By Rohan Bopanna
Growing up, I watched my dad following cricket devotedly. I distinctly remember my father pointing Sachin Tendulkar to me, saying he was an upcoming player and would do well.
Cricket could easily pass off as a religion in India and whether you like it or not, the sport grows on you at a very young age when you see it being played by everyone, whether it’s in school, parks, on the road etc., It has been the same in my case too, so much so I still absolutely love playing cricket when I find the time.
Since the age of 13, I really started following cricket and, of course, Sachin who had become a national icon by then. The stuff, which caught my eye, was definitely his straight drive and the manner in which he moved swiftly and the ease that he hit the ball with.
Sachin is an iconic figure according to me. At such a young age he was a revelation not only on the field but also off it with the maturity in which he conducted himself during his interviews.
Playing a professional sport myself, when I read about the amount of hard work and hours of training that Sachin put in practicing to become a professional athlete, I get motivated. I was motivated to see that even a quality player like him would put in so much of time into his sport. It just goes to show that there are no short-cuts.
I remember meeting Sachin in Bangalore for the first time, when he had come to open a sports bar, which I was invited for among few others. I got to spend some time and have dinner with him and it was an honour to see how humble and down to earth he was.
Sachin is a sportsman known worldwide; I remember seeing him at Wimbledon few years ago and even met him once at the stadium as he had come to watch Roger Federer play. To just have him watching our sport was a fabulous feeling.
I would most definitely remember the innings he played in the Sydney Test match in 2004 when he was 241 not out. He was so well composed and delivered a quality innings.
In a regular scenario, time just passes by. But two minutes spent talking to Sachin Tendulkar was such an honour which I will always cherish.
I am certain he will be not forgotten easily and will be spoken about in many years to come for sure. Sachin is an icon in so many ways that no matter what he takes up I am sure he would be supported, respected and loved for it.
— As told to Sudatta Mukherjee
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(Rohan Bopanna is a tennis player and currently ranked third in the world in doubles rankings. In 2010, Bopanna along with Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, popularly known as the ‘Indo-Pak Express’ finished runners-up in doubles at the US Open.)