The journey begins...
I was 12 years old then as I sat on the dining table of my Mama's house watching my cousin another cricket freak read the Indian Express and telling his dad, "this kid has just scored a century in the Irani Trophy Final, he will be in our team soon."
That was the first I heard of the marvel named Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. At 15 years in Ranji Debut he scored a century, on Deodhar trophy he scored a century and ended his first Ranji season as Mumbai's highest run scorer. In the ensuing Irani Trophy final he again scored a century.
The writing was on the wall and Sachin was on the plane to Pakistan to play against the worlds best pace attack in their own den.
A 16 year old kid was off to live a dream it might seem but hey he was off to Pakistan of all places to face Wasim, Waqar and Imran backed with Abdul Qadir !!!! Whilst I honestly wasnt a very keen cricket follower then... I still marvel at the stories from that tour... the series was fought hard and in the last test at Sialkot it was 38/4 with India leading by 100 odd runs in their second innings. Suddenly the series had come alive... Pakistan could win..
In walked the lil boy... it was like being thrown to the wolves... Akram, Imran and Waqar let it rip. Sachin discovered fast that international cricket on the field was the last place to find friends as the pace bowling trio bounced Sachin constantly and one from Waqar found its mark, only Srikanth and Sachin in that match batted in a helmet without a grill and Sachin paid the price. He was struck flush on his nose and was bleeding profusely...
As the physio checked Sachin, Sidhu put an arm on Sachin the 16 year old simply said, "Paaji Main Khelenga !!"
That one line even today tells me that age is only a number, this 16 year old had a heart of a full grown man !!!! At one point the umpire Holder in that match had to warn Akram for persistent short pitched bowling. Sachin and Sidhu saved that match and it ended in a draw.
First test series ended with 215 runs at an average of 35 odd runs !!!
In the only ODI on that trip Sachin made a duck on debut... !!
That entire trip of Pakistan was marred by unruly crowd behaviour that would pelt orange peels and stones on the Indian players on the field. I particularly remember this one charity match in Peshawar where the crowd jeered and taunted Sachin and came with posters citing,"Sachin go back and have milk".
It was during this match that Sachin hit Mustaq Ahmed for 2 sixes in an over, this led to Abdul Qadir the mentor of Mustq Ahmed to taunt Sachin, "Bache ko kya maar rahe ho, hume maar ke dikhao"
Sachin didnt reply to Qadir, but when Qadir came to bowl, Sachin hit him for 6, 0, 4, 6, 6, 6. Yes 28 runs in an over and that was it !! The kid had arrived well and truly. The champion legspinner from Pakistan had been hit and his ego badly bruised.
Incidentally this is when I fell in love with this magnificient game cricket for the first time in life, suddenly my hero Diego Maradona had just been replaced by another curly wonder boy Sachin !!!!!
As a kid I had always heard stories of Perth from my dad and my cousin about how fast a track it was and how bouncy the pitch there was. Sachin on his first tour of Australia made a century in Sydney in 1992 along with Ravi Shashtri who made a double century. Sydney though was the only track in Australia that came even remotely close to India in bounce. Everyone from cricket greats to a lil fan in me wanted to see how we batted in Perth, THE WORLDS FASTEST PITCH.
Australia was armed with Craig Mcdermott, Michael Whitney, Merv Hughes & Paul Reifel and they were raring to go on a green WACA wicket after the Australians scored 350 odd in the first innings Sachin walked in at 69-2...
For a player from the subcontinent this was his biggest test, the worlds fastest pitch against 4 pronged fast bowling attack this was the moment of truth for the guy and he smashed the bowlers to all parts of the ground. He made 118 of the best quality and till date I have not seen such square cutting by any player on such a lively track !!!!!
This led to Merv Hughes telling the Aussie captain Allan Border, "This lil prick is going to score more runs than you !!!!"
After establishing himself in the hearts of all Indians at the end of the Pakistan tour, it was here in 1992 where Sachin established himself as a cricketer that the whole world watched. The Benaud's, the Chappell's, the Richards, the Lawry's, the Greig's all took notice of the innings in Perth.
The long journey in international cricket which had loads of accolades and a few brickbats was just beginning for this shy lad from Mumbai, he had established himself and the next decade or two would be when the world would watch him !!!!
From that day to today Sachin has travelled a long distance giving us endless memories and hundreds of moments of ecstacy !!!
On Sunday, 15th of November, Sachin completes 20 years in international cricket with his 160th test match for his beloved India. Over the past 20 years Sachin has given us endless memories, endless reasons to smile on a day when things havent gone well its Sachin's batting that can lift your mood !!!!
Its almost impossible to list all of Sachin's moments but I will try to list a few more of his memories that I think are special but that will be in part II of this post !!!!