sachin tendulkar biography
On 16 November 2013, my cricketing journey finally came to an end at the Wankhede Stadium. After
somehow managing to complete my farewell speech, I was having a conversation with my family,
trying to soak in every moment, when my team-mate Virat Kohli walked up to me. He said, ‘Paaji
aapne kaha tha aap ko yaad dilane ke liye ki aapko pitch pe jana hain.’ (You asked me to remind you
that you had to go to the pitch one final time.) To be honest, I hadn’t forgotten; I was just trying to put
the moment off for a little longer. It was to be my final visit to the 22 yards that had nurtured and
cared for me for so long.
As I walked across the outfield I knew so well, my mind was a complete blank. A lump was forming
in my throat as I reached the pitch to pay my final regards. I was there for barely fifteen seconds and
all I said was, ‘Thank you for taking care of me.’ As I headed back to the pavilion for the last time, my
mind was suddenly a muddle of memories. In a matter of seconds I had traversed the entire twenty-
four-year journey of my career – from my first net session with my coach Ramakant Achrekar, to
getting out for 74 in my final Test innings against the West Indies.
It seems to me that no autobiography can claim to document every detail of the author’s life. That’s
impossible. There are bound to be issues that can’t be written about for one reason or another, events
that are too personal or perhaps too sensitive. Yet I have set out to make this account of my career as
close to the full story as I can. Many of the events I describe are, of course, well-known to cricket
fans, but I have also tried to talk about a number of things I have not addressed in public before, some
of them a little embarrassing, and I hope that readers will find plenty to interest them.
Before starting this book, I had to think long and hard about whether it was the right thing to do. It
wasn’t an easy decision. I am not in the habit of being sensational for the sake of it or saying things to
ruffle feathers. That’s just not me. However, I knew that if I agreed to write my story, I would have to
be completely honest, as that’s the way I have always played the game.
So here I am, at the end of my final innings, having taken that last walk back to the pavilion, ready
to recount as many incidents as I can remember from a career in which I was lucky enough to be able
to spend my time Playing It My Way.
‘Son, life is like a book. It has numerous chapters. It also has many a lesson in it. It is made up of a
wide variety of experiences and resembles a pendulum where success and failure, joy and sorrow are
merely extremes of the central reality. The lessons to be learnt from success and failure are equally
important. More often than not, failure and sorrow are bigger teachers than success and happiness.
You are a cricketer and sportsman. You are fortunate to be representing your country, and that is a
great honour. But never forget that this too is just another chapter in the book. Typically, let’s say a
person lives for seventy or eighty years or so. How many years will you play sport? Twenty years; if
you are very good, maybe even twenty-five years. Even by that yardstick, you will live the majority of
your years outside the sphere of professional sport. This clearly means that there is more to life than
cricket. I am asking you, son, to keep a pleasant disposition and maintain a balanced nature. Do not
allow success to breed arrogance in you. If you remain humble, people will give you love and respect
even after you have finished with the game. As a parent, I would be happier hearing people say,
“Sachin is a good human being” than “Sachin is a great cricketer” any day.’
My father’s words, which I often heard while growing up, encapsulate my life’s philosophy.
I was born to a very close-knit Maharashtrian family in Mumbai’s Bandra East and lived in the
Sahitya Sahawas colony, a residential co-operative for writers. I am one of four children, with two
brothers and a sister. Nitin, Ajit and Savita are all older than me, and not only am I the youngest in the
family but I was also the worst behaved.
My father, Ramesh Tendulkar, was an acclaimed Marathi poet, critic and professor, while my
mother, Rajani, worked for the Life Insurance Corporation of India. Humility and modesty were their
hallmarks and I owe a lot of my personality to my upbringing. Despite all my unreasonableness and
all the embarrassments I caused them, my parents never gave up on me. In fact, I have often wondered
just how they managed to cope with such a naughty child. Though he must have been pushed to the
limits sometimes, my father would never shout at me and was always patient when dealing with my
mischief. This added to my respect for my father as I grew older. Losing him during the 1999 World
Cup in England remains one of the most traumatic moments of my life and I will forever remain
indebted to him for helping me become the human being that I am.
My mother, the best cook in the world for me, will do anything to see a smile on my face. She used
to make the most delicious fish and prawn curry, baigan bharta and varan bhaat (lentils and rice) for
us at home, and I owe my appetite and love of food to her. I fondly remember lying on her lap after
eating delicious home-cooked meals, as she sang the most beautiful songs while trying to get me off
to sleep. Listening to her while dozing off at the end of the day instilled in me a love for music that
has remained with me to this day.
My brothers, Nitin and Ajit, have always backed me in my endeavours and, on the cricket side, I
owe a lot to Ajit, who is ten years older than me and was a good club cricketer himself but decided to
sacrifice his own career to help me achieve my potential. As I said in my farewell speech after my
final Test, Ajit and I lived the dream together and he was always my most trusted critic and sounding
board. I may have scored the runs, but Ajit was always there with me in spirit, trying to put me right
whenever I made a mistake. Even after my last Test innings, we had a discussion about how I had got
out and what I had done wrong, despite knowing I’d never play for India again. Ajit is not just my
brother, but my closest friend as well. He was always available when I needed him and always put my
cricket before his own work.
My eldest brother, Nitin, easily the most creative of the siblings, was the strict disciplinarian in the
Tendulkar household and helped rein in my exuberance when my mother had almost given up on me.
He not only sketches really well, but is also an accomplished writer and poet and has recently written
songs for a movie. Nitin, initially a chemistry teacher, subsequently worked for Air India and I
remember on one occasion, when I was ten, his flight was delayed and he had to wait at the Centaur
(now Sahara Star) hotel in Mumbai. Ajit and I went to have dinner in his room and for the first time in
my life I tasted tandoori chicken, which subsequently became one of my favourite dishes.
