A career built on respect
Sachin. “But one day, I decided to skip a session and go instead to theWankhede Stadium where my school was playing a match, to cheer on my friends. The next day, Coach asked me where I’d been. I was honest and told him I’d gone to cheer for my school team. In reply I got a late cut [a slap] on my face. I never forgot that and that was the basis for my consistent hard work and discipline.”
In his first year at Dadar, Sachin debuted for his school in the Harris Shield, a prestigious inter-school tournament. He was soon among the runs, scoring centuries, double centuries and even triple centuries.
However, he was upset when he was overlooked for Bombay Cricket Association’s Best Junior Cricketer of the Year award. Sunil Gavaskar, one of India’s greatest batsmen, who was playing for the country at the time, came to know about it through media reports and wrote a letter consoling the 14-year-old.
“Don’t be disappointed at not getting the Award. If you look at the award winners, you will find one name missing, but that person has not done badly in Test cricket,” he wrote, referring to himself.
Sachin, who idolised Gavaskar, was thrilled to receive the letter, which he says helped him remain grounded and not worry about awards and accolades. Gavaskar later even gave him a pair of his ultra-light pads.
In the 1987World Cup semi-final between India and England at theWankhede Stadium, Sachin, who was 14 at the time, was one of the ball boys dreaming to play for India. “I never imagined that by the nextWorld Cup four years later, I’d be playing for my country,’’ he says.
Sachin’s big break came when he played a match for his school in the Harris Shield Inter School tournament on February 24, 1988. He scored an amazing unbeaten 326 and, together with his teammate, Vinod Kambli, who made 364 runs not out, put on an unbeaten 664-run partnership – a world record.
He caught the eyes of the regional cricket team selectors and in December 1988, Sachin made his first-class debut – at just 15 years and 232 days – and became the youngest Indian to score a century on debut.
The following year, on November 15, 1989, Sachin made his Test debut at the age of 16.
“I was nervous and didn’t know what was going on around me,’’ he says of facing Pakistani fast bowlers. “I thought it was a school game and I batted as if it was one. I can never forget that moment as I felt that was the first and the last Test match of my career.”
He did well, scoring 59 in the first innings against the formidable Pakistani pace bowlers. There was no looking back. Former Indian spinner Venkatapathy Raju, who has played alongside Tendulkar, summed up Sachin’s rise. “When every youngster was going to school, Tendulkar was walking out to the Test cricket arena.”
A quality that set Sachin apart from many players was the great respect he had for his cricket kit. “I never throw my bat, however disappointed I get,’’ he says. “I respect my bat and my cricketing kit a lot.”
Once when a bowler, who was frustrated after he bowled poorly, threw the ball down in anger, Tendulkar picked it up, went up to the bowler and handed over the ball to him saying, “Respect it first. Only then will it help you.”
Although cricket is his first love, Sachin also has a passion for music. “I love listening to bands like Dire Straits and U2 and can sometimes listen to the same tracks for days on end,’’ he says. He also likes Indian singers Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar.
“Sometimes songs just stick in my mind and I keep listening to them over and over,’’ he says. “For instance, during the 2003World Cup I got hooked on singer Lucky Ali’s Jaane Kya Dhoondta Hai.’’
Given that he had immersed himself in cricket from a very young age, Sachin could