Karun Chandhok and Sachin Tendulkar

Karun Chandhok (left) has Sachin Tendulkar s undivided attention. Photo Courtesy: Karun Chandhok

By Karun Chandhok

My earliest memory of Sachin Tendulkar dates back to 1989 when he started playing for India. I was five years old and in school and like everyone else in the nation had heard about this new, 16-year-old batting phenomenon. 

It was the 1992 World Cup I first saw him play. It was probably the first time I remember sitting down to watch a game live. That Indian team had the likes of Kapil Dev, Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Ravi Shastri, all superstars. And there was young Sachin, who was holding his own and making a name for himself.

The great thing about Sachin is humility. He is undoubtedly India’s biggest star, but he is still very down to earth. I have spent time with him and found him to be just a normal individual.

I have always admired people in sports who are able to perform at the highest level for a long period of time. They are able to stay motivated, and perform at a level which the team and country require. A good example is Roger Federer. Tendulkar has been there for almost 24 years now at an incredible level. That speaks volumes for his motivation and focus.

The Sachin saga is replete with many remarkable innings. But what is etched in my memory dates back to a time when I was still in school. I remember going to watch the 1999 World Cup in England. Sachin had lost his father during the course of the World Cup. He went back to India for his father’s funeral, missed a match in the process, but was back to play the match against Kenya. I was awestruck watching him play. To regain his focus so quickly after such a traumatic blow and score a brilliant hundred at the highest level of the game was truly incredible.

I met him for the first time in France. He had come to watch a GP2 race, which I was participating, in at the French Grand Prix. I spend a little bit of time with him there. I thought he will be just another casual fan but what was amazed by his in-depth knowledge about Formula One. He wanted to know the intricacies, the strategy, the mental challenges, etc. He was more than a casual viewer of the sport. It was nice to see people like him who are genuine fans of the sport. He follows it for the right reasons.

When you have a conversation with him, he is genuinely interested. He doesn’t ask questions for the sake of asking.

No individual is bigger than the sport. At the end of the day, whether it is Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher, the sport goes on. Cricket will miss the colossal figure of Sachin Tendulkar, but at the end of the day the sport will keep going.

— As told to Sudatta Mukherjee

(Karun Chandhok is an Indian racing driver, who competes for Seyffarth Motorsport in FIA GT Series. Earlier he has competed for Hispania Racing in Formula One in 2010.)

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