Mayur Kadrekar and Sachin Tendulkar go back a long way - long before they reached the level their talent and performance could take them to.
Kadrekar was a player who juniors at Ramakant Achrekar’s nets at Shivaji Park looked up to. According to Mumbai cricket pundits, he was a classy batsman, who was unlucky not to have earned the lion-crested Mumbai cap in Ranji Trophy cricket.
While Tendulkar captained the Giles Shield team, Kadrekar, nine months his senior, was put in charge of the Harris Shield crew. “If I remember correctly, Sachin and me joined Achrekar Sir’s nets around the same time – maybe April 1983.
He was very passionate about the game, but if there is one thing that stood out as well, was his physical strength. You could feel how strong he was when you shook his hand. And he always liked a heavy bat,” said Kadrekar, who went on to represent India under-19 in the 1989-90 series against Pakistan at home.
Young Tendulkar, according to Kadrekar, excelled in cover drives at the Achrekar practice sessions. “Sir wanted him to bat as much as possible. I remember Sachin batting in four nets at Shivaji Park and after that, Sir used to ask him to bat for a longer period on a pitch where a match used to be held earlier in the day.
This pitch had the wear and tear so batting on them was a challenge. Sachin was tireless. Even after batting on five pitches, he used to request other players for throw-downs and they loved doing it for him simply because he was so enthusiastic,” recalled Kadrekar.
Attacking batsmen like Tendulkar play fearless cricket and this is exactly what happened during his Shardashram days. “We never worried about losing games and Sachin was the same. He would extract maximum pleasure in hitting bowlers outside the ground and the amount of matches he played all over the city helped him a great deal,” said Kadrekar, who was Tendulkar’s captain in the Mumbai under-17 team.
One night in Thane
Kadrekar hails from Thane which used to host several night cricket tournaments. “Sachin was keen to see these games and one evening after nets, we went home together. That day, there was a breakdown in telephonic communications and he couldn’t contact his folks at home to let them know that he was spending the night at my home.
“He enjoyed the night cricket, but his folks quite naturally were worried about his whereabouts. By next afternoon, everything was normal,” recalled Kadrekar. While Tendulkar made rapid strides and made his Ranji Trophy debut at 15, Kadrekar couldn’t get beyond the Mumbai Ranji probables.
He is pragmatic about his missed opportunities. “Yes, I do feel I should have played the Ranji Trophy for Mumbai, but it was very difficult to make it as an opener. After all, Mumbai had the established pair of Shishir Hattangadi and Lalchand Rajput. I didn’t bother too much about my missed chances then. I just played my cricket and enjoyed it. I feel bad at times now, but then, my employers Indian Oil have kept me very happy,” he said.
In 1997, Kadrekar decided to turn out for Tripura and he played first-class cricket for them till 2000. His Shardashram schoolmate Ricky Couto, now an umpire, reckoned he was always a very cool and fair cricketer, who never showed his disappointment even if he was given out wrongly.
More than his legendary batting skills, Kadrekar admires Tendulkar for his human qualities: “Sachin is very good-natured. When we meet, he always asks me about my parents’ health. He developed a good rapport with them through his visits to our Thane home.
His achievements speak for themselves, but his work ethic was always fantastic” Kadrekar may have not been fortunate to play for Mumbai at the highest level, but he has been an important companion to Tendulkar in his cricketing journey.