Savita, my sister, gave me my first cricket bat. She travelled to Kashmir for a holiday when I was
five and brought me back a Kashmir willow bat. She is easily the calmest of the siblings and has a
very reserved and composed demeanour. She stays unruffled in difficult situations and we often
consulted her on critical matters while growing up. When she got married, I, not knowing much about
rituals and customs, tried to insist that my brother-in-law should come and stay with us rather than
Savita having to go away. I did not want to let her go and I must say I missed her terribly when she
Never sitting still
Undoubtedly I had a fascinating childhood. My early years were never boring; in fact, quite the
opposite. I can trace a lot of the stamina and inner strength that sustained me during my cricket career
to those early years, which were full of fun.
We had moved to Sahitya Sahawas in 1971. In my growing-up years, there was a great deal of
construction work taking place there. This gave me and my friends the opportunity to play quite a few
pranks on our neighbours. While we were never violent and never caused bodily harm to others, I’m
ashamed to admit we sometimes enjoyed having a laugh at the expense of other members of the
colony. For us it was fun, plain and simple, but looking back at some of the mischief we got up to now
is rather embarrassing.
One of our regular tricks was to dig a deep hole in the sand left behind by the contractors and cover
it with newspapers before disguising it with sand. Then we’d deliberately lure people to walk over it.
As they sank into the crater, we’d be in fits of laughter. Another was to pour water on unsuspecting
passers-by from our apartment on the fourth floor, and I remember that feasting on mangoes picked
from trees we weren’t supposed to touch was also a favourite pastime. The forbidden nature of the act
made it even more compelling and the complaints that would follow did little to put us off. Finally –
and this is very embarrassing, looking back now – my friends and I would take pride in locking people
in their flats. It wasn’t dangerous, but the resulting delay, which must have caused them immense
frustration, seemed very funny at the time.
As a child I was first enrolled at the Indian Education Society’s New English School in Bandra. I
was a reasonable student and though I was never a class-topper, I did not languish at the bottom either.
While school wasn’t altogether boring, the best time of the year was the two-month-long summer
break. During the holiday period, I’d hurry down from our apartment at 9 a.m. and would be out in the
sun playing for the rest of the day. The domestic help, Lakshmibai, (a common phenomenon in
households where both parents were working) would have to bring down my glass of milk and
sometimes she would also have to bring out my lunch, because I’d refuse to go up to our apartment.
The sweltering heat was never a distraction and I’d be out playing till late in the evening. In fact,
even after most of my friends had disappeared to their apartments, I would be out alone trying to
amuse myself. There were seven or eight blocks in the colony and sometimes I’d just run around them
to expend energy. I’d run seven or eight laps on the trot and do so barefoot. Only when my brother
Nitin instructed me to go up would I rush back. I was a little scared of him. He generally didn’t say
much to me but when he did it was always the final word. If my mother grew tired of trying to
persuade me to come in, she would ask Nitin to perform the task.
In our two-bedroom apartment, the four children would all sleep together in one of the bedrooms. I
was always the last one to drop off and would keep tossing and turning as the others drifted off. Often,
while they’d be lying north–south, I’d end up stretched out east–west, and I’d receive a mouthful when
they woke up to find me lying across them. The reprimands were part of the bonding and I never took
them to heart. The whole experience brought us closer together.
A first taste of Chinese food
As a child I loved food. I grew up eating my mother’s wonderful Maharashtrian home cooking and it
wasn’t till I was nine years old that I first tried Chinese food. In the early 1980s Chinese cuisine was
becoming popular in Mumbai and, having heard so much about it, my colony friends made a plan to
go out for a meal together. We each contributed ten rupees – which was a lot of money for me at the
time – and I was excited about trying something new. The evening, however, turned out to be a
disaster as I paid the price for being one of the youngest in the group.
In the restaurant we ordered chicken and sweetcorn soup as a starter. We were sitting at a long table
and by the time the soup travelled to me at the far end, there was hardly anything left. The older
members of the gang had finished off most of it, leaving very little for us younger ones. The same
thing happened with the fried rice and chow mein and I barely managed to get two spoonfuls of each.
The older boys had a great evening at our expense but I returned home hungry and thirsty.
Dreaming of a bicycle
As I kid I could also be quite obstinate. While most of my friends had their own bicycles, I did not and
I was determined to have one. My father didn’t really like saying no to me and tried to placate me by
saying he’d buy me one in a few weeks. From a financial point of view, it wasn’t easy to bring up four
children in Mumbai, but our parents never let us feel any pressure. Not knowing what they had to go
through, I remained determined to have my bicycle and refused to go outside and play till I had a new
one to show off. It seems a little ridiculous now, but the truth is I didn’t go out to play for a whole
week. I just stood on the balcony and sulked and tried to guilt-trip my parents into buying me a
It was on one of these days that I gave them a real scare. Ours was a fourth-floor apartment with a
small balcony with a grille. As a small child, I couldn’t see over the top and, with curiosity often
getting the better of me, I would try to get my head through the grille. On this occasion it resulted in
disaster. While I succeeded in pushing my head through, I couldn’t get it back in and was stuck there
for more than thirty minutes. My parents were flustered to start with, but quickly regained composure.
After plenty of oil was squirted on my head, my mother finally pulled me out.
Seeing my desperation and worried about what I might get up to next, my father rearranged his
finances to buy me a brand-new bicycle. I still don’t know what adjustments he had to make to do so.
Nor was I concerned at the time. All I cared about was the bicycle and I immediately showed it off to
all my friends. However, my joy was short-lived as I met with a serious accident within hours of
getting my precious new bicycle. A fruit and vegetable seller pushing a cart had come to the colony.
As we came face to face, I was riding too fast and couldn’t slow down in time. New to the bicycle, I
applied the wrong brake and, bang, I hit the cart head on, lost control and was tossed into the air. As I
looked down on the world, my only concern was what would happen to my new bicycle. When I came
crashing back down, one of the spokes went through the skin just above my right eye. The cut was
deep and blood was gushing out of the wound. Far more importantly, my bicycle was badly damaged.
