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Master's most memorable touch

chandigarh Updated: Jul 28, 2012 10:46 IST
Praveen Singh
Praveen Singh
Hindustan Times
Indian cricketers Ravi Shastri

In the beginning of the summer of 1992, Bangkok's second six-a-side international cricket tournament was the mother of T20.

Great Indian cricketers Ravi Shastri, Anil Kumble, Manoj Prabhakar, Maninder Singh, Javagal Srinath, Vinod Kambli and, above all, Sachin Tendulkar had turned out for their clubs. We the Royal Cricket Club of Patiala, with the services of Ranji players such as Maheshinder Singh, RP Pandove, and Sunil Saggi, were no pie chuckers or mugs with the bat either.

The six players a side had six overs to complete an innings. Interest started to build in the tournament when big shots came into play. Sachin and Kambli were the most feared pair at the crease. Sachin, his arms around Kambli, would patrol the boundary line leisurely during matches, carrying juice and his boyish smile. During such one such walks, I had the courage to request both for a photograph with my team.

"No," was Kambli's fast reply. I hesitated to ask again, at which Sachin caught the impression on my face, nodded graciously, and said, "Okay, but where are your friends?"

I suppressed my jubilation to be able to utter I would gather them quickly, if the two would just wait there. Kambli was uneasy but he had to respect Sachin's words. I ran back to the practice pitches to find my mates. A few were knocking the bats, but some were missing.

It took me 10 minutes to assemble the group and guide it to the spot. Too late; the stalwarts had moved. I scanned the ground, and I was beginning to believe that Sachin-Kambli had played a prank on me when I found them on other side of the ground, speaking with Ravi, one of the organisers.

I ran the race of my life, fearing they might move out with Ravi. Short of banging into them, I stopped with my toes just avoiding a brush with Sachin's shoes. Before he could say anything, I started: "Sorry, it took me time to gather them, but there they are waiting. Would be grateful, if you accompanied me."

Kambli almost ruined the fix. "We waited," he said. "Now we can't come." But Sachin said something the value of which I realised years later. "I promised him," he told his friend, "so we have to go. Come on."

His commitment, his words, his character aren't tangible in the group photograph he shot with us later, but they are etched in my memory and heart. His rise is because of not only his genius, but also his core values and upright stance. Tons of respect.