Following Sachin Tendulkar’s decision to retire from cricket, a lot has been written hailing his batting style and qualities as a player; but it would also be interesting to recall the role played by Mumbai, the city where he was born and continues to live even now, in shaping his career.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is currently debating whether his farewell 200th Test match should be played in Mumbai or Kolkata. Would it not be injustice to Mumbai if this city is not given that honour merely because Wankhede Stadium has a smaller seating capacity than Eden Gardens in Kolkata?
Being one among the few journalists who have been fortunate to trail this legend for 25 years, right from his school days in Mumbai, I am sure Tendulkar too will want to say goodbye to the game at the very stadium, where he, as a young ball boy, had watched the greats play from outside the boundary line during the 1987 World Cup. Surely, it will be difficult to digest the truth that this ball boy, who rose to the greatest heights in cricket, will soon no longer be seen on a cricket field.
As a journalist from Mumbai, I was present at the Sports Journalist Association of Mumbai event in 1987 where he was presented with the most promising cricketer award. The general feeling that day was that he was just another talented cricketer like the many Mumbai produces regularly. Then, by going on to become a world class player even before reaching adulthood, he proved he was a gem among all cricketers.
Circumstances and surroundings always have a big role in moulding a player, and Mumbai did have a huge part in Tendulkar’s life. For those with a burning desire to succeed, the hard life of commuting in the city surely makes one stronger in life for the future. And if one’s dreams take shape, nothing can prevent anyone in this city from rubbing shoulders with the best in the game. Tendulkar did just that by idolising Sunil Gavaskar, also from this city, and reached greater heights than his idol.
Tendulkar was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth; his father was a college lecturer and his mother an employee with Life Insurance Corporation of India. If not for Mumbai, his surroundings and the Shivaji Park ground in Dadar where he honed his cricketing skills, he could very well have taken up a teaching career like his father.
Tendulkar was named after Sachin Dev Burman, a famous Hindi film music composer of yesteryears. Like Burman’s heart-rending music, Tendulkar’s innings will live in our hearts forever!