'Sachin Tendulkar flew from Kolkata to Delhi, drove to Agra and reached his hotel at 2.00 am and played an offices match at 7.00 am!’

Sachin Tendulkar promised that if Sun-Grace Mafatlal entered the final, he’d definitely come and play. He played the match, his team won and despite all the travelling he dragged the team to swimming pool in the evening © Getty Images

By G Krishnan

Everyone associated with Sachin Tendulkar over the years has a story or two to tell about the legend who is in the final week of his international cricket career. Suru Nayak, the former India all-rounder, is no different. He was Tendulkar’s first room-mate in 1987-88 — the senior player’s penultimate First-Class season.

Nayak recalled the days when he shared a room during a Ranji Trophy match in Baroda with the “shy and restless” Tendulkar. Now, the Cricket Operations Manager with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Nayak said, “Sachin was the youngest member of the Mumbai team when he was first selected. Chandu (Chandrakant Pandit, captain) thought that since I was the senior most member of the team, I share the room with the 14-year-old. 

“He was very fidgety in the room, used to always take his stance in the room and bat, imitating his shots. He was very restless at nights. Even today, he is the same, thinking what he has to do the next day, etc,” Nayak said.

Tendulkar, though, had to wait for the next season to make his first-class debut. “Against Baroda, we played on the lively Moti Baug pitch. He was very tiny and it was decided not to make him play as Baroda had a very good attack,” Nayak said.

Nayak called Tendulkar a class act even as a teenager. “He batted so well in the nets, the way he handled Raju Kulkarni and Anup Sabnis, our pacers, was superb.”

Nayak said that though Tendulkar did not ask him to bowl in the room, he was very observant. “He used to look at people and observe things. He was very shy to even sign autographs. He is still shy. Unless you approach him, he will not say things or comment. “

Nayak also remembers the sincerity with which Tendulkar turned out for Sun-Grace Mafatlal in tournaments. He recalled how Tendulkar travelled all the way from the interiors of West Bengal in the early 1990s when he had already broken into the Indian team. Nayak revealed: “Sachin promised that if Sun-Grace entered the final, he’d definitely come and play. He flew from Kolkata to Delhi and drove to Agra to reach the hotel around two at night to play the tournament (Sheesh Mahal) starting at 7.00 am! Sachin was there at the ground before the team had reached and played that game which we won. Despite all the travelling and playing, he dragged all of us to the swimming pool that evening.”

Nayak said Tendulkar was not a prankster. “Vinod [Kambli] was the prankster. He had a good sense of humour, though. He’d respect the senior players and elders.”

Nayak credited the Tendulkar family for the cricketer’s upbringing. “The Tendulkars, especially his brother Ajit, have maintained a high standard of behaviour throughout his 25 years of international cricket.”

Sachin Tendulkar Retirement

(G Krishnan qualified as an umpire from Tamil Nadu Cricket Association in 1997 before making sports journalism as a career. His other interests include wildlife and reading. Krishnan is Principal Correspondent of DNA where the above article first appeared)