It is small surprise that he has scored more than 34,000 international runs, played more than 650 matches and slammed 100 hundreds in Tests and one-dayers. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar always paid attention to numbers. Not just on the cricket field — where his scores on Mumbai’s maidans in the 1980s are part of cricketing folklore — but off it too.
“In cricket, Sachin has always scored big, but even during the Maths class in school, he was always very attentive,” says KR Shirsat, principal of Dadar’s Sharadashram Vidyamandir, who taught him Maths and Science in Class 8, 9 and 10. “He wasn’t a brilliant student, but was extremely disciplined, dedicated and focussed.”
Sound’s familiar? That’s the Tendulkar we have known for the past 24 years, every time he walks out to bat.
“His hunger for runs was much more during his school days. Even if Sachin scored a 300, he would be unhappy if the umpire gave one of his runs as a leg-bye. He would value every single run, and not just his, but even the non-striker’s,” said Marcus Couto, who played a big role in Sachin getting the first of his many world records.
Couto recalled another incident to illustrate how Tendulkar never forgot his early lessons. After a school match, coach Ramakant Achrekar gave Tendulkar a dressing down for not wearing a cap on the field. “Sachin thought wearing a cap was a style statement, but Achrekar told him that the cap was meant to protect him from the heat and to help him focus better, just like blinkers work for a horse,” said Couto. Tendulkar has never since taken the field without headgear.
“He is the greatest student of the game. He is thinking about cricket all the time,” said Laxman Chavan, who was Achekar’s assistant.
It was Chavan’s ‘declare the innings’ signals that Tendulkar and Kambli kept ignoring during their epic unbroken partnership of 664 in 1988.
Chavan shared another story about Tendulkar’s complete focus on cricket. “Once, Sachin was in Mumbai’s Under-15 team and the camp was at Wankhede and he got bowled in the nets. The next day, he came to Sassanian, where Achrekar sir and I were present for a school game, and asked Sir, ‘Why did I get bowled at the nets yesterday?’ The question showed how he was always thinking about the game. He listened very attentively when Achrekar sir told him about the variations in the pitches at different grounds. The science of the game got etched in his memory,” said Chavan.
“During his time with Achrekar sir, he would bat in the nets in the morning, bat in a couple of matches through the day, and then bat again in the nets in the evening. If that’s not hard work, what is,” asked Chavan.
There is another side to Tendulkar that only those close to him know. “He has been mischievous since school days,” said Ricky Couto, who shared a bench with Tendulkar in class. “We were the back benchers. Sachin is a prankster. But, when it comes to cricket, everything else takes a back seat. His dedication and passion for the game is unparalleled.”
It is this passion that has kept Tendulkar going since the age of 11. And it is with the same passion that he will play one final time in a couple of days at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. “I hope Sachin gets a 300,” said Couto.