By Sairaj Bahutule
I have played cricket alongside Sachin Tendulkar right since the under-15 days. However, my first major memory of Sachin is of that mammoth 664-run partnership between him and Vinod Kambli for Sharasdashram Vidyamandir against my school St. Xavier’s. I knew him before that match as we would go for the under-15 selection trials at the Wankhede Stadium. We eventually got into the side. At that age as well, he was very different and his batting stood apart. Sachin and Vinod were exceptional school cricketers and dominated the Harris Shield and Giles Shield.
Sachin was a much focused kid. He used to have his harmless fun in the dressing room and the hotel room, but he was very serious on the field of play as he knew what he wanted to do. Of course, like any kid, he enjoyed his time with friends and these are memories that will remain etched. But, he actually did not have time to do anything else as he was majorly on the field.
During the record partnership with Vinod, we lost as many as four balls. We fielded for a day and a half, thanks to Sachin and Vinod. Since we were playing at the vast Azad Maidan, whenever they hit the ball, it used to go a long way. It would take us ages to retrieve the ball and since they were dealing in fours and sixes, it made our task very tiring. Such was the carnage that some of our players did not want to come the next day and I had to convince them to play the game. Such hitting wasn’t seen before, so it was left to me to persuade the others to take the field again.
Sachin has been very inspiring for all of us because of his focus and dedication to the game. The hard work and effort he puts in everyday is something you admire. For other cricketers, his practice regime served as a great example and we would try to emulate it. He would factor in everything while preparing for the game for example, the bowlers, the pitch conditions, his scoring patterns etc. His discussions on the same would be very fascinating in the dressing room.
He also helped me tremendously with my batting and bowling. Sachin once said, “You are a far better batsman that you think.” I never used to play the sweep shot. He started bowling to me with a tennis ball, made me do a few drills and asked me not to hit it hard but merely tap it along the corner on the leg-side. So, I followed it and started playing the shot very well. Sachin stressed that until you don’t attempt it, you’ll never know.
The day I got selected for India remains special. It was a big moment for me as I was playing for the country and alongside Sachin. Since under-15 we were together and to play at the highest level with him was a great feeling. Sometimes you just wonder that such a great person is also my friend. You feel blessed. And to play a Test match with him was simply overwhelming. Every cricketer in India dreams to play for the country and to play that Test at Chennai against Australia in 2001 with him and to win was awesome. I cherished that memory.
When Sachin is in the dressing room, he expects you to give your 100 per-cent. If he notices that you are dropping your guard, he would then subtly tell you to pull your socks up. One big thing I have learnt from him is that it is important to be humble and have your feet on the ground even though you may achieve everything there is. Now that he is calling it a day, I wonder what he will do. He has been playing the game day in and day out all these years. I am sure he will continue training, but may not play the game as such.
Sachin is a living legend, and one of a kind. It is amazing that he has charted out such a long career and played with the same intensity while handling humongous expectations. Despite all that, he performed and did not get carried away by the limelight. He has been a great ambassador for India and has inspired millions of people.
— As told to Nishad Pai Vaidya
(Sairaj Bahutule is a former India international who played two Tests and eight One-Day Internationals (ODIs). In domestic cricket, Bahutule was a crucial member of the Mumbai side and has been a part of numerous Ranji Trophy winning units)
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