By Ehsaan Noorani
As it turns out, today (the time of writing on Tuesday) happens to be exactly one year since I first met Sachin Tendulkar. Our maiden encounter took place at one of my friend’s daughter’s birthday party at Khar Gymkhana. I was more than excited to meet Tendulkar, someone whom I’ve admired for long. There was an aura around him, the kind of which one finds in great people, in champions. The aura was much like the one Otis Davis has.
The thing about Sachin is that he is more than just a player; he is the game itself. He is cricket. If celebrities like me were to get out on the streets, nobody would bother to stop us on their way for autographs. But Sachin can’t even think of walking the streets freely. He will be mobbed. Nobody, I can say this without a doubt, has the kind of fan following that he does. In that sense, he is even bigger than even Amitabh Bachchan.
Some of his innings stand out in my memory, especially the way he decimated Shane Warne in 1998, the twin centuries at Sharjah in the same year, was such a marvel to watch.
The understanding and reading of the game and its nuances is also something that he possesses better than anyone else you can find. Maybe not in stature, but in his approach, he is a lot like Shankar Mahadevan. They both are extremely creative people in their respective fields.
The kind of passion and dedication he has for the game, his single minded focus to the task in hand is unseen on a daily basis.
Among other favourite knocks, the innings against Kenya during the 1999 World Cup remains etched in my memory, for more reasons than just his batting. To play the kind of innings he did just days after his father had passed away, and that raising of the bat heavenwards was an emotional moment for me as it was for any cricket fan. Above all, his efforts resonated in the hearts of millions of Indians who looked up to him. His act spoke volumes of his commitment and love for the game.
There was another incident I remember very well when I had first seen him while I was jamming with a band in 1996. He was present at the venue. Although I didn’t talk to him then, I was excited to have shared the space with Sachin. And soon after he left the venue, he went and scored a blazing century against South Africa at the Wankhede Stadium.
Sixteen years down the line, in 2012, I met him and realised I had to talk to him. The conversation between us was crisp and short as he had to leave for training with the Mumbai Indians team during the Champions League T20 tournament.
I greeted him with a genuine acknowledgement, “Hi Sachin, I’m your big fan.” In no time he replied, “Ehsaan, I’m a big fan of yours”. The gesture was not only pleasantly surprising, but also warm and extremely kind coming from a man of his stature.
— As told to Aayush Puthran
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