To any sport aficionado growing up in India in the 90s and after, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar’s name was synonymous with the game of cricket. For sheer consistency in Test match cricket to swashbuckling centuries as ODI opener, Sachin was Mr Dependable for close to a quarter of a century in which he represented India. Sachin’s modesty in handling decades of fame was evident during the premiere of his biopic documentary, Sachin: A Billion Dreams, held in Mumbai last week. The hopes of millions of his followers had been pinned on Sachin’s presence at the crease, the stories and footage of which is seen in the film that records his life. But the heart-warming part of the cricketer’s understanding of his recognition came through the fact that on a big day like this, while rubbing shoulders with movie stars and socialites, Sachin still reserved the pride of place for his former teammates, his coach as well as his ‘superfan’ Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary, on the red carpet, and in the theatre.
As former cricketer Balwinder Singh Sandhu points out, it’s Sachin’s humble upbringing that has stuck with the master blaster throughout his life. “Coming from a middle class family, the way he was brought up, the values that were inculcated in him by his parents, and the way he’s carried it all off, has been quite commendable. He hasn’t let his success get to his head. Most of Ramakant Achrekar’s students (Sachin’s first coach) have learnt this philosophy rather well,” Singh said.
Sachin has gained this reverence thanks to his nature and game, reveals sports writer Ayaz Memon. He has earned their respect through rigorous hard work, and diligently playing the game, earning plaudits from all over the world,” he says. “The tremendous respect he has for his fans and the game hasn’t changed in the last 30 years; this has been a hallmark of Sachin. From his days as a cricketer in school to becoming an international legend, he has managed to stay down-to-earth and has continuously respected the game that has given so much.”
In a time where sportspersons are perhaps known more for their off-field antics, Sachin’s career remains a benchmark for Indian cricketers to live up to. Indeed, even in his farewell speech during his last game at the Wankhede stadium, in 2013, the Little Master thanked everyone, including his first coaches and fellow players, his wife and kids. Adds Sandhu, “The fact that he’s stayed away from controversy has definitely added to the respect he earned from his fans. He’s become an icon, where he can take the role of being a cricketing leader.”
— Inputs from K.A. Dodhiya