Sachin Tendulkar’s achievements are well chronicled. Right from his childhood and his school days he seemed destined for greatness and it is remarkable that not only did he not allow fame and adulation to overpower him, he actually achieved his goals and met his destiny.
4 years after he retired, now too the Sachin craze is still intact and does not seem to diminish. I take a look at Sachin’s early years and those who played a role in making him the phenomenon he turned out to be. The extra mile taken by them has been sought to be explored.
Sachin’s father, Ramesh Tendulkar was a well known Marathi Novelist and his mother Rajni worked as an Insurance professional. They stayed in Bandra, but he shifted to his aunt’s house at Dadar so that he would have more time to practise at Shivaji Park. What a tough decision and what a sacrifice for an 11-year boy and his parents
Ten year older brother Ajit who was also a cricketer saw the spark in Sachin and took him to legendary coach Ramakant Achrekar. An 11 year Sachin was nervous and did not bat well. An urban legend is that the coach was not impressed which could have meant the end before the beginning. However, Ajit asked the coach to step a bit away and observe Sachin by hiding behind a tree. With Sachin thinking the coach had gone he batted like a champion and Coach Achrekar realised he was seeing a special and rare talent. Ajit thereafter sacrificed his career and spent his entire life with one mission only- how to make his brother a great cricketer. Even when Sachin played his 200th and last Test at Wankhede and was out for 74 in his last innings, both brothers discussed how he was out and not his retirement.
Coach Ramakant Achrekar
Coach Achrekar has mentored more than a dozen Test cricketers but Sachin will always remain his best and most well-known student. Recognizing Sachin’s potential, Coach Achrekar would always take him from one Maidan to another so that Sachin gets maximum match practice. To motivate Sachin, Achrekar Sir used to keep one rupee coins on top of the stumps and tell the bowlers that if they could get him out they would get the coins and if Sachin would not lose his wicket he would get them. Sachin recently said in an interview that he won 13 such coins which are most precious to him.
Achrekar also built up Sachin’s fitness by making him run with full cricketing gear after an exhausting full day’s practise.
One last Achrekar-Sachin anecdote. Achrekar Sir used to organize practice matches for Sachin and used to ask him to bat at Number 4. One such day, Sachin missed a match to cheer his school team in the Harris Shield final. Achrekar Sir gave him a tight slap saying that “you don’t have to be here to cheer for others, Play in such a way that others cheer for you”. Sachin says that late-cut (tight slap) was the defining moment in his career and that otherwise he may have been cheering for others from the stands instead of playing for the country.
Principal Krishna Shirsat
When Sachin was brought to Shardashram school, Krishna Shirsat who later became Principal used to teach maths and chemistry there. The school gave prime importance to cricket and has produced several Test cricketers and more than 100 Ranji cricketers. Shirshat always used to make himself available to help Sachin out with his studies after his matches. When Sachin was selected to play for Bombay, the match clashed with a practical Board exam and Shirsat used all his influence to ensure that Sachin could give that exam after the match.
Raj Singh Dungarpur, Milind Rege and Hemant Kenkre
Sachin was playing a match for Shivaji Park youngsters against Cricket Club of India (CCI) and not only scored runs but impressed all with his technique and attitude. Milind Rege and Hemant Kenkre convinced Raj Singh Dungarpur and Madhav Apte (who was playing in that match) to amend the rules of CCI to permit him to enter the dressing rooms as he was only 14.
Subsequently, Raj Singh found sponsors for him when he needed to go abroad for the experience. He was also Chairman of Mumbai selection committee when Sachin first played for Mumbai. The season was successful and there was speculation that Sachin would be in the team to visit West Indies. However Raj Singh told Sachin clearly that he was not going to West Indies, he should score runs and he should do well in his Class 10 exams as the day was not far enough that he would play for India.
Indeed a few months later, Sachin was in the team for the Pakistan tour.
Dilip Vengsarkar, Lalchand Rajput and other Ranji mates
Dilip Vengsarkar was the captain of Bombay Ranji Team when the great Kapil Dev wanted some bowling practice and he bowled to Sachin. The colonel was so impressed with the way Sachin played Kapil that he prevailed upon the selectors to include Sachin in the Bombay Ranji squad when he was just 14.
It was an easy decision for the selectors too as Sachin’s case was backed up by what Lalchand Rajput his 1st Captain says “Tons of runs”. The ease with which he played fast bowlers including Raju Kulkarni who was probably the country’s fastest made the selectors give him a game against Gujarat as a 15-year-old. As luck would have had it Lalchand was run out for 99 that match while taking the 3rd run with Alan Sippy. However, he told Sachin, “Don’t worry about your Captain not getting a hundred. You get one”.
Alan Sippy who was at the crease when Sachin went out to bat for the 1st time in Ranji Trophy says he told him “Relax, Aaaram se”( Be at ease). The response of Sachin was “Bindaas”( Cool). Sippy says that he thought the young lad would be nervous but on the contrary, he hit the 1st ball so hard that Sippy did not know what to say.
Sachin gives credit to Rajput, Sippy and Shishir Hattangadi for encouraging him for his debut hundred and to the entire Mumbai team for making him comfortable and at ease.
Veteran Ranji Players Suru Nayak and Kiran Mokashi used to bowl at Sachin every day after the game or nets were over. They used to say Bat for just ten minutes and would bowl on and on to him. Sachin used to say “You said till 4.30pm and its past 5 and they used to say, just 5 minutes more”. The veterans used to bowl at him ask him to think there were imaginary fielders around the bat which hugely improved Sachin’s defence and technique.
Customs officer Atul Ranade grew up with Sachin in Sahitya Sahawas colony. He spent hours practising with Sachin at the MIG Cricket Club and honing Sachin’s batting skills. Ranade would run into the bowl with different bowling actions so that Sachin could prepare to bat while facing different actions.
Gursharan Singh name is on this list for an interesting reason. Sachin had scored hundred in Ranji and Duleep Trophy debut. In Irani Trophy too he had a chance to do so and could do so only because Gursharan Singh bravely came out to bat with a fractured arm to enable Sachin to get to his ton.
Till date, Sachin is the only player to score debut tons in Ranji, Duleep and Irani debuts. Prithvi Shaw who has scored debut tons in Ranji and Duleep has a chance to emulate him.
These then are men who played a role in Sachin’s early days and went an extra mile as well. They saw a special cricketer in him and he indeed lived up to his promise and potential.