Ramakant Achrekar - A guru who shaped many careers
Not only Sachin Tendulkar, but supremely talented Vinod Kambli was also among Achrekar’s students along with Pravin Amre, Ajit Agarkar and Ramesh Powar.Updated: Jan 02, 2019 23:52 IST
There have been only a few coaches who are as widely respected and revered as Ramakant Achrekar, and his passing away on Wednesday at the age of 87 leaves a huge chasm on Mumbai’s rich cricket map.
‘Achrekar Sir’ produced many a cricketers at his academy Kamat Memorial in Shivaji Park, where he also lived close by, but his greatest contribution to the world of cricket was honing Sachin Tendulkar, the man who scored most international hundreds, most Test runs, most ODI runs, and played most Tests, among many other feats.
Tendulkar was not the only one; supremely talented Vinod Kambli was also among Achrekar’s students along with Pravin Amre, Ajit Agarkar and Ramesh Powar.
After suffering a stroke around six years ago, Achrekar was left with reduced mobility. He passed away in his sleep on Wednesday evening at his home where he used to stay with his three daughters and grandchildren.
Honoured with the Dronacharya Award in 1990 as well as the Padma Shri — one of India’s highest civilian awards in the sports category in 2010 — Achrekar did not have a stellar career as a player by his own admission, which he had as a coach. A burning desire to help others achieve what he could not drove Achrekar, who also served as a selector for Mumbai.
He played for the New Hind Sports Club, Young Maharashtra XI, Gul Mohar Hills as well as Mumbai Port. His only First-Class match came for State Bank of India against the Hyderabad Cricket Association XI in 1960 in the Moin-ud-Dowla tournament.
Tendulkar his greatest achievement
It was Achrekar who transformed Tendulkar’s dream of becoming a fast bowler to a batsman, suggesting a change in his school from Bandra’s New English School to Shardashram Vidya Mandir, which proved to be a masterstroke for the prodigious batsman.
The BCCI expresses its deepest sympathy on the passing of Dronacharya award-winning guru Shri Ramakant Achrekar. Not only did he produce great cricketers, but also trained them to be fine human beings. His contribution to Indian Cricket has been immense. pic.twitter.com/mK0nQODo6b— BCCI (@BCCI) January 2, 2019
Achrekar invested himself completely into Tendulkar’s development, who he had spotted as the one to watch out for right in at the beginning. As the years rolled by and Tendulkar kept climbing pedestals of greatness one after the other, Achrekar expressed the ‘Little Master’ was never the one who had to be taught the game as he knew it in abundance, and rather, needed only a few tweaks.
But by Tendulkar’s admission, acknowledgements would be scarce; ‘well played’ are the words players get to hear often but the legendary batsman would not. Instead, a trip to a bhel puri or vada paav shop would tell Tendulkar that he had played well that day.
‘Rs 1 coins worth gold medals’
Achrekar would famously put Rs 1 coin on the stump challenging bowlers to clean up Tendulkar, who would interestingly bealso considered out if a nearby street vendor took a catch. Obstinately, Tendulkar would ‘keep it on the ground’.
It is something that he remembers fondly. “It was a medal for me. When someone competes in the Olympics and wants to win a medal and we used to compete like that,” he told a news channel.
“Cricket in heaven will be enriched with the presence of Achrekar sir. Like many of his students, I learnt my ABCD of cricket under Sir’s guidance. His contribution to my life cannot be captured in words. He built the foundation that I stand on,” said Tendulkar in his first reaction.