Sachin Tendulkar made his international debut as a 16-year-old on the tour to Pakistan in 1989. Salil Ankola, the former India fast-bowler also debuted during that tour and was Tendulkar’s room-partner through the campaign. He recalls a few interesting experiences from that tour and how the young Tendulkar fit into the Indian team.
I remember the 1989 tour to Pakistan, which was Sachin Tendulkar’s maiden international assignment. It was also my first tour and I was his room-mate throughout our visit. As youngsters on their maiden tours, we had a very good time. We knew each other well before that tour as we had attended a few camps together. The fact that both of us were foodies helped us get along very well. And we were crazy about the game. In fact, we used to practice anywhere — even inside the dressing rooms. We would bowl to each other with a wet tennis ball and try to hone our batting skills against bounce. It was all about cricket for us.
When my mind goes back to November 15, 1989 — the day both of us made our Test debuts, I can recall a very interesting setting. Here was this precociously talented 16-year old who was going to take on the likes of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Some people were mocking Sachin by saying things like, “Yeh khel payega ya nahi? Yeh toh baccha hai.” (Hindi for: Will this bloke be able to play? He is a kid). But, Sachin was no ordinary 16-year old. When he entered the field of play, he was a man; very matured and focused on his game. We knew what he was made of and that he wanted to do well by giving his full effort.
There are a few of incidents that happened on the tour that stand out in memory. In the fourth Test at Sialkot, we were struggling to save a Test match when Sachin joined Sidhu at 38 for four in the second innings. It was a green track and a Waqar Younis bouncer hit Sachin bang on the nose. There was a deep cut and Sachin started bleeding, which left him dazed. As I was the 12th man, I was the first to reach him along with the physio. What was amazing was that he got out of that daze in a flash and there was that look in his eye. You know the famous song, “Eye of the tiger.” It was like that, and you could see the fire in his eyes. He put some water on his face and said he was fine. Sachin then took strike and hit the next ball for four! This was a 16-year-old!
Sachin’s has always had this great passion for the game, so much so that it was a part of him even when he slept. During the tour, he had liked a particular bat and had ordered a set in Sialkot. He turned in early for the night, while some of us were having our dinner and resting. As we were about to go to our rooms, we saw him coming. It was around midnight and he felt that his bats had come. He was actually sleep-walking! He then asked us, “Woh banda mera bat leke aaya kya?” (Hindi for: Did that man arrive with my bats?). That showed his passion for the game! It was quite funny as we had to take him back to the room and then babysit him.
Then, in one exhibition game at Peshawar, Sachin famously hit Abdul Qadir for four sixes in an over. One of those sixes was coming towards the dressing room and we felt it would shatter the glass panes. To take on the leading leg-spinner in the world at the time was truly remarkable for someone so young.
What can one say about him now! He has broken so many records and brought glory to the country. These records were inevitable as he always had the talent and the class to do it. To play 200 Tests is no small achievement and there he stands on the threshold of that milestone. You cannot praise him enough; I truly am happy for him.
I feel he can still be connected to cricket and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) would do well to have him. He can be a talent-spotter as he has a good eye; he can coach the youngsters and also be a mentor to the team. His knowledge and experience would be of great value to the next generation, who have always looked up to him.
As he moves into a new life after retirement, I wish him the very best for his future.
— As told to Nishad Pai Vaidya
(Salil Ankola is a former India fast-bowler who played one Test and 20 One-Day Internationals (ODI). He made his Test debut along-side Sachin Tendulkar at Karachi in 1989. After his cricketing career, Ankola has taken to acting and has featured in numerous television shows)
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