He was there before the beginning, so to say. But when Sachin Tendulkar walks out for his farewell Test series, the man who played a part in approving the selection of an outrageously talented 16-year-old to do battle against Pakistan first up will not be at the Eden Gardens to cheer him on.
Akash Lal, 73, a former Delhi and Punjab opener was one of three members in the five-man national selection panel to back the teenager’s selection, in September 1989. But he feels let down by the cricket administrators, who have not bothered to invite him to watch Tendulkar in action. Lal and former batting great GR Viswanath are the only surviving members of the panel which picked a curly-haired boy who more than calmed the nerves that had made it a tight 3-2 at that meeting.
Lal said his polite enquiry a few days ago with Cricket Association of Bengal president, Jagmohan Dalmiya, about being invited to Eden Gardens, was met with a ‘I’ll get back’.
“The BCCI should have had the courtesy to invite the two survivors of the panel that sat down to select him. It has not happened till now,” he told HT. The CAB has also not invited Viswanath, the former India skipper. “Mr Srinivasan is only concerned about remaining in power,” Lal said, criticising the BCCI president, as well as his own Delhi association. “I’d have loved to be at Sachin’s last Tests.”
Lal recalled that famous selection meeting. News of astonishing batting deeds by the boy was spreading. The late Raj Singh Dungarpur, selection panel chairman, began proceedings with the remarks, “We’ll hopefully select the youngest to play for India”.
Dungarpur and Naren Tamhane (Ramesh Saxena was the fifth selector) had watched Tendulkar bat at some length. “His performances at the domestic level were exceptional. His technical ability surpassed that of many greats of that time,” Lal recalled. The only worry was how the boy would fare against Pakistan’s formidable quartet of Imran Khan, Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir. “There was genuine concern that if Sachin failed against that great bowling attack, we may destroy that great talent. But I said the more we delay, he can become disheartened.”
Lal reminisced about a job well done. “More than a player, I’m yet to come across a more humble man. Perhaps (ex-batting stalwart) Vijay Hazare was another exception.”