By Ratnakar Shetty
I was with the Indian team that travelled to Sri Lanka for the 1997 Asia Cup. The day the tournament was supposed to begin, a small inauguration ceremony was arranged at a ground where the flags of all four participating teams were hoisted. However, the Indian flag was fluttering upside down. Sachin Tendulkar, who was leading the Indian team, was the first to notice the mistake and promptly informed me and asked me to get the mistake rectified. We immediately went to the local authorities and got that changed.
Tendulkar, for me, has always been quite exceptional who showed tremendous focus and dedication towards the game from a very young age. Even before he was a household name, a multitude of cricket pundits and former cricketers were discussing his playing skills.
I still remember coach Ramakant Achrekar putting Sachin on the back seat of his scooter and taking him around to different grounds in Mumbai to hone his skills in those formative years.
My earliest memory of Sachin was his record 664-run partnership with Vinod Kambli in the Harris Shield Inter-school tournament at Azad Maidan. That’s when people began talking of the two as future stars of Indian cricket.
Sachin’s 24-year-long international career has been built on great levels of commitment, focus and dedication.
Most cricketers who have played alongside him across formats will tell you his attention to practice. His ability to approach a game irrespective of the format (club, state or international) is a great lesson in itself. When I look back at Sachin’s childhood, it was all about cricket.
Sachin has also to his eternal credit one of the cleanest records in cricket. Hardly would you find him embroiled in a controversy on or off the field. That too, is something youngsters should take note of and emulate.
Millions of fans all over India and the world will miss his presence in the side once he retires. However, every sportsman has to take the tough retirement decision at some point in time. In that sense, Sachin has taken an informed decision.
Sachin Tendulkar walks away from the game as one of its greatest ambassadors, with his demeanour proving that cricket is after all a gentleman’s game.
— As told to Prakash Govindasreenivasan
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(Prof Ratnakar Shetty is currently the General Manager — Game Development — of the Board of Control for Cricket in India)