Fifteen-year-old Sachin Tendulkar entered the competitive world of first class cricket with much fanfare in 1988 and on Thursday, he is all set to leave the scene taking with him all acclaim a successful cricketer could wish for.
Twenty-five years ago, the selectors — Naren Tamhane, Ramakant Desai, Sudhir Naik and Miling Rege — chose Tendulkar for the Ranji Trophy debut against Gujarat. He was sent in to bat at No. 4. He scored an unbeaten century, dominated his first first-class century partnership with left-hander Allan Sippy and put his career on a firm path.
Now 51, Sippy recalls that maiden century stand in which Tendulkar showed his repertoire and captured the imagination of his colleagues. “It’s etched in my memory because it was in that match that Lalchand Rajput was run out for 99. The manager of the team had told us at lunch break that since the team was doing well, Tendulkar would be sent at No. 4 and whoever was in the middle, Rajput or me, should look after the kid.
“Rajput was run out and it became my destiny to look after the so called kid. Rajput was run out and as he (Tendulkar) walked past me I told him, ‘Aaram se’ and he just smiled. The third ball he faced went crashing to the fence. I thought that was the way he was trying to get out of the nervousness. Again I said ‘Aaram se’ and he kind of winked at me. But when he sent two more balls to the fence, I actually looked at the dressing room and wondered who is supposed to look after whom here. Then I realised he was not a normal guy. He showed unbelievable power.
“Before this game I told my dad that there was nothing special about the young kid and may be they all want to create some publicity stunt. I have told this to Sachin. He was a quiet boy; there was not much conversation during that partnership. When I went home my father reminded me of my observation that Sachin was not someone special, and I told him this time he was from a different planet.’’
Passion, hard work
Summing up the Tendulkar story Rege said: “First thing is that he had god-given talent. He was talented than anybody else I have seen over the last 40 plus years of cricket. But the talent was backed by great passion for the game and tremendous amount of hard work. Vinod Kambli was, if not better, as good as Sachin. But there was no passion and he did not put in the hard work that Sachin put in for 29 years of cricket starting from junior level. Look, he bowled like Muttiah Muralitharan to Aditya Tare for 45 minutes; that’s his commitment to the game. He would come for the Mumbai nets first and leave last. I was the chairman of two junior selection committees and I have seen him; he was five years ahead of the other juniors.’’
Sudhir Naik said: “He was an automatic selection; he proved to be extremely good in junior cricket. We decided that he was a future India player. There was some discussion on whether we are pushing him too early, or he should play a lot more under-16 and under-19 tournaments, but ultimately the committee decided to pick him. Tendulkar was a matured batsman for his age.’’
Rajput recalled Tendulkar’s debut match saying: “He looked special in the nets. He ducked under the bouncers, left the ball and appeared to have so much time to play his shots. First the selectors thought he must get a feel of being in the team, but he had tons of runs in the junior tournaments and we decided to play him.’’
The Wankhede faithfuls have fond memories of Tendulkar’s debut match including the ground staff, Vijay Tambe and Lalsuram Jaiswal. On Thursday, Tendulkar would play his 310th first class match, 200th and last Test match. It’s been a long and happy journey for the Mumbai’s favourite player for the past 25 years.