Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar at the inauguration of the Raj Singh Dungarpur Gate at the Cricket Club of India in Churchgate yesterday. Pic/ Atul Kamble
Such has been Raj Singh Dungarpur's influence on Sachin Tendulkar's life that it was only fitting that the cricket legend inaugurated the Raj Singh Dungarpur gate at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) yesterday.
Tendulkar was happy that the wish he expressed in 2009 had finally come to fruition. "Such things [naming of gates] don't happen overnight. It takes time, but I'm glad it has happened. It (this gate) will not be here just for a few years, but forever because Rajbhai's life was in CCI," Tendulkar said yesterday.
Suggestion at condolence meet
In 2009, during the condolence meeting held to mourn the death of Raj Singh, Tendulkar had made the suggestion of naming a gate after the former chairman of India selectors, CCI and BCCI chief.
The Master Blaster was only 14 when he met Raj Singh. "I had scored some runs against CCI while playing for Shivaji Park Youngsters. Madhav Apte (former India cricketer) sir was playing for CCI. Once my name was recommended to Rajbhai, he told me to come and play for CCI. He bent all the possible rules and allowed me to get into the dressing room at the age of 14," recalled the Bharat Ratna.
Tendulkar also remembered how Raj Singh helped him gain foreign exposure by bringing in sponsors.
"Rajbhai has always helped youngsters. There were occasions where I had to go on foreign tours and did not have deep pockets. Rajbhai was instrumental in getting sponsors to make sure that I get that experience. I went to London a couple of times (with former Rajasthan pacer Kailash Gattani's Star CC teams). I got selected for the Mumbai Ranji team and at that time coincidentally Rajbhai was the chairman of the national selection committee," he added.
More than just a chief selector
The Mumbai maestro revealed how Raj Singh conveyed to him that he wasn't going to be picked for the West Indies tour in 1989: "There were discussions if Sachin should go or not. Rajbhai came to me when I was playing the Ranji Trophy semi-final at the Wankhede Stadium against Delhi. I had scored runs in the first innings. He walked up to me and said, 'You will not go to the West Indies. You focus on this match and if you get a chance to play in the final then score there. After that, you focus on your SSC exams.' "
Of course, Raj Singh ensured the 16-year-old Tendulkar was picked for the 1989-90 tour of Pakistan.
The rest is cricketing history.
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