Atul Ranade and Sachin Tendulkar were school buddies who used to play together for Shardashram Vidyamandir School. While one reached dizzy heights, the other struggled to make an impact in first-class cricket in India.
But their friendship grew, and they are as close as they were some 25 years ago. Ranade played a few first-class and limited-over matches for Mumbai and Goa. Recently, he contested the Mumbai Cricket Association elections as part of the ‘Cricket First’ group formed by Vijay Patil. He was not successful in his first election, but says he can contribute to Mumbai cricket in a big way.
Having shared a bench with Tendulkar at school and, more importantly, been a teammate, puts Ranade in a position to shed light on a side of Tendulkar seen by few.
Ranade said: “I remember him as a prankster. He just loves to have fun at the expense of a friend or a teammate, sometimes even failing miserably at some pranks, or getting hurt.
“Pulling somebody’s leg gives him a kick, all in fun though. The closer his relationship with the victim the greater his enjoyment! Having Sloan’s balm or Tiger balm applied around the eyes, or having the forehead pinged with a ball was quite a common occurrence with him around,” Ranade said.
There is another anecdote about Tendulkar poking fun at Sameer Dighe when he was keeping wickets to Salil Ankola in a Ranji Trophy game.
“Cricketers know that Morrant used to make batting pads, not wicketkeeping pads. But Dighe got a pair stitched with a Morrant logo, and Sachin cracked jokes at Sameer right through the season, saying he was the only ‘keeper in the world who had Morrant pads. Once, an especially quick one from Ankola hit Sameer right on the knee cap. Instead of asking Sameer if he was okay, Sachin pressed the same spot and laughed his head off.
“Sameer was actually rolling on the ground in pain, holding his knee after the pad had slipped.”
Ranade also recalled how Tendulkar used to pull others’ kit bags out while boarding buses.
“We used to carry big, long kit bags while we were in school, and these bags did not have wheels, but long straps. He was very mischievous in school, and used to drag the kit bags out, latching on to the long straps,” said Ranade.
An account of Tendulkar’s pranks is huge enough to fill a book, and Ranade even narrated an incident where he was the hapless victim.
He said: “Sachin was always up to something! Once, while driving to Lonavla or somewhere, I happened to be seated in the rear seat of an SUV, practically in the boot. I was already suffering from travel sickness and he just drove the car around in circles! It was only when I told him that I was going to throw up in his brand new car that he stopped!”
Ranade sure must be hoping for more fun times with his friend after November 18.