News soon reached home that I had hurt myself and my parents were very concerned. I tried to be
brave and made out that it was only a minor wound. It wasn’t, and my father had to take me to a
plastic surgeon friend of his, who put eight stitches just above the right eye. He gave me a couple of
injections and I returned home feeling sorry for myself and frustrated. My mangled bicycle was
parked close to our apartment, but my father told me that I wasn’t allowed near it until the wound had
healed and that he’d get it repaired in the interim. This time I had to give in, knowing it was the only
way I’d get it back.
As soon as I’d recovered, I resumed cycling, and within a few months had become an accomplished
biker. I could slow-cycle better than most kids and even went on to win a race organized in the colony.
I rode with passion and within a few months had developed the ability to slide on one wheel, which
took all my friends by surprise. In areas of the colony where there was sand on the concrete, I could
get the wheels to slide for ten to fifteen feet, with my body bent at forty-five degrees. I wasn’t
bothered about what this was doing to the tyres, of course, as the larger the distance covered, the better
I felt. Showing off my skills used to give me a thrill and what added to the fun was that I had learnt
these tricks in quick time.
Nevertheless, things went wrong sometimes, causing me plenty of embarrassment and pain. In fact,
I think I can trace my ability to withstand pain to my exploits as a child. I’d often get cut or hurt but
rarely mentioned these minor accidents to anyone at home. So much so that my father got into the
habit of examining my body when I was sleeping to check whether I’d injured myself. If he saw me
wince in pain, he’d know I’d done something to myself again and he would take me to the doctor the
No matter what I’d done, though, my father would never shout or scream at me. More often than
not, he’d try to set out the reasons why I should or shouldn’t do certain things, and his explanations
left behind a lasting impact. My father’s sense of reason was his biggest virtue and I try to act in the
same way with my children.
In the wars again
I had a lot of adventures as a child, but one that stands out is when I was cut under my eye while
playing at Shivaji Park, the breeding ground of cricketers in Mumbai, and had to return home covered
in blood. I was captaining my team in a match at Shivaji Park when I was twelve and after our
wicketkeeper got injured I asked my team-mates if anyone could keep wicket. No one volunteered and
somewhat reluctantly I stepped up to the challenge, even though I’d never tried it before. I was
uncomfortable standing in the unfamiliar position behind the stumps and soon missed a nick. The ball
came at me fast and, even before I could react, it hit me smack in the face, just missing my eye. The
cut was deep and there was a lot of blood.
I didn’t have the money to pay for a taxi home and was embarrassed at the thought of getting on a
bus with a bloodied face. I asked a friend of mine to give me a lift on his bicycle, and anyone who
knows Mumbai will realize what a difficult task that is, especially with heavy cricket kitbags in tow.
There was a busy flyover between East and West Bandra, which my friend found too steep with such a
heavy load. As a result, I had to get off and walk, with commuters gaping at me in shock. A young kid
with a bloodied face and bloodstained shirt lugging his cricket kit over a flyover wasn’t an everyday
When I got home, I was relieved to find my parents out at work. My grandmother was in the
apartment, but I asked her not to panic and told her it was a minor injury. She said she knew how to
handle it and put warm turmeric over the cut, an age-old Indian Ayurvedic treatment for cuts and
bruises. I did not bother telling anyone else and the injury healed faster than I expected.
Suffice to say, that wasn’t the only time I got hurt while playing cricket as a kid. Injuries were
frequent because we played on half-baked and overused pitches and our coach insisted we should bat
without helmets and learn to leave balls by swaying out of the way. On such wickets, injuries were a
certainty, but they hardened us for the grind in the future and as a result I was never scared of getting
hurt. It was all part of being a professional sportsman. However, the ability to withstand pain didn’t
mean I didn’t take due precautions and exposed myself to injuries unnecessarily – something I was
once surprised to be questioned about as a fourteen-year-old during a match at the Wankhede Stadium.
The match, which involved Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy Probables, started early in the morning and the
plan was for a pair of fast bowlers to bowl at the batsmen for five or six overs before they were rested
and a new pair were asked to bowl with a new ball. The aim was to give batsmen practice against a
fast swinging ball. To make things even more difficult, a lot of grass had been left on the track. I went
out to bat early in our innings and was wearing my Under-15 cap. I didn’t have a helmet at the time
and the Under-15 cap was the only headgear I possessed. Raju Kulkarni, who was by then an
accomplished Test bowler for India, was livid when he saw me taking guard in just a cap. All the
senior batsmen had helmets, so how dare I, a fourteen-year-old, wander out without proper head
protection? At first, I couldn’t work out why he was so upset. He bowled a barrage of bouncers –
though in hindsight I realize they were intended to teach me a lesson rather than to hurt me – but I
managed to stay calm enough to sway out of the way. When I finally understood the reason behind his
anger, I did not know how to explain to him that Achrekar Sir had not allowed me to wear a helmet in
school cricket – I wasn’t attempting to be brave at all. It was only later, when I was selected in the
Mumbai team and came to know Raju well, that I finally told him the real reason for not wearing a
Music: my second love
Music was a constant presence in the Tendulkar household. All my siblings would regularly listen to
the radio and always followed the weekly Hindi film music programme Binaca Geetmala (Garland of
songs), anchored by the well-known radio personality Ameen Sayani. As a result, while I was too
young to understand much, I was exposed to music from a very early age. The exposure increased
when my father bought a cassette player, which miraculously allowed everyone to listen to music of
their choice. Both my brothers were fans of the famous ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas. I couldn’t really
appreciate his songs then, but I was always in the room when they were played and was privy to
discussions on the nuances and finer points of music. On one occasion Nitin went to Dubai and
brought back Pankaj Udhas’s newly released album. Even though he didn’t get home till midnight, we
all waited up to listen to the cassette as soon as he got back, with our grandmother making us tea well
past one in the morning.
