The dream of every cricket fan not just in India but also outside is to meet the great Sachin Tendulkar at least once. More so if you have grown up parallel to his career in the 90s, like I have. My first and only meet (so far) with Tendulkar happened on September 30, 2004 but it was completely unplanned.
The Australian team had arrived in India for their test and ODI tour in 2004. They were supposed to play a practice game against Mumbai at the Brabourne Stadium aka The Cricket Club of India (CCI) from October 2 onwards. Hence, they had their practice session on September 30 at the same place. My friend Ashish Desai’s uncle Mr Sanjay Samant happens to be the member of the CCI. It was through him that we were supposed to get a chance to meet the Australian team during their practice.
Both of us reached CCI much before time, such was our excitement to see the likes of Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden, Jason Gillespie, Michael Clarke, etc, in person. There was still an hour before Ashish’s uncle would reach the venue. So what do we do till then?
Ashish suggested that we try and see if we can enter without any ID card. As per his plan, we should walk with such confidence that nobody should doubt that we are not the members of the CCI. We did that while walking with a lot of attitude (50 rupya kaat overacting ka) and went past the security personnel. The plan worked. Nobody stopped us and within a minute we were standing right near the Australian team! At that time, it looked like an achievement. Today it feels like security lapse.
Anyways, we were left awestruck while looking at these iconic Australian cricket stars practicing, exercising and cracking jokes at a distance of just a foot. Our next step was to see if we can get an autograph of any of the cricketers. Mobile phones with camera weren’t a regular thing 19 years ago.
We saw Michael Kasprowicz happily signing autographs. I approached him but just before my turn, he said he needs to go and will be back later. I was left disappointed. I focussed again on the batting of the Australian team in the nets.
Just when I was wondering which Australian cricketer should I approach next, a car zoomed in to the CCI and out came Sachin Tendulkar! Here he was, unannounced and we were shocked, in a good way. Our legs automatically ran towards him. Despite the crowd charging towards him, Sachin was calm. Surprisingly, the crowd behaviour wasn’t as wild as I had expected it to be when he arrived.
Much to our joy, Sachin happily and patiently gave autographs to each one of us. Some of those youngsters started having some light conversation with Sachin and he shyly answered to a few of them. He had opened the dickey of his car to keep back his cricket kit. While he was about to shut the same, he, along with Ashish, asked all of us to get back to ensure we don’t get hurt. I was surprised that his voice didn’t sound like how those mimicry artists make it sound. While this was happening, we completely forgot about the Australian team.
When I had left home in the morning, I had no idea what the day had in store for us. But Sachin wasn’t the only one who made my day. After Sachin left and the euphoria was over, an Australian gentleman came towards me and said, “You wanted my autograph, right?” It was Michael Kasprowicz keeping his word.
India lost the test series but the fourth match in Mumbai, which happened around a month later, turned out to be a memorable affair. Read more about that match HERE.
Only time Tendulkar was NOT selected in team India, neither injured nor rested