Pravin Amre was already an established player on the local scene when his coach Ramakant Achrekar was in the process of making Sachin Tendulkar a finished product at the Kamath Memorial nets in Shivaji Park.
Amre recalls Achrekar providing enough indication to him in the mid-1980s that the teenaged Tendulkar was destined for greatness. “Achrekar Sir didn’t believe in praising his boys no matter how good they were. But he took me aside and told me that Sachin appeared special to him. The fact that Sir singled him out to me meant that Sachin was an outstanding talent in his eyes. He took special care of him,” Amre told MiD DAY yesterday.
With Amre deciding to play for Railways after not gaining a regular spot in the Mumbai team, his visits to Achrekar’s nets were few and far between. After a club season with Kenya, Amre visited the nets with a brand new pair of Adidas half spikes batting shoes. Tendulkar couldn’t help admiring Amre’s new acquisition. “I told Sachin that he could have the shoes if he scored a hundred. Within a few days, he got a hundred at the school level and I duly handed over the shoes. He was thrilled,” recalled Amre.
Many years later, Tendulkar signed a contract with the sporting giants to endorse their shoes and told the media gathered at the launch that he could never forget Amre’s gesture. “I had forgotten all about me presenting him with a pair of shoes. At Achrekar Sir’s nets, we followed a tradition where senior players helped out the juniors with good equipment. It was magnanimous of him to mention me to the media,” he added.
Amre’s performances for Railways brought him into national reckoning along with Tendulkar. He was in the Rest of India squad for the 1989 Irani Trophy game against Delhi in Mumbai, but didn’t make the playing XI. Tendulkar did, and justified his selection with a hundred on Irani debut. “It was a delightful knock. I was not in the playing XI, but I was very happy because one of our boys had made it.
Where my India future was concerned, I knew I had to make it soon with some big scores. I achieved that the following season and we both ended up playing together for India,” said Amre, five years Tendulkar’s senior. The right-handed middle order batsman made his international debut in the first ODI of the historic India vs South Africa series at Eden Gardens in Kolkata in 1991.
Chasing a target of 178, Amre walked in with India in the throes of adversity at 60 for four. “It was tense, but it was good to join Sachin in the middle because he was an established player in the team.” The Mumbai-based players’ 56-run stand for the fifth wicket contributed in a major way to India’s three-wicket victory. Amre scored 55 before falling to Allan Donald while Tendulkar, who shared the man-of-the-match award with the South African pace ace, smashed 62 off 73 balls.
Tendulkar was also around when Amre scored a hundred on Test debut against South Africa in Durban 1992. Amre, an out and out team player, didn’t do too badly, but failed to stay in the national team after 1994. He went on to become a successful junior India selector and Mumbai coach. “To be in the same dressing room with Sachin as coach of Mumbai was a different feeling as compared to my playing days.
I remember Mumbai had a huge challenge on hand to win the 2006-07 Ranji Trophy title. We played some tough cricket in do-or-die situations and reached the final. Sachin was available and he played the final against Bengal at Wankhede. He stayed with team at the Cricket Club of India, chatted with me about our team and mixed with them. All these small things make Sachin big.
He scored a great hundred (105 off 129 balls) in the first innings and played a big role in our triumph. It was a very satisfying time for me,” said Amre.
Doubtless, that pair of shoes which Amre parted with couldn’t have gone to someone more deserving.