Genius doesn’t exist in a vacuum, often venturing into the unknown to partake in diverse experiences. Many elite athletes, too, are invariably multi-dimensional, each pursuit of theirs an exercise in locating new challenges and ridding themselves of pent-up pressure. By all counts, though, Sachin Tendulkar would qualify as a sports junkie.
Some of his iconic images tell the story themselves: the callow, curly-maned Tendulkar swinging a tennis racquet; his fondness for headbands as a boy — an upshot of hero-worshipping John McEnroe; driving a kart in the company of Brian Lara and Steve Waugh; and swapping pointers with Roger Federer at The Wimbledon.
“He just wanted to win. It didn’t matter which sport he played, “says former India speedster Javagal Srinath, echoing a sentiment expressed by many of Tendulkar’s peers. Going by their accounts, the Little Master tried his hand at different sports, and usually aced them all.
Amol Muzumdar, former Mumbai batsman who now plays for Andhra, remembers Tendulkar as someone who was “extremely good at racquet sports and ball-games. In 1994-95, Sachin and I played squash regularly at the CCI. I also played quite a bit of badminton with him.”
Mumbai coach Sulakshan Kulkarni, who played alongside Tendulkar when the latter made his Ranji Trophy debut, says the great man would even dabble with underarm tennis-ball cricket inside the dressing room.
There’s, then, the famous story about Tendulkar’s quest for excellence when he lost twice to Navjot Sidhu in table tennis before practising hard and beating him on the third occasion.
“He’s a brilliant TT player. Sachin once defeated one of the best players in Mumbai,” gushes Venkatesh Prasad. The ex-seamer also vouches for Tendulkar’s interest in football.
“When we toured England in 2007, Sachin took us along to some Manchester United games. He also won the intra-team tennis tournament in Australia during the 2007-08 tour.” His pace-partner, Srinath, says Tendulkar would also unwind by playing snooker.
“TT was perhaps his favourite sport, but he would also discuss extensively about motorsports and Michael Schumacher.”
Tendulkar’s former captain, Sourav Ganguly, revealed recently in a television show that the maestro loathed lapping the ground.
But with such incredible fitness-levels — achieved over hours of playing a wide range of sports — contributing to his longevity, who could fault him?