A dream jour­ney

Friday - - Society -

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

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