Kailash Gattani not only toiled on some unfriendly Indian wickets to claim 396 first-class wickets, he also helped young cricketers experience English conditions.
He contributed in a way to making Sachin Tendulkar a finished product before he was picked for India in 1989. After his exploits for Rajasthan, the then Mumbai-based Gattani became famous for successfully managing young teams to England under the Star Cricket Club banner.
Tendulkar, who was part of Gattani’s 1988 and 1989 teams, made full use of the opportunities and thrived. From his Pune home, Gattani informed us yesterday that Tendulkar was sponsored by the Young Cricketers organisation in Kolkata, where Jyotsna Poddar took keen interest.
“The cost of the airfare was Rs 13,600. I remember Sachin’s father and mother coming to the airport to drop him alongwith his brothers Ajit and Nitin. For a 15-year-old boy, he had such a mature head on his shoulders,” said the 66-year-old former fast bowler.
The kid was not just obsessed with batting. “There came a time when I had to tell him that he would not play all the games. If he was not playing in a particular match, he would coax his teammates who were fielding, to come in for a break, so that he could field.
And when he had no option but to stay away from the field, he would be a scorer. You could tell the difference between the others and him in this aspect too. His inscriptions were neatly written. Everything in his kit bag was neatly kept as well,” said Gattani.
The highlight of the 1989 tour was Tendulkar’s 77-ball century against Haywards Heath CC which had future SA pacer Meyrick Pringle, who was quick.
“In one of the matches, Sachin batted very well to score 60.
He was all set for a big score but was caught at extra cover. He just stood at the crease in disbelief before sitting in one corner of the dressing room and brooding. After a while, he asked me where he had gone wrong and I told him that he had played a bit too soon on the rise. Mind you, he never got out in that fashion again on the tour.
“He loved batting against the bowling machine. If I remember correctly, once Vinod Kambli set the machine to deliver balls at 100 kmph at a school ground and Tendulkar hit a ball across the road, breaking a window pane of a cottage.
The sound of glass breaking alerted everyone in the locality and the locals threatened to take the matter up with the principal. Being visitors, we were scared and I had to shell out 10 pounds to fix the broken window,” he recalled.
At the end of the 1989 tour, Gattani told his English friends, who were impressed by Tendulkar, that the batsman would not be part of his tours again: “I told them that this boy will come with the Indian team now.
They didn’t believe me. When Sachin got a Test century at Manchester a year later in 1990, the same people called me to ask whether this was the same ‘Tendollkar.’ I pulled a fast one on them and said it was his brother. I finally gave up the joke and said, ‘yes indeed. Same kid.’ ”
After cricket, the cars!
Kailash Gattani recalled that young Sachin Tendulkar was amazed at the different types of cars zooming across the roads of England during those two Star Cricket Club tours in 1988 and 1989.
Gattani drove a Mercedes car whenever he was not in the team bus (also a Mercedes), driven by Les Wood, an umpire whom he befriended during his playing days in the Durham League.