Tendulkar happens to be a big Kishore Kumar fan.
It was a brief conversation near the pitch at the Eden Park in Auckland. India was playing a One-Day International (March 1994) and Navjot Singh Sidhu had reported with a stiff neck. Skipper Mohammed Azahruddin asked, “Rafi, open karega” (Rafi, do you want to open)? Manager Ajit Wadekar looked on.
“Not if it is for just this match,” replied Rafi. “Well, if you score, I promise you the slot.” Rafi made 82 and was a different batsman from that point.
This Rafi happened to be Sachin Tendulkar. But why Rafi? Because Azharuddin had heard him hum a popular Mohammed Rafi song in the bathroom. And the name stuck.
It is another matter that Tendulkar happens to be a big Kishore Kumar fan.
Pal Pal Dilke Paas Tum Rehti Ho.., the soft Kishore Kumar number was a give away even as a Do Not Disturb sign stared at you from his hotel room door. “It helps me relax”. For Tendulkar, music, and later movies, provided a welcome break from the hard grind on the field. He also revelled in the company of colleagues.
It was one such ‘fun afternoon’ that must still be sending shivers down his spine. On the 2002 West Indies tour, a few team members went to the Accra Beach in Barbados. Some could swim. Grabbing swim boards, they ventured into the sea. Our man, daring as always, became adventurous and soon realised he had left his colleagues behind.
“Can you feel the bottom,” he shouted, in the process discovering that he could not himself. Slowly panic set in. It was left to Rahul Dravid, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra to pull him back to safety.
For the rest of the tour, Tendulkar did not go near a beach.
For old friends, he has not changed a bit. Says former team physio Ali Irani: “His humility is really amazing. I remember the early days when he would sleep in my room because Kapil (Dev) was his room partner and too senior. My god, I had to sleep near the door because he would sleep walk. I had to put table and chairs to block the door. He would get up in the middle of the night and start batting. He is a gem”.
For a man who now owns a Ferrari, Tendulkar is said to have bought his first car, a Maruti 800, on loan. He carried a pre-recorded tape to the showroom and the first thing he did was to play it and check the music system. The colour and engine of the car were not a priority. Even those days he loved driving. In fact, to watch the 1992 World Cup final, he drove a good 100km out of Bombay to follow the game at a farm house. He has still preserved the first walkman that he had bought on a foreign tour.
Tendulkar, a National treasure, as Kapil Dev would like us to remember, has best impressed with his humility. “Not for me,” he would say when asked to talk about his game. “I mostly follow the simple principle of playing the ball on merit.” Obviously, he has remembered an early lesson from Sunil Gavaskar, who advocated respect for the bowlers in the initial stages, for the batsman to survive and thrive.
For Tendulkar, results, and not milestones, matter. His career record at this stage shows 248 not out against Bangladesh as his highest Test score. It is an irony to see his best is documented against Bangladesh.
By the way, Tendulkar later progressed to Dire Straits. This time the loud music was a give away.