On the second day of what will be his 200th and final Test match for India, Sachin Tendulkar will also complete 24 years in Test cricket. It is a record unlikely to be broken soon by an Indian and probably never among the many records that he has set in his wonderful career. Since that early winter day in Pakistan, Tendulkar has been part of many a battle between India and the cricketing world.
A great percentage of those series contests have been so dominated by ‘The Master', that at the end of it they have been referred to as 'Tendulkar's series'. The two Test match series that started at the Eden Gardens was Tendulkar's series even before a ball had been bowled, and no matter what happens or who performs in it, it will always be known as the series in which he bade farewell to the game he has adorned with such dignity and distinction.
It was in August 1987 when I was on my way to the Mumbai airport that my younger 'brother' Hemant Waingankar told me about the two kids dominating schools cricket in Mumbai. Hemant, who unfortunately passed away a month back, mentioned that this young kid Tendulkar was a bit upset that he had not received the ‘Best junior cricketer of the year’ award from the Mumbai Cricket Association and asked if I could write a letter to encourage him. I did so and kept the name in mind.
A small group of former Mumbai cricketers then started to gather to watch him play at the various tournaments in Mumbai. We did that from the anonymity of our cars and would chuckle like retired players do when the little fella hammered bowlers much older than him.
In the tradition of Mumbai cricket, we gave him a nickname 'Tendlya', and we kept each other informed about his progress and where he was playing. He was our little secret, or so we thought and such were the tabs that we kept on him that just about every action of his was known to us.
His off field style of dressing in a white shirt, with sleeves folded to just below the elbows, used to bother us as we wanted him to dress more like a young man in vibrant colours. When he first sported a printed shirt at a function, we called each other up delightedly that the young man had started dressing as we thought he should dress.
Soon, all too soon, the world came to know about him and we had to share him with them, and even as the world drew its breath in wonder and showered compliments on him, we grew 10 feet tall as we basked in those compliments. He has grown into the best batsman the world has seen, the closest thing to batting perfection ever. He has so many records that it would need a few acres to stock them.
Sachin Tendulkar is all set to play his last Test in Mumbai which begins today. All of us old codgers will be there, but not hiding this time in the cars, but watching proudly from the stands as our 'Tendlya', even as he walks into the sunset, shows the world why he is the greatest.
Professional Management Group