Sachin Tendulkar recalls his Mumbai maidan memories, says Shivaji Park closest to his heart
In an exclusive email interview with Hindustan Times as part of its Mumbai Meri Hai series, one of Mumbai’s favourite sons, Sachin Tendulkar, talks about how the city’s maidans are an integral part of the megapolis, the roles these maidans played in his glorious career and his memories of Shivaji Park, Azad, Oval and Cross maidans.
How do you associate maidans with Mumbai?
The maidans of Mumbai – Shivaji Park, Oval, Azad, Cross Maidan, among others – remain lifelines of budding cricketers from the city and have played a vital role in creating world-class players. With constraint of open spaces in the city, the maidans are truly the only places where budding cricketers can express themselves. I have played in many countries, but I have never anywhere in the world witnessed a number of matches being simultaneously played at one ground, as it happens at Mumbai’s maidans. During my childhood, my coach Achrekar sir [Ramakant Achrekar] used to take me from one maidan to another on the same day, to ensure I get maximum match practice. During the making of my movie, Sachin: A Billion Dreams (a biographical documentary film that will release on May 26), I relived some of those amazing moments from my practice session days at Mumbai’s maidans.
Shivaji Park plays a special role in your career. How did the park help you grow as a cricketer?
It was where I first met my coach, my guru, Achrekar sir and the park was where I took my guiding steps in the world of competitive cricket. Here is where I made lifelong friends and relationships, but cricket was my best friend with whom I spent most of my time. In fact, to ensure that I spent more time practising at Shivaji Park, I moved to my aunt’s place from my parent’s house. It was a difficult decision at that time for me, but my family ensured that I managed to adapt to the change for my future. Shivaji Park will always have a special place in my heart.
A lasting memory at any of Mumbai’s maidans
When I think about Mumbai’s maidans, it takes me back to the sweet memory of the many one rupee coins that I used to get from my coach, Achrekar sir, for not losing my wicket during practice sessions. Those coins are precious and I still have them with me. The 664-run partnership in the Harris Shield semi-final played at Sassanian ground at Azad Maidan was also special.
Any fond memories, other than cricket, of the maidans
The entire ecosystem that supports the Mumbai cricket in the various maidans is fascinating. I remember the juice vendor at Shivaji Park and the vada pav wala, both of who have taken care of me during my childhood. Their offering was priceless, after a tiring practice session. The dedication of the groundsmen and the commitment of the coaches is also phenomenal. These people have seen generations of cricketers pass through their hands, and they are happy in seeing their [players’] success at the national and international level.
Are our maidans still capable of producing world-class cricketers?
Our maidans are very well capable of creating world-class players and they will continue to do so. I only hope we add more maidans to the list as the city expands. The young budding players in and around the city should not lose out on the maidan culture of Mumbai, which provides a solid foundation to face the challenges of the future.