Some memories are etched in one’s mind forever because at some point in time, these memories become legendary folklore.
Twenty-nine years ago, my friend Dr Pratap Raut called me up to tell me that umpire Marketkar had given a 11-year-old not out so that he could tell everyone at Shivaji Park Gymkhana to come and watch the small boy bat.
I rushed to Shivaji Park, which was the nursery of cricket then, to see this young four-and-a-half feet, curly-haired boy bat. Little could anybody prophesise then that this kid would 29 years later, become the legendary Sachin Tendulkar.
Even then he batted as though he was 18 years old – a sound technique, perfect balance and moreover, a fantastic temperament. It was a perfect exhibition of what a batsman should be. Twenty-nine years later, as I pay tribute to this legend, I remember what struck me the most.
It was his ability to grasp things. I cannot remember how many runs he scored, but I remember him driving and cutting with perfection more than anybody else I had ever seen in the under-15 category. He was 10 years ahead of his age!
Little Tendulkar started getting noticed. Word went around Mumbai that a prodigy was born. We included him in the u-15 team and he was so outstanding that we also put him in the u-17 age group.
I came in for a lot of flak for having selected him in the higher age group, but his talent was so prodigious that he had to play with the men. I took him to CCI where we changed the rules of the club to accommodate him.
In a Kanga League game, he hit Pradeep Sunderam, a bowler of genuine pace, on a sticky wicket into the North Stand at Brabourne Stadium. When I first saw him bat, he had a peculiar grip and it reminded me of the great West Indian Rohan Kanhai.
Maybe, he was so small in size that he held the cricket bat so low on the handle. It is amazing that all cricketers today have followed this grip started by this legend. I remember Sunil Gavaskar and me seeing Sachin sign an autograph when he was 15 for kids at CCI.
Sunil told me to advise Sachin that he should have a very clear signature as the world would be queuing up for his autograph sooner than later. These words, like most of Gavaskar’s predictions have been proved right.
I doff my hat to Sachin’s brother Ajit and his coach Achrekar. Thank you Sachin for giving us over two-and-a-half decades of sheer cricketing delight. Watching cricket will not be the same without you. But as it was said, “after Gavaskar, who?’ It was you Sachin. After you, God alone knows…”
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