Why Wankhede is so very special for Sachin

The first time at Wankhede...
My first glimpse of the Wankhede was in 1983 when my brother Ajit took me to watch the India versus West Indies Test. I was 10 so I can’t recollect much. But I’ll not forget the impact the sight had on me. The ground was green and it was something I had not seen before. The largest field I saw before this was probably the MIG or my colony ground.

Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar during a practice session at the refurbished Wankhede Stadium recently. Pic/Suresh KK

The next time..
The next time I went there was the Mumbai U-15 selection. I was not selected in the first year. That was the first time I played. No, I did not get overawed but it was great to just be there and face a few balls. Just to be there on that turf was special.

First time in dressing room...
I was a ball boy during the India versus Zimbabwe World Cup match in 1987. That was when (Sunil) Gavaskar invited me to the dressing room. It was the first time I spoke to him. Spoke to him in the sense, I just went and stood next to him and shook his hand. That was the first time I was invited to the dressing room to meet senior players.

The first match..
An inter-school game. It may sound silly but somehow, I felt that the wicket was less than 22 yards. It was so nice and neat. Most of us felt it was 21 yards. And I remember counting my steps. It was a terrific feeling to be inside the stadium.

Ranji Trophy debut...
It was a very special moment -- against Gujarat in 1998. We played a practice game at eight in the morning before the tie. Bowling to me were Prasad Desai, Anup Sabnis, Rajendra Lele, Satish Pawar and Raju Kulkarni. It was a fresh, green wicket and Raju must have thought I was being too smart by not wearing a helmet. I was wearing my Mumbai U-15 cap. Raju started bowling bouncers which I ducked. Till today, he probably doesn’t know that I did not wear a helmet because I did not have one.

The Irani Cup game which helped him get picked for India...
I was under pressure and did not play my natural game in the first innings. After that, I was selected for the tour of Pakistan. Vasu Paranjpe called my father and asked him whether he was going to watch me. My father said he didn’t want to put pressure on me. Vasu Sir told him that he’s going to miss out on something and he has this feeling that I was going to score a hundred. “He won’t be under pressure today, now that he has been selected to play for India,” Vasu Sir said. That’s what happened but my father did not turn up. He did not want to put pressure on me.

Moments most memorable...
Three of them. First was getting a hundred on my Ranji debut against Gujarat in 1988. Before that... when I got into the Mumbai U-15 side without batting in the selection nets. I had already established myself on the local circuit. Only as a formality they asked me to bat on the last day (of the selection trials). That’s when I felt that I have done something and should continue to do so.

The other moment was when we beat TN in the Ranji Trophy semi-finals in 2000. We needed 42 to gain the first innings lead with two wickets in hand. After a few days, someone asked me a question: out of 42 how many did the other guys (Abey Kuruvilla and Santosh Saxena) score? I did not know. The answer was -- they scored zero. That boundary that I hit which got us closer to the first innings lead was one of the most satisfying shots I have ever hit.

Highs in Test cricket...
I think I played an important innings against West Indies in the 1994 Test when I got 85. That was an important knock. There have been other knocks like the 97 against SA. But it was disappointing to lose in the end.

Those disappointing times...
When we lost the Ranji Trophy final against Haryana in 1991. Then, the Test against Sri Lanka in 1997-98. We had to get Sri Lanka out on the last day but we failed to do so. We should have won that Test. I got my first Test hundred at the Wankhede. Also, the defeat to SA in 2000. 

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