It was natural that music should soon become my second love after cricket and it has remained that
way ever since. I enjoy listening to all kinds of Indian music, ranging from film songs to the more
classical variety, and I always feel relaxed with my headphones on. Later, during tours abroad, I began
to pick up on Western music and I now love listening to Pink Floyd, U2, Dire Straits and a host of
others. I passed that taste for Western music on to Ajit, and it is now an important feature of the
Turning to cricket
Besides cricket and music, I was also a big fan of tennis as a child. John McEnroe, the legendary
American player, was my favourite. As a ten-year-old I would mimic McEnroe’s look and antics, to
the extent that I grew my hair into a curly mop and walked around wearing a headband. I was
fascinated by the battles between Björn Borg and McEnroe and for a while I even contemplated
choosing tennis over cricket.
Ajit knew about my obsession with tennis but had also seen me play cricket with my colony friends.
He had observed my natural bat swing and that’s what led him to believe that I might turn out to be a
good batsman if groomed properly – though he never imposed anything on me.
What he would do is give me both a tennis racket and a cricket bat and take me up to the terrace to
have a hit. He threw tennis balls to me while I took turns at tennis and cricket. We didn’t have too
many balls then and if they bounced over the walls of the terrace, I would quickly run down four
floors and fetch them (there were no elevators then, something that explains the secret behind my
strong legs!). It was clear to Ajit that I enjoyed myself far more while playing cricket. However, the
episode that led him to take the next step and bring me along to Ramakant Achrekar’s summer cricket
camp in 1984, at the age of eleven, had nothing to do with cricket.
The turn to cricket was prompted by a group of friends – myself, Sunil Harshe and Avinash
Gowariker – getting into a spot of trouble. At the time in India Doordarshan, the national broadcaster,
would show a classic film every Sunday, and on this fateful day it was Guide, starring Dev Anand, one
of India’s legendary actors. Most of the residents of our colony were engrossed in the film, allowing
us three the opportunity to climb up one of the trees and take some mangoes. Sunil, who was on the
heavy side, and I were on a branch together, but it broke and we fell with a crash from quite a height.
As we got up and tried to run away, we were caught and brought to book. It was evident that
something needed to be done to channel my energies, especially during the school summer holidays.
Ramakant Achrekar’s coaching camp, where a lot of Mumbai’s top cricketers had learnt their game,
was Ajit’s answer.
LEARNING THE GAME
From a very early age I played tennis-ball cricket with my colony friends. I loved watching cricket on
television and in our games I often tried to emulate the mannerisms of my favourite players, Sunil
Gavaskar and the West Indian legend Viv Richards. But it wasn’t just the batsmen that I studied. I also
loved bowling and tried my hand at different kinds of deliveries – medium pace, off-spin and leg-spin
– all with a tennis ball, of course. I even experimented with tactics like the slower ball and bowling
from wide of the stump. Throughout my career I have actually bowled a lot in the nets. As soon as I’d
finished with my batting I’d pick up a ball and start bowling to whichever batsmen were around at the
The transition from playing with a tennis ball to playing with a cricket ball happened under the
watchful eyes of Ramakant Achrekar, then cricket coach at Shardashram Vidyamandir school.
Achrekar Sir, as I refer to him, started playing cricket at the age of eleven in 1943, which is the age I
was when I went to him for the first time. He played for a number of Mumbai clubs, including the Gul
Mohar Mills and Mumbai Port, and played a first-class match for the State Bank of India against
Hyderabad in 1963. When I was growing up he was undoubtedly one of the most accomplished
coaches in Mumbai.
From his own schooldays at Balmohan Vidyamandir, my brother Ajit knew that compared to other
schools in Mumbai, Shardashram was by far the best organized in its approach to cricket, and that’s
why he took me along to Achrekar Sir’s nets in Shivaji Park to try my luck at being a part of his
Anyone could come for a trial at the camp but then it was up to Sir to decide who to accept. There
were nets for players from all age groups, starting with the sub-junior (Under-15) and junior (Under-
17) levels. I was eleven years old and trialled at the sub-junior nets to start with. The Mumbai Cricket
Association had an Under-15 team and most candidates from the sub-junior section eventually vied
for a position in that team.
I had never batted in nets before and felt somewhat overawed with so many people around. When I
was asked to bat, I was not at all comfortable. With Sir watching me so closely, I failed to make an
impact. After I had finished batting, Sir called Ajit aside and informed him that I was perhaps too
young to make the camp and suggested that he should bring me back when I was a little older. I wasn’t
party to this conversation and had no idea what was discussed at the time. My induction into the
Mumbai cricket circuit could have ended in failure – but for Ajit’s insistence.
Having seen me play in the colony, Ajit knew I was capable of performing far better than I had in
front of Achrekar Sir. He explained that I was nervous and asked Sir to give me one more opportunity.
However, he suggested that while doing so Sir should pretend to go away and then watch from a
distance. Sir agreed. Before long I was asked to bat again and, without Sir’s trained eyes scrutinizing
me – or so I thought – I felt more at ease and soon started to hit the ball well. This time, Sir agreed to
let me join the camp. I was delighted and I must say it was an opportunity that transformed my life.
Participants in the summer camp had to pay an admission fee of 65 rupees (less than a pound) and a
monthly fee of 10 rupees (10 pence). In my case I don’t remember having to pay the monthly fee after
the first few months. The camp involved a session every morning and evening at Shivaji Park. I would
practise between 7.30 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. before making my way home for lunch, then I’d come back
in the afternoon and train till late evening. The schedule was rigorous and I would be exhausted by the
end of the day. Travelling to Shivaji Park took forty minutes from my house in Bandra and I had to
catch an early-morning bus to make it on time.
For the first few days Ajit accompanied me, to get me used to the routine, but once I was familiar
with the journey, I’d travel to the camp on my own. During the bus journeys he would talk to me about
the nuances of batting, and I always enjoyed these conversations a lot. In fact, the one thing that I have
kept with me all my career is a note that Ajit gave me containing some thoughts about batting. It
served as a very personal coaching manual.
