If Sachin Tendulkar was forever madly in love with cricket, there was an infatuation in his preparation as well. Ask former Mumbai and India swing bowler Paras Mhambrey, who he worked with closely in the build-up to his farewell series. The sessions held at Mumbai Cricket Association’s Bandra-Kurla Complex facility were away from the media glare — quiet and thorough.
To Tendulkar, Mhambrey (41) is a friend and a fellow Ramakant Achrekar product, who took to coaching after ending his first-class cricket by leading Mumbai to a Ranji Trophy triumph in 2003. Mhambrey’s disagreement to the term coach is understandable. “I don’t think coach is the right word. We are friends and as a friend, you care for the other person.
The whole objective was to make sure Sachin enjoys his preparation and does well,” he told MiD DAY. What did the duo focus on? “What we did was mental tune-up with the thrust on the fact that there are only two Test matches to look at. We wanted to channel all the energy and narrow it down to only these two Tests.
“Everything was two-Test specific. Even the fitness schedule at the gym in the mornings and the kind of body conditioning needed to be at its best. Basically, the idea was to narrow 24 years into 10 days.” Tendulkar practiced with wet rubber balls and bowlers bowling from 18 yards — “lots of this… to get used to the pace and bounce.
We worked on the basics of technique — hitting the bat constantly, driving, balance, etc. It was ball-specific as well — the kind of deliveries that the bowlers bowled to him were evaluated.” Was Tendulkar explicit in what he wanted to achieve through the sessions? Not quite, felt Mhambrey, who has bowled regularly to Tendulkar in the nets. “We know what his process is.
We’ve been around. We know what are the areas he wants to cover. If he had anything specific, he would tell us. But generally, we know his
requirements.” Last year’s disappointing home series against England affected Tendulkar. “The England series didn’t go according to plan. He was a little disturbed.
He wanted to achieve certain things and I don’t think he tick-marked everything. In the Kolkata Test (76 against England in 2012), he showed the kind of form that we were looking for.” Mhambrey reckoned that Tendulkar’s body clock started ticking a month before the Test series against the West Indies. “Sachin’s day started at 6:30 am.
He fine-tuned his body according to a match — a 9:30 start to a Test match. He woke up, did his training and then we hit the nets — morning, afternoon, outdoors and indoors when it rained. We couldn’t have as many sessions as we wanted, but he never complained,” he said. The culmination of all this effort took place at the Wankhede Stadium on November 15 when Tendulkar scored an imperious 74 on his penultimate day as an India cricketer.
“He was enjoying what he was doing out there and that translated into the flow that we saw — the cover drive, the back foot drive… perfect! You see that and you say, ‘great. I see the old Tendulkar here.’ That’s what we all wanted and this is what we enjoyed the most,” said Mhambrey.
“With this knock, he showed us what the younger Tendulkar was like. The whole world wanted him to do well. Everyone watching out there wanted him to get a hundred. I too wanted him to get a hundred because it would mean the circle was complete. But I am not complaining. I’m happy,” he added.