15-year-old Sachin played me with absolute ease: Raju Kulkarni
I remember a curly-haired kid, who answered to the name of Sachin Tendulkar, walking into bat at the fall of a wicket that I had claimed during a practice game before the start of Mumbai's 1988-89 season.
We were to play the first game against Gujarat at the Wankhede Stadium where Sachin made his debut. Sachin was only 15, but he had a reputation and earned his way to be in the Ranji probables. Those days, batsmen did not wear helmets all the time. I was a bit surprised to see him bat without one.
Later on, I read that he didn’t have a helmet as part of his kit. I had just got a wicket and I would like to think I was pretty sharp and quick. In short, I was trying my best, but he played me with absolute ease. Two boundaries later, I got him out caught and bowled.
We in Mumbai cricket don’t get carried away with what we see in the nets. ‘Match mein bhi aisa khelna chahiye’ is what we often say. And Sachin went on to get a ton on Ranji debut.
What stood out was his concentration. If you told him something about his batting, he would give you his complete attention and was super-meticulous.
After our game against Saurashtra at Rajkot, we travelled to Aurangabad to take on Maharashtra. On match eve, we attended a function hosted by the Maharashtra Cricket Association.
The senior players — Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri and myself — discussed how many Tests Tendulkar would go on to play. Mind you, we were talking about a batsman, who had played only two first-class games.
Dilip said he would play 120 Tests at least and for that, he would have to play for 17 years. Ravi estimated 150 and a humongous amount of ODIs.
Looking back, these were huge figures we were talking about. At that stage, only Sunil and Dilip had crossed the 100-Test mark. Today, Sachin with 24 years of international cricket and on the cusp of his 200th Test, has gone well beyond our huge expectations.
These feats are simply unimaginable. But then, Sachin is an unbelievable cricketer.
* The writer was India’s fastest bowler in the late 1980s