As a child I had only one set of cricket clothes and the routine was to wash them as soon as I’d
returned from the morning session. While I had my lunch, the clothes would dry out in the sun and I
would wear them again in the afternoon. The pattern was repeated in the evening, so that I could use
the same set of clothes the following morning. The system worked well – apart from my pockets.
There was never quite enough time for the pockets to dry out completely and for the entire duration of
the camp I played with wet pockets.
By the middle of the summer camp, Sir had started taking an active interest in my batting and at the
end of the two months informed Ajit that I had the potential to be a good cricketer if I practised all
year round. He had made a few changes to the way I batted and the impact was immediate. I was now
practising with the older boys from the junior section. However, my school – the New English School
in Bandra – did not have cricket facilities and Sir was keen for me to change schools if I wanted to
pursue cricket seriously.
One evening Sir called my father and asked if he would speak to me about changing schools. Ajit
was in the room with my father at the time and they both accepted that it was necessary, if cricket was
to be my priority. However, neither of them ever forced anything on me and when I got home they
asked me what I thought of the suggestion. By that time I had started enjoying my batting and was
keen to play throughout the year. Without any hesitation I agreed to the move. My father sat me down
and explained that while he did not have any objections to me changing schools, I should do so only if
I was really serious about playing cricket. I assured him I was, and so it was agreed that I should move
to Shardashram Vidyamandir, where Achrekar Sir was a cricket coach.
The move meant I lost contact with a lot of my New English school friends, but I soon made new
ones at Shardashram, mostly through cricket. All the cricketers in the school were friends with each
other and even though we were in different divisions and sections, such things hardly mattered. We
played together during lunch breaks and discussed cricket all the time, and Achrekar Sir would coach
us after school. Cricket was fast becoming my first love. All my excess energies were getting
channelled into cricket, which acted as a kind of a safety valve. Everyone at home was very
supportive, but my father always said that all he wanted me to do was give it my best effort without
worrying about the results.
Joining Shardashram undoubtedly helped my cricket a great deal. It allowed me the opportunity to
play competitive matches regularly and my game rapidly improved as a result. There’s nothing like
playing matches to get better, because only in competitive situations are you forced to out-think the
opposition and improvise. Net practice can never be a substitute for matchplay and Achrekar Sir was
an ardent believer in this principle.
I did not excel in my first ever match for my club, the Kamath Memorial Club, run by Achrekar Sir,
which a host of my colony friends came to watch, I was out for a golden duck. I was the star batsman
in the colony and it was natural that my friends would come to see me play. It was embarrassing to be
bowled first ball and I had to make a series of excuses, saying the ball had kept low and the pitch
wasn’t good enough for batting. In the second match I got out for another duck and it was only in our
third game that I managed to score my first run, having survived seven deliveries. I was seriously
relieved to get off the mark. I used to keep a diary at the time that contained all the information from
these games, but unfortunately I don’t have them any more.
My debut for the school wasn’t quite as bad and I managed to score 24 runs in the match, which we
won comfortably. However, I will always remember the game for other reasons, because I learnt a
very important personal lesson. It taught me never to resort to unethical ways and to play the sport
with honesty and integrity at all times. The incident in question involved my first appearance in a
newspaper, which should have been a happy occurrence. The rule in Mumbai at the time was that a
player’s name only appeared in print if he had scored 30 runs. I had made 24, but there were a lot of
extras in the team’s innings and the scorer decided to credit six extras to me, increasing my score to
30. The scorer’s logic was that it didn’t matter because the overall score did not change. I had
consented to this without appreciating what I was getting into. The next morning, when my name duly
appeared in a Mumbai paper, Achrekar Sir was seriously unhappy with what I had done and told me
off for consenting to have runs added to my personal tally when I hadn’t scored them. I acknowledged
my mistake and promised never to allow such a thing to happen again.
The first-match jinx continued in my first season for the Mumbai Under-15 team in Pune in 1985. I
was only twelve then and travelled to Pune with just 95 rupees in my pocket. This was to be
supplemented with the little allowance we were given during the tour, which lasted more than a week.
In my only match for Mumbai I was run out. I was batting with someone from my school who was
older than me and because he was a faster runner he completed the runs quicker and pushed for a third
run that was not on. As a result I was run out and I returned to the pavilion with tears in my eyes.
Thoughtfully, two veteran Mumbai cricketers, Milind Rege and Vasu Paranjpe, consoled me, saying
the run just wasn’t there and I shouldn’t have been called to go for it.
It rained a lot in Pune in the next few days and as it turned out this was my only innings. As a result
I was not picked for the West Zone Under-15 team and was upset because a few of my team-mates
who had not played a single ball had been chosen ahead of me. To add to my distress, I ran out of
money because I spent it all on snacks and fast food – and arrived at Dadar station with no fare for the
bus home. I had to walk back to Shivaji Park to my uncle’s carrying two big bags and cried all the
way. My aunt was very concerned when she saw me and asked what the matter was. I did not tell her
that I hadn’t been selected for the West Zone team and all I said was I was not feeling too well.
My first earnings from cricket
Playing for my school regularly helped me learn the art of scoring big runs and batting for a long time.
During school holidays I played practice matches for my club almost every day. In fact, in my first
year at Shardashram I played fifty-five practice matches during the summer break of sixty days. My
summer sessions used to start at 7.30 a.m. and I’d bat for two hours, split into five net sessions. All of
these sessions were rigorous and required intense concentration. After the morning session, I would go
straight into the practice match, which would end at 4.30 p.m., then my evening session would start at
5 p.m., after only a thirty-minute break. During the break Sir would often give me some money to go
and have a vada pav (a popular Mumbai fast food) or a soft drink as a treat.
Between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. I’d have five more net sessions, before a final session of fifteen minutes,
when Sir would place a one-rupee coin on top of the stumps and if I managed to avoid getting out, the
coin was mine. In this session every bowler in the camp would come and have a go at me, with some
sixty to seventy boys fielding. Even if the ball was caught 90 yards away, which was a distance bigger
than the boundary length at any school ground in India, I was out. It meant I had to hit every ball along
the ground to survive those intense fifteen minutes. It was a serious challenge but with time I started
enjoying this session the most. Winning the one-rupee coin used to give me immense satisfaction and
taught me how to concentrate even when physically drained.
