To trace the cricketing roots of Sachin Tendulkar is to go back to the day in the early 1980s when he was taken to Ramakant Achrekar’s nets at Shivaji Park by his elder brother Ajit.
Until then, young Sachin was happy making the grade in his Sahitya Sahawas society’s cricket team at Bandra East. It was during these matches that Ajit noticed that Sachin didn’t have a defensive bone in his cricketing body. This was extraordinary in an era where ultra attacking play was considered a near taboo.
Sachin’s first day as a net-batter was a momentous one. Sachin walking in front of Ajit to be well before time for his first practice session didn’t just turn out to be an action of impatience and enthusiasm. It eventuated in him leading a world of other batsmen behind.
Only the previous day, while watching other players at Achrekar’s nets, he had told his brother the kind of mistakes the batsmen and bowlers were making. This was incredible for a kid who hadn’t batted under a coach’s supervision.
It was Sachin who worked his way through the ranks at Shivaji Park, but where would he be without Ajit’s brotherly love and vision? In his book ‘The Making of a Cricketer’, Ajit ended the ‘A Child Cricketer’ chapter which these words: “I saw him play often and felt I was watching a real cricketer.
I thought there was talent in Sachin which should not allowed to go waste.” To say Ajit has kept a low profile all these years is an understatement.
Even when he was at the peak of his mentoring years, he never made an attempt to be at the forefront. He just did whatever there was to do for his brother. He even kept a file of clippings until a certain point with pages neatly inserted in transparent packets.
Indeed, there is merit in the belief that Ajit has been his most enduring mentor and no one knows Sachin’s game better than his elder brother.
Probably, the best compliment paid to him was when Sachin dedicated his 100th international century (vs Bangladesh at Dhaka in 2012) to him. Sachin told MiD DAY: “Ajit’s was the first (congratulatory) call I got.
Yes, it was special because he has been physically and mentally with me throughout. It’s like he has played with me all these years.” The Tendulkar household ensured there was no extreme reaction to success or failure.
In 1989, while Sachin was coping well with Wasim Akram & Co and became Indian cricket’s boy wonder, Ajit told this newspaper: “I hope he will be able to keep everything in proportion and not get a swollen head. But you can never say. At the moment he is a friendly boy.
But cricket is his main priority. He practices for about seven hours a day.” Twenty-four years on, not much has changed.
‘Mac’ is what pals once called Sachin
After the epic Bjorn Borg vs John McEnroe 1981 Wimbledon final in which the American triumphed, Sachin asked his family for a tennis racquet, headband and wrist bands to look like McEnroe. His colony friends started calling him Mac! And with his curly hair, he did look like a mini McEnroe.