Remarkable story of the Menons in Indian cricket
These are the Menons who come not from anyplace in Kerala but Indore in Madhya Pradesh. Narendra Menon and Nitin Menon are a father and son duo, who have one thing in common. Both are cricket Umpires and what is more, have been associated with the sport in the best way possible.
Narendra is a former Madhya Pradesh Ranji cricketer, then turned to Umpiring, entered BCCI's panel and also did a few One Day Internationals (ODI) before becoming an Umpire-coach. He also served as the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association Secretary for a while. “Now I have retired and spend quality time with my grandson Hrishabh, Nitin's son,” said the elder Menon, who worked with the State Bank of India.
What has made Narendra and his family proud and also gained the eyeball of cricket enthusiasts all over India is son Nitin's recent elevation as a member of the ICC Elite panel of Umpires. Not just that, at 36 years, Nitin is the youngest in this 12-member panel which takes care of Umpiring duties in all international fixtures around the world. What additionally makes the occasion special is that Nitin is just the third Indian to get into this 12-member panel after noted Test spinner of yesteryear S. Venkataraghavan and thereafter Sundaram Ravi had served it earlier.
With age on his side and opportunities abundant, Nitin has a chance to carve a niche for himself but for the moment, like for all sports-related people, he has to wait for the pandemic to leave the sporting scene! Had it not been for this forced rest, this soft spoken young man would have been doing duty in the IPL and more.
Whatever said this is a remarkable family so attached to the sport of cricket. Narendra Menon does not remember when Indore became his place of origin. Himself 74 now, it is clear his father would have moved here from Thrissur much earlier. Talk of his Kerala links and it is his mother's place (Tripunithura) and wife's place (Aluva) that comes forth from him. Add to that Chengannur, from where Nitin's wife hails and the immediate Kerala link is complete.
“We have relatives around in Kerala,” Narendra said, but the fact is once settled in Madhya Pradesh and in Indore, they have all merged with the local social mores and life goes on. Cricket remains the family's key bonding. Narendra's three sisters too had played cricket at the zonal level and what is more turned out against visiting New Zealand and Australia teams in the early seventies. Yet none has earned the attention that Nitin is now getting, quite deservedly too.
Nitin too was a player himself but unlike his father could not rise up to represent MP in the Ranji. A touch disappointed he was but took inspiration from his father's experience as an Umpire. In 2006 he wrote the Umpires exam that BCCI had conducted after a long gap. The rest as they say is now history. Slow and steady he rose and clearly consistency has been his virtue. From 2009 when he did his first Ranji match to the recent Test match in Harare (Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe in January this year), Nitin has believed in only one thing: to be clear in his decision-making and that principle is what has given him this elevation, a recognition that he had in him to face challenges with a cool mind and approach.
Nitin admits that while there is thrill to be there in the middle, the challenge can be high. But he has never allowed any factor to unsettle him. “Never show uncertainty on the face,” he says, about his approach. With three Test matches, 24 ODIs and 16 T20s aside from 10 women's T-20 internationals including 2018 and 2020 World Cups, Nitin has only just made a beginning. There is so much more to achieve.
For someone who has an MBA, Nitin could have pursued some other career for a wonderful living. But it is the passion for cricket that drove him to this delightful journey. Particularly, after seeing his father. The touch of dedication and determination is evident in his approach, something any young man involved in sports can very well follow. For, there is no end to opportunities, only there has to be a keen eye for the right moment.
As an Umpire, his travels to various cricket-playing countries under the Umpire-exchange programme must have clearly helped Nitin to get accustomed to the rigors of the job aside from watching players of various mood and temperament at close quarters. And yet when asked which player appealed to him most, the Indorean was clear, “it had to be Virat (Kohli), someone who gives his 100 percent to what he does.”
These are rare moments now for Nitin, doing nothing but sitting at home with parents, wife and son Hrishabh, who too is already inclined towards cricket, but cricket is never a topic for discussion. Except when there is anything to clarify, “I do not discuss anything with dad.”
For now, his sights are set on the various plum events ahead, the Ashes series, the World Cup and yes the T20 World Cup in India. Robert Frost's famous lines seem quite apt in depicting his aspirations, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.”