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One fine night for Achrekar Sir

Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Chandu Pandit, Sachin Tendulkar, Praveen Amre and Ajit Agarkar recall their formative years during coach Achrekar's 79th birthday bash

When cricket coach Ramakant Achrekar was in his prime, he did all the talking.  Ill health has restricted his speech now, but the veteran coach's smile and amusement spoke a thousand words as he heard student after student from different eras speak of their Achrekar years on Saturday.


Ramakant Achrekar at BKC on Saturday.

At the 'Shardashram Cricket Re-Union to wish our guru Dronacharya Shri Ramakant Achrekar a very happy 79th Birthday' at the Mumbai Cricket Association Recreation Centre at Bandra Kurla Complex, anecdotes flowed like a newly fitted tap meant to quench the thirst of suckers for nostalgia.


Sachin Tendulkar catches up with his former Mumbai under-17 teammate
Mayur Kadrekar (right) during coach Ramakant Achrekar's 79th birthday
celebrations at Mumbai Cricket Association Recreation Centre at Bandra
Kurla Complex on Saturday. Ex-Mumbai batsman Mandar Phadke is on
the left. Pic/Zaheer Kazi


Like Sachin Tendulkar's brother Ajit, coach Achrekar's contribution to world cricket can never be over-emphasised. For, he can claim much of the credit for producing the champion. There is more to Achrekar than just the Tendulkar factor. One cannot think of any other school coach who has helped in the emergence of so many first-class players.

In fact, Achrekar was a first-class player himself, figuring in a State Bank of India vs Hyderabad Cricket Association  Moin-ud-Dowla game in 1963. The Hyderabad event was then regarded a first-class tournament. Achrekar opened the batting with Test man Vijay Mehra while Hanumant Singh, Ajit Wadekar, Ramesh Saxena, AG Milkha Singh making up rest of the batting order.

Balwinder Singh Sandhu, who foxed Gordon Greenidge with an inswinger in the 1983 World Cup final, emphasised that Achrekar encouraged him to be a swing bowler.

Late cut for Sachin
Tendulkar, in his speech, spoke about how Achrekar slapped him for skipping a practice match where he was slated to bat at No 4 at Shivaji Park and going to Wankhede Stadium instead with teammate Jitendra Dange to cheer for Shardashram English who were pitted against their Marathi medium rivals in the Harris Shield.

Tendulkar said the slap -- "a late cut"  -- was a defining moment in his cricketing life. Ajit Agarkar recalled 'Sir' coming to his residence at 5:30 in the morning to take him for nets even as the city was experiencing a tense atmosphere during 1992-93 riots. It came more to light on Saturday evening that Achrekar did more than just supervise a net session and conduct post mortems. He got involved in the lives of his students.

Chandu's tale
Former India wicketkeeper Chandrakant Pandit told the audience on how Achrekar helped dissolve a tricky situation when his father was not willing to allow him pursue his cricketing dreams. He handed over a thousand rupees to Pandit's father and promised to do so in monthly regularity as if to say that you will not miss out on the young player's salary had he opted to work.

Pandit also remembered being admonished for getting out towards the end of the day in a Shardashram vs Pinto Villa inter-school match, a triple hundred off his blade notwithstanding. Praveen Amre, the former Test batsman remembered Achrekar scolding him for telling his father that he needed a Gunn and Moore bat because he felt the cricketer should have asked him instead.

Apart from financial rewards, Achrekar and his assistant Das Shivalkar were awarded free treatment at a famous hospital and as host Dwarkanath Sanzgiri rightly mentioned, former Mumbai player Atul Ranade was the man of the match for his untiring efforts to make the function a resounding success.  Vinod Kambli, who is living up to his media commitments in New Delhi was missed, but he paid tribute through a message.

It was an evening of moments and mirth, warmth and wonder. But most of all, it was an evening for a man who gave his all to a sport which he made extra special ever since Tendulkar made his Test debut 22 years ago.

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