At the end of it all, Sir would tell me to run two full circuits of Shivaji Park with my pads and
gloves on. That was the last part of my training and I’d be completely exhausted by the end of it all. It
was a routine I would repeat right through during my summer holidays and it helped me to build up
physical and mental stamina.
Occasionally my father came to take me home and I would always ask him to treat me to a special
fruit cocktail at a juice centre near the club. While this regular demand was a little unreasonable,
because at the time I did not realize that my parents also had to take care of the needs of my brothers
and sister, my father would invariably end up giving me what I wanted, just to see me happy.
On other days, when I made my way home from Shivaji Park on my own, I’d often fall asleep on the
bus – if I managed to sit down, that is. Anyone who has been on a Mumbai bus at peak hours will
know just how difficult it is to get a seat. On days when I wasn’t so lucky, it was still a challenge just
to stand with the kitbag, because the bus conductors would inevitably complain about me taking up the
space of another passenger. It could be embarrassing because the conductors were often rude and
would sometimes ask me to buy two tickets. I didn’t have the money for a second ticket and I had to
learn to take these remarks in my stride. Dirty clothes often added to the embarrassment. After I’d
played in them all day, the clothes were usually in quite a smelly state and this was the cause of a lot
of discomfort and guilt on the way home. With time I evolved a way of wrapping the kitbag around
me. Just as the helmet and pads became a part of me while batting, so the kitbag became an extension
of me on the bus.
So when people ask me these days if I have ever been on public transport, I tell them I used to travel
on crowded buses and trains four times a day during my first year at Shardashram. And from a very
young age I used to do it alone. I’d often take the bus or train from Bandra to Churchgate, and it was
all a great learning experience. Within a few months I had made a lot of friends and we had great fun
travelling together to matches.
Moving to Shivaji Park
After a year of commuting between Bandra and school, my family realized that the daily travel was
getting too much. I had to catch a connecting bus midway into the journey and if I missed the
connection I’d be late for school. Also, the one-and-a-half-hour journey would end up exhausting me
and it had started to have an impact on my training time. More worryingly, I had twice fallen sick in
the first year of my daily commute to Shardashram and had also contracted jaundice.
It was decided that I should move in with my uncle and aunt, Suresh and Mangala, because they
lived at Indravadan Society, an apartment block close to Shivaji Park. In the end, I stayed with them
for four years and they were hugely supportive of my endeavours and had a formative role to play as I
grew up. In fact, there were times when I even made my aunt throw balls to me in our living room. I
had bought a couple of golf balls and transformed them into an oval shape with the help of a blade. I
had done this intentionally, so that when my aunt threw one to me, the ball would change direction
after pitching, either coming in or going away. The whole idea behind this was that, while killing time
at home, I would learn to play with soft hands without damaging things in our living room.
Throughout the drill, my aunt would sit on her chair, and after playing the ball I would collect it and
hand it back to her. When my aunt wasn’t around, I would hang up the ball in a sock and hit it with the
edge of my bat. Hitting it with the bat’s full face was much too easy and when I hit it with the edge I
would try to middle it as many times as possible. When it did not hit the middle, it would come back
from different directions (it became an inswinger or an outswinger) and it was fun to negotiate the
challenge. These drills helped my hand–eye coordination and also my awareness of which direction
the bat should come from to meet the ball.
My uncle and aunt’s house was a thirty-minute walk from school. It meant I could get more rest in
the morning and could come home for lunch around 1 p.m. and go back to play a practice game at my
club by early afternoon. Sir would invariably schedule three practice games a week for me and would
ensure that I batted at number four in each one of them. He could do that because it was his club. I
would bat in my favourite position in all the matches I played and if I got out I’d have to change
quickly and go out and field. This was a good incentive to keep batting and not get out at all, as I
didn’t enjoy fielding anything like as much as batting. After the match I’d resume my own training in
the evening before calling it a day at 7.30.
On days when there was a school match, we’d try our best to stretch it to a second day. For example,
if we were set to chase 300 we’d score 260–270 runs on the first day and keep the remaining runs for
the next morning. This would allow us to miss school on the second day, and after quickly wrapping
up the match in the first half an hour, the team would head off to the beach to play cricket. Playing
beach cricket was always a lot of fun and we would all have a great time.
Both my parents would visit me at my uncle and aunt’s almost every day after they finished work.
For my mother in particular it was an arduous journey, since travelling there from her office in Santa
Cruz in peak-hour traffic on public transport was a real challenge back then. The fact that both of them
would happily put in the time after a full day’s work, just so I would not feel neglected, was
In the 1986–87 season I started to make runs consistently and also scored my first hundred. We
were playing Don Bosco School at Shivaji Park and I was not out on 94 at the end of the first day. A
few days before this match I had invited Sir to my house for dinner. Sir, however, said he would come
only when I had scored my first hundred in school cricket. Feeling excited and anxious, I decided to
sleep with my father that night and kept tossing and turning till late. My father tried to comfort me,
saying I should go to sleep and that my body needed rest after batting all day. I couldn’t and only
managed to get a couple of hours’ sleep before waking up very early the next morning.
Sensing my anxiety, my father took me to a Ganapati temple in Bandra to seek the blessings of Lord
Ganesha and only then did I leave for Shivaji Park. On my way I visited another Ganapati temple, the
one I regularly visited before games. There was a water tap inside the temple premises and I regularly
used to drink from it before I went to the ground. I did the same that day and in the very first over hit
two boundaries to reach my hundred. True to his word, Sir came for dinner that night and it was a
deeply satisfying moment.
One of my best early seasons was at Shardashram in 1987–88, when I played in both the Giles Shield
and the Harris Shield. For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of Mumbai cricket, the Giles Shield is
meant for boys under the age of fourteen and Harris Shield for those under sixteen. Looking back, it
seems remarkable that I played in both, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. These tournaments
are acknowledged as breeding grounds for young talent in Mumbai and good performances tend to get
noticed in the city’s cricket circles.
