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A dinner invitation none would refuse!

Last updated on: April 26, 2020 11:54 IST

To the future Chairman of Selectors, it revealed how simple and humble the batting colossus was.
A Joseph Antony reports.

IMAGE: Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his birthday with wife Dr Anjali Tendulkar, April 24, 2018. Sachin did not celebrate his birthday this year in memory of all those who perished during the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: Hitesh Harisinghani/

'I had learnt over the years that when great players start by concentrating on their defence and technique they have ambitions to stay for the long haul. So when (Sachin) Tendulkar let scoring opportunities pass by in preference to sizing up the pace and bounce in the pitch, the signs were ominous,' Steve Waugh recalled in Out Of My Comfort Zone.

Former Indian wicket-keeper M S K Prasad, relatively new to the format, was in the Indian one day international (ODI) squad for the Coca-Cola Singapore Challenge, also featuring the West Indies and Zimbabwe, in September 1999.

Resting in his hotel room, the Andhra lad reached for the phone when the intercom buzzed. "Are you alone?" enquired the celebrity caller, whose voice was as distinct as his batting.

When MSK said yes, the next question threw up an offer he simply couldn't refuse, "Shall we go out for dinner at 7.30 this evening?"

Waiting for the hour and not to be late, the stumper reached the lobby five minutes ahead, knowing his host was a stickler for punctuality.

For MSK was all too aware that a dinner invitation from a certain gent going by the name of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar may come but once in a lifetime !

By then, team-mates were chaperoned to swanky cars by various linguistic communities of Indian expatriates.

MSK was perhaps on the lookout too, half expecting such a pick-up.

"Can't you walk?" asked the batting virtuoso, which at first may have shocked MSK out of his socks but found him 'footloose' soon, if not sure enough.

The duo, who share a birthday, April 24) then took in the sights and sounds of Singapore on a two kilometre stroll to a Chinese restaurant, the master blaster's weakness for Bombay Duck being well-known even then.

This prompted MSK to remark, "I'm sure you can't take such a walk on our roads back home." For the game's all-time great would have been mobbed were he to step out on his own anywhere in his cricket-crazy homeland.

The conversation enroute was constant.

To the future Chairman of Selectors, it revealed how simple and humble the batting colossus was.

"The way he relates to the young refreshes him perhaps for new challenges," the flashy glove-man recalls, already much overwhelmed by the welcoming warmth Tendulkar had reserved for youngsters in the dressing room.