‘My in­tro­duc­tion to him was quite over­whelm­ing ’

Sportstar - - STARSTRUCK - AKASH CHOPRA

There’s an ob­vi­ous ‘star struck’ mo­ment of fol­low­ing Sachin and then meet­ing him for the first time. That’s when you re­alise that all your life you’re primed to meet him and now you’ve the op­por­tu­nity of shar­ing the dress­ing room with him.

This was dur­ing a Test match in Ah­mad­abad. I walked into the team meet­ing — the ban­quet hall was as­signed to the team — and then ob­vi­ously, you start look­ing at all the faces in the room. And there’s no big­ger face than Sachin. We ex­changed pleas­antries but I was slightly ner­vous too be­cause I didn’t want to make a fool of my­self. I’m sure he comes across peo­ple who’re in com­plete awe of him ev­ery­day.

But he’s a won­der­ful man when it comes to eas­ing young­sters into the team en­vi­ron­ment. There was this one time when we were split into two groups — bowlers and bats­men — and I, of course, went to the bat­ting group. That’s when Sachin started ask­ing ques­tions be­cause I had al­ready played two games against New Zealand. He asked me how Daryl Tuf­fey was bowl­ing, if the ball was com­ing in. Then about Daniel Vet­tori and whether his arm ball was spin­ning in be­cause he bowled it with the seam up. In my naivety, I kept say­ing ‘this is hap­pen­ing, that is hap­pen­ing’ but a lit­tle later, I re­alised he had done that to break the ice. If he hadn’t spo­ken to me, I would never have had the courage to talk to him. So he went out of his way to ask ques­tions for which he al­ready knew the an­swers.

He made me com­fort­able to the ex­tent that two, three days into the Ahmedabad Test, I called him up and said ‘I would like to meet you’ and then went and had a nice chat with him in his room. He told me sto­ries about play­ing against Pak­istan, the 2003 World Cup and all that. From out­side, you see this man who’s de­mol­ish­ing the best bowl­ing at­tacks in the world, so you at­tach a cer­tain amount of ruth­less­ness to his style but you never get to see the per­son be­hind the per­former. Suf­fice to say, my in­tro­duc­tion to Sachin was quite over­whelm­ing.

AS TOLD TO AYAN ACHARYA

THE HINDU PHOTO LI­BRARY

Tips from the mas­ter: “He’s (Sachin) a won­der­ful man when it comes to eas­ing young­sters into the team en­vi­ron­ment,” says Akash Chopra.

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