I can claim to be one of the select few, who played with or against Sachin Tendulkar during the school days and thus, saw him behaving exactly the way a school boy should — full of pranks and mischief. At the same time, qualities like guts, determination and never-say-die spirit that turned him into a cricketing idol, were so evident even at that tender age.
It was a rewarding experience to be in his team, travel with him and share the same dressing room for Mumbai, West Zone and in the National junior tournaments organised by the BCCI.
To begin with, we were opponents. Sachin was a member of the strong Shardashram Vidyamandir team led by Mayur Kadrekar, while I was leading IES English. Beating Shardashram was quite a task but we managed to beat them in the quarter-final of the Giles Shield and then went on to win the tournament.
Our good performances for Mumbai and West Zone were rewarded when Sachin, Jatin Paranjape and myself were selected for a month-long U-15 National camp conducted by BCCI at Indore. We Mumbai boys were accommodated in one room and in the adjacent room we had East Zone players Sourav Ganguly and Avijit Chatterji. One day, Sourav and Avijit played a prank on the West Zone boys.
It was high time we got even. Late at night we put our plan into action (do I need to tell you, who was the leader of the plan?). We collected buckets full of water from the bathroom and emptied them through the gap under the door of our adjacent room. Next morning, Sourav and his buddy found their kit bags floating in water. Dada came out fuming and screaming, but we kept a straight face.
We “khadoos” Mumbai boys hate to lose you see, even off the field. A few years ago, when I met Sourav, we remembered this incident and had a hearty laugh. During the same camp, Sachin injured his toe. For him, wearing shoes became a painful task. We had a practice match the next day.
The opponents had crafty spinners like Narendra Hirwani and Sunil Lahore, who played for the Madhya Pradesh Ranji Trophy team and fast bowler Ashish Winston Zaidi, who was nippy and lethal. Sachin desperately wanted to play as he was very keen to face this quality attack. He somehow convinced our coach Vasu Paranjape sir and got himself included in the playing XI. Sachin scored a half-century. He hobbled for his ones and twos and made his never-say-die spirit all the more visible as a 13-year-old.
Touring England with Sachin for Star Cricket Club was another awesome experience. We were managed by Mr Kailash Gattani and Mr Nitin Dalal with Vasant Amladi Sir as chief coach/mentor. During this month-long tour we played matches against much senior opponents. However, Sachin outperformed all his senior teammates.
On the tour we were often put up at college hostels that had excellent sports/recreation facilities like tennis, squash and badminton courts. Sachin, as all of us now know, was a big John McEnroe fan. After he picked up a racquet out of sheer curiosity, one of our senior teammates, who used to play tennis, challenged Sachin. The challenge was immediately accepted by our hero. Age and tennis experience of our senior teammate did not deter him. Sachin won the tennis match without wearing sports shoes. He fired in his winners with his black leather shoes.
Sachin won another competition — this time in the hostel bathroom. The challenge was to dip our heads in a sink full of water. Whoever holds his breath longer wins. Sachin defeated his opponents in the earlier rounds hands down. Sameer Dighe had reached the ‘final’ from the other half and Sachin proved to be smarter in the final as well.
The otherwise spick and span bathroom was in an absolute mess and to our bad luck, Kailash sir walked in only to see Sachin and Sameer fully drenched. I still remember the powerful square cut he executed against a Saurashtra left-arm fast bowler while batting for Mumbai U-17. The fielder at point made an effort to stop the ball and endured a deep cut on his palm, which started bleeding profusely as the ball raced to the boundary.
In another Mumbai U-17 match, I had taken a few wickets and would do my chances of getting into the West Zone team a lot of good if I scored some runs. Sachin was, as usual, batting brilliantly, but knowing that my selection depended on me scoring a few runs, he sacrificed his wicket. As we crossed, he stopped and said, “Kedar runs kar (Kedar, get runs).” Fortunately, I got a decent score and was selected for West Zone. Sachin always cared for his teammates.
When he was picked for his Ranji Trophy debut against Gujarat in 1988, Sachin wanted to play with Sairaj Bahutule’s bat, which he had used in one of his earlier matches. Since Sairaj and me used to play for Podar College, Sairaj handed over the bat to me to be given to Sachin, who came to our house at Shivaji Park the next day to collect the bat. Like a skilled craftsman, he wanted to have the best equipment at his disposal while taking up an important assignment. Sachin scored a century on his debut in first class cricket. And as we say, the rest is history!
* Kedar Godbole was adjudged Mumbai’s best junior cricketer for the 1985-86 season