Here's how Ajit Wadekar played an important role in Sachin Tendulkar's elevation to an opener
Sachin Tendulkar narrates story of how he got then India coach Ajit Wadekar to convince skipper Azharuddin to allow him to play at the top of the order
Sachin Tendulkar credited Ajit Wadekar, who passed away at 77 on Wednesday, for guiding him as manager/coach of the Indian team at a critical stage of his life. "Wadekar sir had multiple roles, but he was also our very good friend," Tendulkar told mid-day yesterday. "Our" included his childhood mate Vinod Kambli, who played a lot of his international cricket during the Wadekar era of coaching. A flood of memories came to Tendulkar's mind as he spoke about Wadekar in an endearing fashion.
"It took some time to know him [Ajit Wadekar] well. We were not so close on the 1992-93 tour of South Africa where he would tell me what had to be done. But after that, we slowly started enjoying his company. In the mid-1990s, Vinod Kambli and I would spend a lot of time with him during the evenings. He had a great sense of humour; he had fun with us and sometimes there would be some subtle messages thrown in," said Sachin Tendulkar.
Sachin Tendulkar with the late India coach Ajit Wadekar in 1995
Tendulkar became the most destructive one-day batsman in international cricket post 1994, when he began opening the batting for India and Wadekar had a role to play in that elevation. Navjot Singh Sidhu woke up with a stiff neck for India's ODI against New Zealand at Auckland on March 27 and Tendulkar offered to open the innings.
"I always had this feeling that I can go after the bowling up front. I told Wadekar sir that I can do it and if I failed, I wouldn't come to him with this again. He said let's meet [captain] Azhar and he was convinced too," recalled Tendulkar. An era had begun in Tendulkar's one-day career.
Before the Auckland game where he blasted a match-winning 82, he had scored 1758 in 69 games. He ended his career with 15,310 runs while opening the innings. "The great relationship we shared and built over two years, played a role in that decision. It was an out-of-the-box call taken on the morning of a match. It was a joy to work with Wadekar sir," remarked Tendulkar.
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