Batting legend Sachin Tendulkar on Friday fondly remembered former BCCI President Raj Singh Dungarpur's big role in shaping up his cricket career. "Rajbhai has played an immense role in making me the cricketer that I am and giving me the opportunities that I had in my life," the 41-year old said at the book launch 'Raj Singh Dungarpur A Tribute'.
It was Dungarpur who was instrumental in amending the rules of the CCI to allow Tendulkar use its dressing room as a 14-year-old, making things smooth for the champion batsman very early in his glittering career.
"I was only 13 years old and CCI was playing against Shivaji Park youngsters and I scored some runs. Under 18 were not allowed to be in the dressing room. Rajbhai said we have to make him (Tendulkar) play for CCI. "For him (Tendulkar) the rule doesn't apply. He has to use all the facilities and make sure that he is happy.
"It was a new environment for me and he was instrumental in making me comfortable and that is where the ball started rolling," the iconic batsman reminisced. Tendulkar also recollected how Dungarpur had played a part in finding sponsor for him, so that he could be part of the Star Cricket Club, which would tour England.
"I didn't have deep pockets and Rajbhai was again instrumental in finding a sponsor for me. He said in his own style 'you should play cricket and leave the rest to me'. With that kind of support and encouragement, all you want to do is score as many runs as possible," Tendulkar said.
Dungarpur was BCCI's president for three years from 1996, served as the chairman of the national selection committee (including when Tendulkar was first picked in the Indian team in 1989), and was also the Indian team manager on several tours, including the victorious trip to England in 1986.
The master blaster remembered the incident when Dungarpur told him to focus on giving his SSC exam rather than making India debut at an early age. "At the age 15 to be part of the Mumbai Ranji Trophy squad, which had almost 8 Test players in the playing 11 was something really special for me because just to be here as a ball boy was big thing and then suddenly you have scored runs in school cricket and you have been given a chance to share the dressing room with them and play a match with them.
"The media had started discussing whether I should be in Indian team. We were playing Ranji trophy semi-finals at Wankhede and I was warming up. I saw Rajbhai walking next to net. He called me outside and said see, 'I want you to focus on Ranji Trophy right now. Let me tell you now that you will not go to West Indies, after you have finished with your Ranji trophy, make sure that you appear for your SSC exam'.
That was my plan, whether I got selected for West Indies or not, I had to appear for my SSC exam," Tendulkar said. The highest run scorer in the world said he shared different equations with Dungarpur during the various stages of his life.
"First he encouraged me as a youngster and then made sure that I got all those possible facilities and then picked me for the team. When he travelled with the team, he was more of a father figure. Everyone looked upto him, respected him and wanted to be around him," he said.