In the team bus, Sachin always sits on the front seat at the window on the left, the equivalent of 1A in an aircraft.
In the dressing room, he chooses his spot first — Sachin always occupies a corner. Once he has exercised his choice, others rush to take their places.
territory is clearly marked — bats neatly leaned against the walls, clothes hung carefully on hooks above the chair.
Compared to the chaos around him, Sachin's kitbag is uncluttered. The equipment is arranged with remarkable attention to detail — pads on one side, shoes in another corner, batting gloves packed in plastic bags. Pasted on the inside flap of the kitbag are pictures of Ganapati and Shirdi saibaba, good luck message from his kids and the Indian flag.
Sachin, outwardly composed, is otherwise intensely competitive, which comes through even in friendly table tennis games in the team room. While others play aggressively, Sachin is like a tennis star on the Roland Garros clay court. He retrieves everything, induces errors from frustrated opponents and has the last laugh.
When he decides to swing a golf club, Sachin sprays his drive all over the place; a large draw towards mid-on or a huge slice that ends up near extra cover. But when he gets it right, making solid contact with the middle, the ball flies miles down the fairway. Sachin's putting is excellent, as is his judgement of distance and speed.
Sachin follows Roger Federer and Formula 1 and understands music and medicine. Is fond of seafood and can hold a conversation on the merits of different wines. He once lectured a colleague on the correct technique of opening a bottle of champagne — explaining to him the precise number of times the cork has to be twisted before popping it.
The team has a system of monetary fines for players coming late (to the bus or a meeting or a function) and for flouting the dress code. But Tendulkar has never had to pay up in 22 years.
The writer is a cricket administrator and views expressed are personal.
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