It is hard work and toil that builds a champion and it is no different in the case of Sachin Tendulkar. The 24-year international journey is a result of hours of batting sessions in the nets that has enabled the man to dominate international cricket for over two decades.
There are a number of individuals who have contributed to moulding the genius of Tendulkar along the way, but it was under the able guidance of coach Ramakant Achrekar that Tendulkar took his first steps on the way to carving an illustrious career in the game.
Achrekar has become frail and does not recall much of those days when a curly-haired boy got all his attention. However, according to Laxman Chavan, who assisted Achrekar, Tendulkar was like any normal boy, but it was the spark in his cricketing skills that caught the eye of Achrekar.
“He was like any other boy -- shy, reticent. But give him a bat and he was a man on a mission. Achrekar sir had many wards, but Sachin was the one who asked the most questions. The knowledge he gained dissecting every aspect of his game was astounding,” Chavan said.
Full of questions
“Sachin would repeatedly come to Achrekar sir with his doubts. The one that had everyone sit up and take notice was when he first played a school game in a stadium. He came and asked sir why he could not time the ball properly as he did in the maidans. He was hardly 13 then.
"Sir explained to him that well-prepared pitches were faster. What was astonishing was his ability to look so minutely into issues that usually only senior cricketers worried about. It was his dedication when it came to cricket that took him far ahead,” Chavan added.
Tendulkar’s youth is filled with stories of how he travelled from one ground to the other riding pillion on Achrekar’s scooter. It was a constant grind that also saw many glorious moments, including triple centuries, and a record partnership with team-mate Vinod Kambli that has become a landmark moment in Mumbai’s rich cricket history.
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No change in attitude
While Tendulkar entered the international scene in 1989, there was no change in his dedication to improve. The hunger to succeed was no less either. “He was like a gutsy soldier who would get runs for the team. He would play only if he was 100% fit and he was aware of the team demands,” said former India team manager Ajit Wadekar.
“I used to be disappointed with him and scold him if he did not get to 150 after scoring a century,” recalled Wadekar.
Tendulkar also never let bad moments keep him down. According to Anshuman Gaekwad, coach of the team during the home series against Pakistan in 1999, Tendulkar buried his face in the towel after he failed to secure a victory for the team despite scoring a century.
“But he recovered soon enough and was back to his usual ways. He had tremendous involvement with the team, alive all the time, full of life. His performance always used to be 110%. His was competitive in whatever he did, we used to play TT to unwind and he was competitive there as well. And when I was coach, he was very mature with a lot of time spent playing international cricket. He was very confident of his abilities,” said Gaekwad.
“A great student of the game, he was easy to handle because he was a thorough professional. He always played for the team, came on time and knew his game intimately. To do anything well you got have the love and passion for it. That’s always seen in Sachin’s cricket,” said John Wright, who worked with Tendulakar both as India and Mumbai Indians coach.
But one major aspect has been Tendulkar’s childlike nature, which has not waned even after 24 years in the international game. “His childlike aspect and passion has stayed with him throughout his career,” said Gaekwad.