A dream journey
For Sachin, his career has been a dream journey, and standing solidly behind him and fuelling his dreams have been his family and friends. “My life has been on the 22 yards [the distance between the wickets on a cricket pitch] in the past 24 years; it’s hard to believe that it’s coming to an end,’’ he told Friday. “And in that journey, I had the support ofmy family, coaches, friends, players – a lot of people were with me... I find it difficult to believe that I will not play cricket again. That reality is still to sink in.
“I have no regrets that I’m leaving cricket. I just thought this was the right time to stop playing – but it was an enjoyable journey.’’
Sachin began his cricketing career as a child when his elder brother Ajit, a college-level cricketer, realised he was talented and took him to a noted local cricket coach Ramakant Achrekar. Until then, Sachin had played only with friends in the narrow lanes around the Sahitya Sahawas Cooperative Housing Society in Bandra (East) building where he lived with his father, Ramesh Tendulkar, a professor at Kirti College, Rajni and three older siblings – brothers Ajit and Nitin and sister Savita.
“Sachin was 11 at the time, and was dressed in a T-shirt and a pair of shorts when I took him to Ramakant,’’ says Ajit. “The first piece of advice the coach gave him was to go home and return the next day wearing a pair of trousers.’’ Ramakant, keen to see that Sachin got the which was well known for its cricket team. “Being in a group of like-minded players is important,’’ the coach told him.
Sachin would spend around five hours a day at the Dadar Shivaji Park learning the finer points of the game.
Realising he could spend more time on the field if he lived close to the Dadar Shivaji Park, Sachin moved into his uncle’s house in Dadar.
“For four years I stayed with my uncle and aunt, and they treated me like their own son,’’ he says. “My coach used to take me on his scooter to play two matches a day. He would discuss cricket with me all day but never compliment me on my batting, however well I played. I guess he felt I would get complacent with the praise.”
Sachin’s parents always supported their son’s dream to play cricket professionally. “Without my father’s guidance, I wouldn’t be here,’’ says Sachin. “He told me ‘chase your dreams, but do not opt for shortcuts; don’t give up even if the path is difficult’. I’ve followed his words always and was devastated when he died of a cardiac arrest in 1999.”
His mother used to brave the torturous Mumbai traffic and travel 20km extra on her way home from work every day just so she could meet Sachin at the Shivaji Park ground and bless him to play well.
Coach Ramakant, meanwhile, was determined to make Sachin the best cricketer he could. “Sometimes he used to place a one-rupee coin on the stumps when I batted,” recalls Sachin. “If a bowler dismissed me, he got to keep the coin. If I managed to defend my wicket all through the session, I got to keep the coin. I still have 13 of those coins and they are among my prized possessions.’’
Ramakant was a strict coach and a disciplinarian. One thing he wouldn’t tolerate was Sachin skipping practice sessions.
“He would insist I be at the cricket ground every morning and evening for practice,’’ says
Above left: young Sachin with his former classmate Ricky Couto and cricketer Vinod Kambli at Sharadashram School. Even at such a tender age, he had the drive that would ultimately allow him to inspire the nation