He won't be there to witness the hype and hoopla of Sachin Tendulkar's farewell Test series but the man who claims to have repaired and crafted more than 20 bats for the senior batsman wants him to break Brian Lara's record of 400 runs in a Test innings before saying goodbye to the game.
"I pray to God that Tendulkar breaks Lara's record of 400 runs in a Test. That's one record not many are holding. If he gets it, it will make all Indians proud," Ram Bhandari, who has repaired and crafted more than 20 bats for Tendulkar, told PTI here.
Tendulkar has announced retirement from international cricket after playing his 200th Test match against the West Indies in November.
Bhandari admitted given the enormity of the occasion it would a tough ask from Tendulkar to get 400 runs but if anybody is capable of doing it, it is the diminutive Mumbaikar.
"Cricket is a funny game. Anything can happen. Did anybody in the world dream of somebody scoring a double hundred in a one-day game. Sachin did it. When he can do the unthinkable, why can't he do the thinkable?" he queried.
File photo of 52-year-old Ram Bhandari with Sachin. PTI Photo
Bhandari, a housekeeper at a commercial complex, customises bats as a part-time vocation. He came to Bangalore from Bihar in 1979.
Asked about Tendulkar's retirement, Bhandari said, "It is really sad that we will no more see Tendulkar after the West Indies series. I suppose he decided to quit probably to give chance to youngsters. All should respect his decision."
Bhandari said he has had a very good relation with Tendulkar and cherished how he came in contact with the master blaster in 2004.
"It was Rahul Bhai (Dravid) who introduced me to Tendulkar. Ever since, the little master has been using bats modified by me," he said.
When Tendulkar hit a bad patch in 2006, Bhandari figured that the weight of the bat was the culprit. He then reduced it from 1350 grams to 1250 grams.
"It worked like a charm. Tendulkar hit 157 in Malaysia that brought him back to form," said Bhandari. "Tendulkar was so happy that he asked me to give him bats of this weight only."
52-year-old Ram Bhandari repairs a cricket bat at his workshop. PTI Photo
Bhandari's life-story is no bed of roses. He started his career as a stunt man after completing a course in the Vijaya Film Institute.
He chose to work as a driver for film producer Shailendra Babu and soon became maintenance in-charge for a multi-storey commercial complex in Gandhinagar here.
It was around this time that Bhandari, to support his family, started repairing bats of local cricket players.
The most satisfying moments of Bhandari's life was when Tendulkar got his 50th Test century in South Africa with the bat he had crafted.
"That innings made me feel I am part of Tendulkar's history," he said.
Reminiscing another memorable incident, Bhandari said, "Four years ago I met Shivnarine Chanderpaul in Bangalore.
While I was giving a new look to his bat in his hotel, he served me food and after lunch was over,he himself cleared the plates. I was touched by his hospitality and humbleness which still remains fresh in my mind."
Bhandari is not only popular with Tendulkar, but is a celebrity among other cricketers like Chris Gayle, Ricky Ponting, Tilakaratne Dilshan, Luke Wright, Ross Taylor and Kieran Pollard. PTI Photo
'Bhandari ji', as he is called by members of the Indian cricket team, has showed his skills on the bats of Dravid, Virendar Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, besides other top cricketers.