I saw him for the first time, and his interest in cricket really surprised me. He was always the first person to be on the field for practice and always the last to leave.
Sometimes, the ground staff used to come and tell me, “Sir, we need to prepare pitches for the match, please ask your boys to leave the nets.” And invariably it used to be Sachin. Apart from attending the entire practice sessions, he never used to sit idle. He would keep doing something or the other — batting, bowling, fielding; he was a restless person on the field. He didn’t want to remain static.
Sachin was never overawed despite being the youngest to make it to the national side at the age of 16. In fact, he was very confident. I gave him a few tips in the nets but I did not have to take care of him otherwise. When Salil Ankola (he made his debut with Tendulkar) and Sachin were done with their practice, they used to come back to the dressing room and practice again. They would take a tennis ball and Ankola would bowl at him.
In an exhibition match, he hit three beautiful sixes against Abdul Qadir. In the fourth Test at Sialkot, Sachin was hit by a delivery from Waqar Younis and he started bleeding from the nose. When the physio advised him to come off the field, he said, “No, no, I will continue playing.”
Then, he hit him for three consecutively boundaries. It was a difficult wicket, a green top. In fact, the surprised umpires asked the ground staff if it was the wicket that was designated for the match. Sachin went on to score some 50-odd runs. The way he played, I was sure that this boy would serve the country for a long time. The way he batted courageously was a turning point of his career.
Later, I became the chairman of the selection committee (Sachin was then in his second stint as skipper). I asked him a couple of times if he would like to continue, but he declined, saying he wanted to concentrate on his batting. Sourav Ganguly was selected as captain.
Sachin’s child-like enthusiasm and dedication for the game have never changed. Whenever he committed a mistake in a match, he would go back to the nets and rectify it. That is the reason for his long career.