Arshad Ayub reminisces about his association with Tendulkar
Former India off-spinner Arshad Ayub has the rare opportunity of bowling to a 15-year-old Sachin Tendulkar when the latter was playing the fifth Ranji match of his career at Gymkhana Ground from February 3 to 6, 1989. He also had the privilege of being his teammate when Sachin made his Test debut against Pakistan on the 1989 tour.
“I remember vividly it was a turning track at Gymkhana and Sachin was up against our bowling attack which also included M.V. Narasimha Rao and Venkatapathi Raju. What amazed me was his guts — he refused to accept the idea of a night watchman and himself came to bat on the first day when Mumbai was in a spot of bother. There was absolutely no fear of anything, extremely confident and full of class,” recalls 55-year-old Arshad even as Sachin Tendulkar bids adieu to Test cricket after playing his 200th Test against the West Indies next month.
“I was impressed with his rock-solid defence. If you can get the bat right in front of the pad on a turning track, you are bound to be a different from the rest of the crowd. Sachin, during his innings of 59, showed why he was already spoken of so highly by then,” Arshad says.
“It did not surprise me when Sachin was eventually picked for the Pakistan tour. When he got hit by that nasty ball from Waqar Younis in the Sialkot Test, I thought ‘if he doesn’t get up and continue to bat, Sachin might struggle’. But, he stunned everyone by regaining composure in a flash and went on to play some breathtaking strokes against the feared Pakistani bowling attack comprising Imran Khan, Wasim Akram. Then, I told myself that a star has arrived on international cricket firmament,” says the former India offie who also played 13 Tests for 41 wickets and 32 ODIs for 31 wickets between 1987 and 1989, said.
“Yes, I also remember the brief animated chat Sachin had with leggie Abdul Qadir during that exhibition match in Peshawar. Apparently, after he had hit the inexperienced Mushtaq Ahmed for a couple of sixes, Qadir threw up a challenge – Chotu, tu ne usko to maara, mera bowling pe bhi maar (you had hit him and try against me too). We were all wondering what was happening. Then, Sachin hit Qadir for four consecutive sixes in one over. What awesome hitting it was,” relives Arshad. Incidentally, the Hyderabadi saw his 13-Test career come to an end on that Pakistan tour.
“The most astonishing feature of Sachin has been his humility right through. For someone who achieved so much, he was the same, soft-spoken and polite cricketer even when I met him recently," he says. And this doesn’t mean that he was taking things easy.
"I remember in the Duleep Trophy match once between South and West Zone, Ravi Shastri gave Sachin the second new ball. And, in no time, this young boy claimed three wickets mixing up his faster ones, googlies, off-breaks. He was so natural,” recalls Arshad.
“Like GRV (Gundappa Visvanath), Sachin never spoke ill of anybody. He respected everyone – be it a newcomer into the team or a senior. I sincerely believe that the BCCI should make him its ambassador and ensure that he interacts with all the teenaged talent across the country regularly. For only he can explain what it means to wear an India cap at 16. He was never nervous and was always a picture of confidence,” Arshad gushes.
“Cricket can never see another Sachin for sure. I salute this legend, a terrific human being to cap it all and wish him a very happy retired life,” remarks Arshad for whom one of the priceless souvenirs is a cricket bat signed by Sachin and his teammates.