A ca­reer built on re­spect

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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

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