By Sudhir Naik
I have some good memories of Sachin Tendulkar from the very beginning of his career. I used to watch him play at as a school kid at Azad Maidan and like most people who saw his game, I too believed that he was an exceptionally talented kid. Some of the shots that he played on the rise, some of the pull shots and the cover drives were unbelievable to watch coming from a 13-year-old’s bat.
The expectations people had from Tendulkar bore fruits when he got a chance to tour Pakistan in 1989, which in itself was a great achievement for a 16-years-old. To top that, he walked out to face the likes of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Abdul Qadir. Tendulkar played against one of the best bowling attacks of that time and managed two fifties and looked like a senior pro. That is something I can never forget.
Once he started scoring, he never stopped. I loved all his centuries against Australia because it came against the best team. His 241 not out at Sydney in 2004 is one of my favourite Sachin innings. Again, the range of shots he played was truly impressive.
Tendulkar was an inquisitive boy from a very young age and that has stayed that way. Even today when he comes to Mumbai and meets me, he has numerous questions about the Wankhede wicket: How is it for the batsmen? How much bounce can one expect early on? We would sometimes spend hours discussing the pitch.
I think Tendulkar’s dedication towards the game helps him stand apart. I don’t think you find such kids nowadays who will spend hours together in practice relentlessly. Even now, Tendulkar will be happy to give as many hours as possible to practice. That is what has helped him shape his career, one that nobody can replicate in my opinion.
— As told to Prakash Govindasreenivasan
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(Sudhir Naik is a former India and Mumbai batsman who went on to become the chief curator at the Wankhede Stadium. He is also the current head of Mumbai’s selection panel)