When Sachin Tendulkar plays his 200th Test at the Wankhede, city-based bat maker Somi Kohli, who enjoys a 22-year-old association with Sachin, will also be getting ready to retire from his company, Beat All Sports (BAS), which he runs with his five brothers.
"I've been performing the duty of selecting a few willows out of the consignment of about 1000 from England and personally monitor the shaping of the willow according to the specifications given by Tendulkar," an emotional Kohli, 58, told HT.
"Several cricketers, including Harbhajan Singh, asked for willows out of Sachin's lot, but I did not relent," he said.
Kohli has conveyed to Sachin that it would not be possible for him to be in business without performing his 'major duty'.
Recollecting his first meeting with Sachin, when he was just 16, Kohli said, "My brother, Rakesh, who used to supply hockey sticks to the national team, introduced me to Sachin in Mumbai. The association grew and he preferred to play with bats supplied by me."
Asked which cricketer his company would prefer to supply the specially-designed Sachin willow, Kohli replied, "Sachin jaisa koi nahi." "No doubt MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli have emerged as outstanding players, but the relationship with Sachin was something special," said Kohli.
On the specifications of the willow, Kohli said initially Tendulkar preferred a heavy bat, but in recent years, willows of 1250-1280 grams were supplied."
"Last month, two bats were supplied and he is going to play with these in his 199th and 200th Tests," he said.
"Last week, Sachin sent a message that he was still knocking these bats and it would take some time to take a final decision on which bat he would walk out with. If he needs a few more, we will have them sent," said Kohli.
Kohli has been with Sachin through the ups and downs in the latter's career.
"I had specially designed batting gloves for Sachin and in the first match he scored a century with those on," he said.
"I told Sachin he needed something that would ward off the 'evil eye' and because of his fair complexion I designed a pair of gloves with one finger coloured black and a black wristband. Since then, Sachin has been wearing these specially-designed gloves," said Kohli.
Kohli said BAS, which also supplies bats to Hashim Amla and Kevin Pietersen, has a special association with India captain MS Dhoni.
"When Dhoni came to our factory in his younger days to order for a bat, he stayed at my residence and when I introduced him with my wife, she did not recognize him," said Kohli.
"One-and-half months later, Dhoni was selected in the India team and in his first match he scored 148 at Gwalior with a BAS willow," recalled Kohli.