At 76, the speech is somewhat slurred but his mind is clear as he speaks about the boy from Sharadhashram Vidya Mandir he would ferry around town to various grounds on his scooter over 20 years ago. "I wanted him to get match experience," said Ramakant Achrekar of Sachin Tendulkar.
In his ground floor flat a stone's throw from Dadar's Shivaji Park Gymkhana (SPG), once India's most famous nursery for budding cricketers, Achrekar was surrounded by people offering congratulations on Tendulkar's feat.
But the man himself was adamant that all his wards (including Vinod Kambli, Sairaj Bahutule, Praveen Amre, Chandrakant Pandit and Ajit Agarkar) were equal. And then there was a hint of indulgent pride as he added, "Sachin was more hardworking and always wanted to progress in cricket." Coming from "Achrekar-sir", that was high praise.
There is not a single photo of Tendulkar or any other pupil in the front room. Only a couple of souvenirs and his next comment too, is typically understated. "I am very happy, Sachin's principle was to play all the time and progress very well (sic)." And then came a hint of admonition, "he did not concentrate in Lanka and hence failed". "I observe how he plays. Technically he is too good but he can still improve in certain areas. The more he plays, the better he will be," he said. What those areas were, he would not say!
Back in the SPG it was suddenly discovered that the spelling of highest was going as 'higest', so steps were hurriedly taken to correct a banner. But for the kids keeping one eye on the happenings even while practicing, the spelling didn't matter.
It symbolised why they were here. It symbolized Him and maybe, one day, one of them.