By Shantanu Sugwekar
I feel truly blessed to have played cricket for 10 long years with the greatest legend on earth called Sachin Tendulkar. I’m immensely grateful to the Almighty for this opportunity. I wonder how he is able to remain so rooted despite achieving so much in his life. It’s truly amazing.
We were teammates in the Sun-Grace Mafatlal team. I still remember the partnership we forged in a Times Shield against Western Railway. Sachin and I came together to bat at 100 for three around lunch time. At the end of the day we were 500 for three — both of us had scored our respective double hundreds and scored 200 runs in each session. It was like a competition between us: ‘If you play this shot, I too can!’ And what I cherish most was when Sachin said to me in the dressing room at the end of the day’s play, “Shantan, some of your shots were actually better than mine.” Those words still give me an unbelievable high, coming from the maestro.
Not many make the mistake of sledging Sachin and Viv Richards — that would be going half down to meet trouble! Upsetting them is inviting mayhem.
I remember a couple of instances when bowlers made the mistake of sledging Sachin. The first one happened in a one-dayer against Zimbabwe when Henry Olonga bowled a bouncer at Sachin, which he let left alone. But Olonga made the biggest mistake of running a long way down the wicket on his follow-through and stare at Sachin. We all know what happened to Olonga!
The next incident I recall was in the Maharashtra-Mumbai game where young fast bowler Ketan Doshi made a mistake similar to the one Olonga, made. This was despite me, as the captain, advising all my bowlers not to show any emotions when Sachin is at the crease. Doshi ignored the advice and we were chasing leather for the next three hours!
I have seen Sachin getting upset occasionally at umpiring decisions. But he has always shown his displeasure, very calmly. But openly disputing an umpiring decision? Never! That’s not his style.
On a personal front, I cannot ever forget an incident dating back to 1991 when I started a health club in Aurangabad. I had asked Sachin whether he would come for the opening. He promptly accepted the request. He gave me April 26 as the date. Later on, when the Apple Cart Club was completely ready and set to open, I called him. But he was in Bahrain for some promotional thing. Three days before the scheduled inauguration, I called his brother Ajit. I asked him how he will he be able to come to Aurangabad and inaugurate if he is still in Bahrain. Ajit replied, “If he has given an assurance he will definitely come.”
I said, “Ok if you are saying so, else I will postpone the date.”
I was surprised when I got a call early morning on April 26. Tendulkar said he had come to Mumbai and he will take a flight to Aurangabad and reach by 9:00 am. He came, inaugurated the club, spent an hour, gave a small speech, spoke to everyone and by the same flight he flew back to Mumbai at 9:30 pm and then went back to Bahrain! I was amazed at his commitment. I can’t imagine anybody doing this for a friend.
No matter how small a cricketer he comes across, Sachin has immense respect for all. Being a genius is one thing, but being a genius and yet being humble is something else.
— As told to Abhijit Banare
(Shantanu Sugwekar is one of the giants of Indian domestic cricket who has a career First-Class batting average of 63 plus, with 19 hundreds, in a 15-year playing span. He ranks seventh in First-Class batting among batsmen with a minimum of 50 career innings. Though he was on the India standbys several times, his only appearance for the country has been at the under-19 level)
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