket writer of the time.

TDP on a media bus ride in Rome.

In the early 1940s, a young man named T.D. Parthasarathy had just graduated from The Presidency College of Madras. He had played both cricket and hockey for the college and had won many accolades for his performances. After a brief stint as an Assistant Physical Education Instructor at Madras Medical College, he joined The Hindu as a sports reporter to cover hockey and athletics. And there began the illustrious
career of one of the finest sports scribes of all time, who would go to great lengths to get an exclusive article for the sports fan.

There were many writers who specialised in cricket and other sports, but when it came to athletics and hockey, there was no substantial writing. T.D. Parthasarathy sought to fill that void. S. Thyagarajan, Former Deputy Sports Editor, The Hindu recalls, “Being close to the faculty at the YMCA and his own experience with Athletics gave him unparalleled contact with the athletics federation and athletes. His enterprise and dynamism made him establish contacts at all levels in authority in the Indian Olympic Association. He was the first and possibly the only sports journalist to be a part of the Amateur Athletic Federation of India.”

In those days, The Hindu was filled with Parthasarathys and Srinivasans from A to Z. The only way to avoid mixing up the names was to stick to calling them by their initials. And so the nickname ‘T.D.’ stuck. Throughout his career that is how he was known to his colleagues in sports circles in India and abroad. T.D. was the first journalist at The Hindu to be sent abroad to cover sporting events. His first overseas outing was to the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo. He was not only writing about the various track and field events there, but also photographing them at the same time – a task few journalists could balance with ease.
Armed with his recorder, camera and notebooks, T.D., pulled no stops when it came to getting a good story. He had developed the knack of predicting winners and being in the right position to capture the perfect moment.

(To be continued next fortnight)

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