In the Harris Shield that season I scored a record 1,025 runs in five matches and was out only once.
It now seems extraordinary, but my scores in the quarter-final, semi-final and final read 207 not out,
326 not out and 346 not out. What’s more, after scoring 326 not out in the semi-final of the Harris
Shield, I walked right across the Azad maidan (recreation ground) to the other side to play in a Giles
Shield match, in which I made 178 not out, winning us the game.
I started out with a hundred in the first match of the season, scoring 125 before getting out, and it
was a dismissal I have never forgotten. I was out stumped to an off-spinner who was hearing-impaired
and I vividly remember the expression on his face when I was beaten by a beautifully flighted
delivery. But the ball went on to elude the keeper and within a fraction of a second the bowler’s
expression turned from euphoria to despair as he saw the missed stumping opportunity. Yet I did not
go back to the crease and instead started walking back to the pavilion, allowing the wicketkeeper to
complete the stumping. It was the only time I was out in that season’s competition. While I didn’t
consciously mean to show sympathy to the bowler, it was one of those moments that are difficult to
explain. It was not an act of charity exactly. Rather, it was a good ball and I knew I had been
comprehensively beaten. The keeper fumbled the take and the bowler looked distraught at the missed
opportunity. He had done everything for the wicket and deserved the dismissal.
In the semi-final of the Harris Shield against St Xavier’s in February 1988, a three-day game, we were
84–2 when I went in to bat at number four, with Vinod Kambli, an extremely talented youngster in
Mumbai’s cricket circles at the time, already at the crease, having gone in at number three. We
immediately plundered the St Xavier’s attack and never let up all the way through what would become
a record-breaking partnership. With the Azad maidan being an open ground and a very big one, the
opposition had to run long distances to retrieve the ball after a hard-hit boundary and we found
ourselves singing songs and enjoying ourselves in the middle of the pitch. It was our way of switching
off while batting together for long periods. At the end of the day we were both not out, with Vinod on
182 and me on 192, and, needless to say, Shardashram were in a commanding position in the game.
The following morning, we both made our double centuries and then just kept on batting – despite
Achrekar Sir wanting us to declare the innings. At one point he sent our assistant coach to the
boundary to instruct us to declare. We could hear him scream our names and shout instructions, but
we pretended not to hear and tried not to look in his direction. He kept at it for ten minutes before he
realized that it was a futile attempt and returned to the dressing room. We just wanted to carry on
batting and enjoy ourselves in the middle.
At lunch we had reached 748–2, of which I had contributed 326. As soon as we left the field I was
informed by the assistant coach that I was in serious trouble. When I asked why, he told me that
Achrekar Sir had wanted us to declare in the morning and I had disobeyed him by carrying on. Sir was
of the opinion that we had more than enough runs to declare, and if we weren’t able to bowl the
opposition out for less we did not deserve to be in the final. I decided to declare right away to save
myself from Sir’s ire that evening. Vinod asked me not to, however, because he was not out on 349.
He pleaded with me to give him one more ball so that he’d reach 350. I said that it wasn’t my call and
we needed Sir’s permission to continue. So I rang Sir from a public phone next to the ground and the
first question he asked was how many wickets we had managed to take before lunch. That was Sir’s
style. He was well aware that we hadn’t declared and hadn’t taken any wickets, but he wouldn’t say so.
I informed him that we had batted till lunch and that I was about to declare. With Vinod pleading
beside me, I quickly mentioned to Sir that Vinod wanted to speak to him and handed over the phone.
But Vinod was scared of Sir and ended up not saying a word about batting on for another over.
I duly declared the innings and, despite having batted for a day and a half, went on to open the
bowling with the new ball and bowled a lot of overs in the innings. I did not feel the least bit tired; all
the hard work in the summer camps had started to pay off. I started out bowling medium pace, then
changed to off-spin when the ball was semi-old and leg-spin when the ball had lost all of its shine.
Vinod too bowled very well and picked up six wickets as we dismissed St Xavier’s for 154 to make
That partnership of 664 was the highest in any form of cricket in the world at the time. Coming in
the semi-final of the Harris Shield made it all the more significant in the local cricket community. It
gained us both a lot of recognition. We had become quite a pair and what made batting with Vinod fun
was that I never knew what he’d get up to next. In one match in the same season he actually started
flying a kite while we were batting together. Suddenly I couldn’t see Vinod, because he had walked 20
metres away from the pitch and was holding the string of a kite – right in the middle of the innings! It
was his way of enjoying himself and I knew he’d get a severe reprimand from Sir for doing so.
Sir wasn’t to be seen on that day, however, and Vinod was confident of getting away with it. I
wasn’t so sure. I had a feeling that Sir was watching us from somewhere and would surely pick up the
issue at the end of the day’s play, as was his style. Sir was known to hide behind a tree on occasions to
watch us play, and in fact it rarely happened that he’d miss a game of ours. At the end of the day he
would then give us a ‘demonstration’ session, so called because Sir would demonstrate what we had
done wrong in terms of footwork, stance or stroke selection. Sure enough, at the demonstration session
at the end of that day, I was given a chit to read aloud and the first item was ‘Vinod kite’. Sir, upset at
what Vinod had done, asked him what he thought he was doing flying a kite while batting and warned
him never to do so again. He promised, but with Vinod nothing could be taken for granted.
Having defeated St Xavier’s comprehensively, we were runaway favourites in the final against
Anjuman-I-Islam, which was to be played at the Cricket Club of India, which is India’s equivalent of
the MCC, established in 1933. It was my first competitive game at CCI and a number of Mumbai
cricket luminaries were present to see us bat in the final. They had heard about the world-record
partnership and wanted to see if we were good enough to have a career in cricket. Dilip Vengsarkar,
Sunil Gavaskar and CCI president Raj Singh Dungarpur were in attendance and I did not want to
On the eve of the final I was given a superb gift by Hemant Kenkre, Sunil Gavaskar’s nephew,
which served as an added incentive to perform well. At the time I did not have good pads to play with
and Sir had a word with Hemant about it. Hemant had with him a set of pads used by Sunil Gavaskar,
the really light ones with blue padding inside, and decided to give them to me. I was delighted and
humbled and went with Ajit to his house to collect my gift.
