1992. A year earlier, Freddie Trueman had called Yorkshire county committee’s decision to recruit an overseas player “a bloody disgrace”. But, even as old traditions were being overcome against rigid resistance, the revolutionary administrators suffered a blow in their bold bid to infuse foreign talent into the side. Captain Martyn Moxon’s first choice overseas professional, Australian fast bowler Craig McDermott, pulled out due to a groin injury a month before his scheduled debut on Good Friday.
Drewbury businessman Solly Adam, a Bradford league veteran and a long-time friend of Asian cricketers, stepped up and managed to get 19-year-old Sachin Tendulkar to fill the breach. Tendulkar became the first-ever overseas player to play for Yorkshire. In the process, he also became a close friend of the Adam household. Here Solly Adam reminisces about the budding master.
I came to this country [England] as a schoolboy in the 1960s. I played quite a lot of cricket in the local leagues and also in the Minor Counties Championship for Cumberland.
I also introduced a lot of cricketers from India and Pakistan to the Yorkshire league. Players like Imran Khan, Iqbal Qasim, Abdul Qadir, Javed Miandad, Madan Lal, Brijesh Patel, Dilip Doshi many more. I had signed Vinod Kambli for Spen Victoria as well, and he played under my captaincy. I am very close with lot of players — Sachin [Tendulkar], Vinod… And, of course, Sunil Gavaskar is very, very dear friend.
When I was captain of Chickenley, Sachin said to me, “Solly-bhai you are calling everybody, why aren’t you calling me for league cricket?” He was not a very big name at that time and I signed him for Chickenley. But, something cropped up and he could not make it. He came to England in 1990, met me and even attended my son’s wedding, but he could not play for the club. I said, “Don’t worry, one day I will sign you for league or county.”
And then, suddenly, I saw on the Yorkshire television that the Australian fast bowler Craig McDermott, who was supposed to come and play for the county, had pulled out. I was always involved with Yorkshire, because my cricket started with them, from the district league to Minor County. I immediately rang up Brian Close and spoke to him. He said, “Okay, let me discuss in the committee meeting and someone will ring you.” And soon they called me and said, “Yes, we want Sachin to come and play for us.”
Sachin was in Australia at that time. I rang him up and he said, “Solly-bhai, I am playing here and am a bit busy.” I said, “Come on, I want you to play. You’ll be the first Asian ever to play for Yorkshire.” He said, “Let me think about it.” He was in a dilemma.
The next thing I did was to get hold of Sunil (Gavaskar) and said to him, “Come on, Yorkshire wants Sachin and he has not made up his mind!” Sunil said, “Let me talk to him.” And he spoke to Sachin and convinced him.
I informed Yorkshire and fixed the price. There was no matter of commission, because Sachin is like a son to us. Sachin came over and signed. He wanted to stay near us. I said, “Stay with us in my house.” However, he said that he would be playing county cricket, leave early and come in late from away games and so it would be better to have a separate place. Ultimately he got a house near us.
At that time, Vinod (Kambli) and Jatin Paranjape were here as well. So were Sameer Dighe, Abey Kuruvilla, Paras Mhambrey and Amol Mazumdar. All of them were playing league cricket and I had invited all of them. With all these guys in Dewsbury, it was ideal for Sachin. He had company.
We never had any problem with him. He was very down to earth. We looked after him as our own son. He used to eat at our place whenever he was in Yorkshire. Anjali was not his wife yet, but she was also in England and became a very good friend of my daughter, Asma.
Sachin was very close to my family — my wife, my daughter, my mom and dad. Whenever my parents saw Sachin on television they used to get excited. Sadly, they are not alive any more.
When he had time we took him around. We took him to Blackpool and showed him other places. But, he generally ate, slept and thought cricket.
I have seen my league players — most of them play on Saturdays and never bother practicing for the rest of the week. And Sachin used to play county cricket. If he finished at half-past five or six o’clock, he used to come to my ground in Spen Victoria where Vinod used to be, and he used to practice with us. He was so determined, so keen and had this incredible love for the game. He was so dedicated to cricket.
We played a lot of benefit matches those days. Whenever I asked him whether he was available for benefit games, he never said no. Be it Suru Nayak’s benefit, or Sanjay Manjrekar’s benefit, Jatin Paranjape’s benefit, whenever I asked him he was always ready to play. He always wanted to play cricket, whatever the form. Even when it was the only free day in the week while playing for Yorkshire, he found the time.
And there is something very, very nice of him which I will always remember as long as I live. The day before he was supposed to go back to India, he was playing an away game. He returned very late, around 11.00 o’clock, and had to do his packing. And after that, at nearly quarter to 12, he knocked at my door. I was fast asleep and got up, and was surprised to find Sachin at my door. I asked him, “What are you doing at this time of the night?” He said, “I want to touch your feet before I go.” He touched my feet and my wife’s feet. Every time before leaving India he used to touch the feet of his coach Ramakant Achrekar as well.
The last time I met him, someone asked him pointing towards me, “You know him?” And he said, “Yes, he looked after me for three or four months. Every day I was eating at his house. How can I forget him and Mariam-bhabi (my wife) and Asma?” Even now, whenever he comes to Yorkshire, he always has dinner with us.
I have signed a lot of players and can generally say he is going to be a good player, and he is going to be a great player — but this one wasn’t a good or great, he was a genius.
He has changed the face of Indian cricket. He played for India at a very, very young age. Nowadays, not only in India but across the world players are coming into the Test side much earlier. Not at 23-24 like they used to in the past. Even in England Joe Root and Johnny Bairstow entered the team as youngsters. Now no one says that young people are not mature enough. This is all because of Sachin.
Earlier Indian parents used to say they wanted their sons to become engineers, doctors and all that. Nowadays when I go to India, they tell me, “Solly-bhai, take him to England and make him a Sachin Tendulkar.”
Indeed, Sachin Tendulkar is a genius — and a gentleman.
– As told to Arunabha Sengupta
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(Solly Adam migrated to England in 1963 and started his business of petrol stations in 1972. As his business prospered he pursued his interest in cricket, and nurtured many young Indian and Pakistani cricketers who have gone on to become household names. He now runs his sports clothing and equipment company – Solly Sports)