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'I am proud I was Sachin Tendulkar's first captain'

October 28, 2013 08:52 IST

'I am proud I was Sachin Tendulkar's first captain'

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Ahead of Sachin Tendulkar's 200th and final Test next month, former India and Mumbai batsman Lalchand Rajput tells Harish Kotian how he still vividly remembers a shy 14-year-old scoring a century on his Ranji debut in 1988-89 and growing up to become one of cricket's finest players

I have known Sachin Tendulkar for a long time now. I remember, when he came into the Ranji Trophy team as a young boy, aged 14-and-a-half, he was so shy that he would sit in a corner and keep to himself.

He forced his way into Mumbai’s team on the sheer volume of runs he scored in every match, like the zonal and under-19, he played. He was so young and scoring so heavily that we all wanted to see him bat in Ranji games.

When he came into the Mumbai team there were a lot of big names in it. It was not easy for a youngster to get into the team. So it was really heartening to see a 14-year-old make it.

As captain, my responsibility was to make such a young player feel relaxed going into a game. I remember telling him to take his first match as another under-19 game where he was scoring well. I told him to just continue doing what he did before and forget that he was playing in the Ranji Trophy. We told him that every cricket match is the same, though he won’t get as many loose deliveries as one gets at the junior level. He did exceptionally well and started his career with a splendid hundred.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar (left) with Lalchand Rajput
Photographs: Will Burgess/Reuters

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'World Cup was something Sachin always dreamed about'

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That century on his Ranji Trophy debut will always be etched in my memory. All eyes were on him that day; the selectors, former players and the press. After all, he had already scored a lot of runs in junior cricket.  And, needless to say, he got a big hundred.

Winning the World Cup in 2011 is another special Sachin moment for me, because it was something he always dreamed about.

After we won the 2007 World T20, where I was the team’s coach, he lamented that he had not won a World Cup despite playing so much cricket, and wanted to achieve it. When India won the 2011 final at the Wankhede stadium it was a special feeling for him that he did it on his home ground.

He had broken every possible batting record in both Test and ODIs, played more matches than anyone, but the World Cup was something he yearned for.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar (centre) celebrates with team mates after winning the 2011 World Cup final against Sri Lanka in Mumbai
Photographs: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Reuters

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'It is very difficult for a cricketer to hang up his boots'

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Today, Sachin is a perfect role model for youngsters. He has so much knowledge and experience, yet he is so humble. Despite achieving so much his feet are firmly on the ground. That is a big lesson to everyone.

There are so many things a youngster can learn from him. Like how seriously he takes his cricket. Even at the age of 40, before going for a Ranji Trophy game he bats for two hours in the nets daily. If you just watch him you can learn a lot. To perform so consistently for 25 years, despite the extra burden of expectation from so many fans, is a great achievement in itself.

I am sure he and everyone will be emotional when the time comes for his 200th and last Test. It is very difficult for a cricketer to hang up his boots. Sachin has played for so many years so he is going to find it tough. He will feel different the morning after his last game.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar (left) with Lalchand Rajput
Photographs: Steve Holland/Reuters
Tags: Sachin , Ranji

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'Getting a hundred in his last match will be the icing on the cake'

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It is a big moment for all us Mumbaikars too, as he started his career in Mumbai and is ending it at his home ground.

I am extremely proud that I was his first captain when he played Ranji Trophy at such a young age. I am happy he had such a wonderful career but also sad to see him go. I just loved watching him bat.

Getting a hundred in his last match will be the icing on the cake. We all hope and pray that he does well and retires on a high.

I'm not sure what he has planned for the future, but certain there will be something that will keep him attached to the game. He would certainly like to give something back to the game he loves and has given him so much.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Reuters

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