My first interaction with Sachin Tendulkar was when we played the Ranji Trophy semifinal in 1989. I was the captain of Delhi and we were playing on a square turner at the Wankhede.
In our midst, we had some high-quality spinners, including Maninder Singh and Kirti Azad, but young Sachin batted brilliantly to make a 78. Bombay went on to lose the match on first innings lead but you could not but marvel at the technique, composure and confidence of Sachin.
At the end of the game, I told my Delhi teammates that this kid was a special talent and would go on to play for India. Not all my mates were convinced, but here we are today. I didn’t know then that he would smash all records in cricket.
I ran into Sachin several times after that, and was at Old Trafford when he made his maiden Test century against England in 1990. I was playing professional cricket in England, and obviously couldn’t miss India playing a Test in Manchester.
I was thrilled to watch Sachin take on the English bowling in the second innings. He had made a half-century in the first, but India were under pressure to save the match and Sachin batted like a true champion. He was only 17, but displayed maturity beyond his years.
The English spectators took him to heart. I remember Richie Benaud, and his ‘Áh’ every time Sachin played one of his trademark punches through the offside.
Up for challenge
The one thing that Sachin loved the most was a challenge. He was a man of not many words, particularly in a group, because he was and is still extremely shy. But throw him among a group of five or six that he is extremely close to, and you can see the kid in Sachin come to the fore even today.
Sachin has never behaved like a prima donna. In the dressing room, he is the silent prankster, but he is also the first to make a newcomer feel at home. His greatness doesn’t lie with his batting alone. As a human being and team man, he is beyond compare.
The legacy you leave behind is not measured in terms of runs and wickets but in terms of the respect and adulation of teammates, peers and fans. Even there, Sachin stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Madan Lal was India coach when Sachin Tendulkar was captain