NEW DELHI: He was a member of the national selection panel that picked 16-year-old prodigy called Sachin Tendulkar for the tour of Pakistan in 1989 and to this day, 73-year-old Akash Lal remembers every minute detail of that meeting that changed the course of Indian cricket history.
"It may be nearly 25 years since that selection meeting in Mumbai but I still remember it wasn't an unanimous decision. Ultimately, it went in favour of Sachin by 3-2 verdict and he was selected in the Indian team," Lal, who played 94 first-class matches for Delhi and Punjab in between 1957-1976, said on Thursday.
The five-member committee that selected Tendulkar comprised chairman of selection committee Raj Singh Dungarpur, Akash Lal, Ramesh Saxena, Gundappa Viswanath and Naren Tamhane.
"It's not fair to name them but at least two selectors were worried to blood a 16-year-old against the likes of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, who were the fastest bowlers during that time. Also there was Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir," Lal fondly remembers.
"But we argued that he had the technique to counter them and younger we put him out there in the middle, longer he will serve the country," stated Lal, who feels that only Sunil Gavaskar and former England captain Peter May were at par when it came to technique against fast bowlers.
Tamhane had the first glimpse of Tendulkar when he was playing a Kanga League game in Mumbai but he distinctly remembers the Irani Cup match where he scored a century for Rest of India with Gursharan Singh giving him company with a fractured wrist in order to help him complete his century.
"It was a flawless knock from a 16-year-old. Each and every shot had an aristocratic value. What I found at that age was his dedication. There was nothing else that mattered apart from hard practice.
"He was humble and ready to learn. He has never spoken ill about anybody and not for once did he indulge in any politicking. That was hallmark of a great human being," he said.