I felt very proud to wear pads once used by Sunil Gavaskar. I went in to bat thirty minutes before
lunch on the first day of the final and kept batting for close to two days. I was eventually unbeaten on
346 when we were bowled out before tea on the third day. It was a very significant innings in the
context of my career, for shortly afterwards I was included in the list of Probables for the Mumbai
Ranji Trophy team.
In my early days as a cricketer another person who helped me considerably was Hemant
Waingankar. Hemant, a student of my father’s, knew me as a child and has followed my career from
start to finish. It was at Hemant’s initiative that Anil Joshi, Vijay Shirke and Sanju Khamkar of
Sungrace Mafatlal, a well-known Indian company, came forward to support both Vinod and me with
cricket equipment. I am glad that our friendship, which is now close to three decades old, continues
Looking back at these years of cricket, I must say I owe a lot to my coach Ramakant Achrekar – as
well as his assistants, Das Shivalkar and Laxman Chavan. Had it not been for Sir, I would not be the
cricketer I turned out to be. He was a strict disciplinarian and did everything he could for me.
On certain days he would even drive me all the way across Mumbai on his scooter to get me to
matches on time. Even though I loved cricket, there were still occasional days when playing with my
friends at home was such fun that I would conveniently forget I was supposed to go to the nets. If I
didn’t turn up, Achrekar Sir would jump on his scooter and come to find me at Sahitya Sahawas.
Inevitably, I would be outside, engrossed in some game or other with my chums. Sir would spot me in
the melee and virtually drag me to our apartment. I would come up with excuses but he would have
none of it. He would get me to change and put on my shoes and then I’d ride pillion with him as we
headed off to Shivaji Park. On the drive he would tell me, ‘Don’t waste your time playing inane games
with these kids. Cricket is waiting for you at the nets. Practise hard and see what magic can transpire.’
At the time, I hated being dragged off but as I look back I feel sheepish about my actions and can only
admire Achrekar Sir’s farsightedness.
Sir also punished me on one occasion when trying to teach me a very important lesson.
Shardashram English and Shardashram Marathi schools had made it to the finals of the Harris Shield
and the match was to be played at the Wankhede Stadium. I was at that stage a Giles Shield player and
had nothing to do with the Harris Shield. Knowing that I’d want to go and watch the game, Sir had
arranged a practice match for me and warned me not to miss my own match and go off to the
Wankhede. However, I disobeyed and went along to the final, not anticipating that Sir would be there.
He was as angry as I’d ever seen him and he said it wasn’t for me to come and watch other people
play, for if I practised hard enough, one day people from across the world would come and watch me
Achrekar Sir has undoubtedly made a significant contribution to cricket in Mumbai and India. I am
by no means the only pupil of his to go on to represent India; others include Lalchand Rajput, Vinod
Kambli, Pravin Amre, Ajit Agarkar, Sanjay Bangar, Balwinder Sandhu, Chandrakant Pandit, Paras
Mhambrey, Sameer Dighe and Ramesh Powar. Not for one moment has he been interested in financial
gain, however. Quite the opposite, in fact – there were many occasions when he would help out those
who were so poor they could not even afford the few rupees normally charged for his summer school.
Throughout my career, before each tour and each series for India, I would make four visits that were
very important to me: to two temples in Mumbai, the Ganesh temple in Shivaji Park and the
Siddhivinayak temple in Prabhadevi; to my aunt and uncle; and to Achrekar Sir.
My short career as a fast bowler
My first good season for Shardashram earned me a trial place at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai
in 1987 under the legendary Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee, who was head coach there. The
MRF Pace Foundation had been set up with the explicit aim of grooming local fast-bowling talent,
something that we have always lacked in India. Coaches from across India had been asked to name
talented youngsters and my name was suggested by Vasu Paranjpe, veteran Mumbai cricketer and one
of India’s best coaches. Vasu Sir has always been extremely supportive of my efforts and has been a
kind of mentor to me. Though the camp was primarily meant to identify talented fast bowlers, Ajit
advised me to take my full kit to Chennai. The thought was that if I wasn’t selected as a bowler I could
benefit from batting in the nets there. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given my build and height, I didn’t
stand out as a potential international pace bowler and Dennis Lillee jokingly advised me to focus on
my batting instead. As it turned out, I was always a batsman who wanted to learn the art of fast
The first break
All the hard work under the watchful supervision of Sir finally paid off when I was picked in the squad
to represent Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy on 14 November 1987. The Ranji Trophy, the premier
domestic competition in India, was started in 1933–34 and named after the famous KS Ranjitsinhji,
Indian cricket’s first global figure, who played for England against Australia in 1896. It is an
important platform and consistent performances in the Ranji Trophy can earn a player a national call-
up. In the 1980s it was played on a zonal basis. First-class teams from each zone, West, North, South,
East and Central, played each other before the top teams advanced to the knock-out stage.
Despite making the Mumbai squad, I did not make it to the final XI in any of the matches. This
meant I narrowly missed out on playing alongside Sunil Gavaskar, who retired from all forms of
cricket after the 1987 Cricket World Cup, a few months before I made the Ranji squad. When I was
growing up, Mr Gavaskar’s thirty-four centuries for India had always served as a huge inspiration. It
was the ultimate benchmark for a batsman, and not to have played alongside him remains a regret.
However, that season I did get a little taste of the Ranji Trophy, as a substitute fielder – and also of
international cricket, while fielding at the Brabourne Stadium for a Pakistan team against India!
It was a festival match and two Pakistan cricketers, Javed Miandad and leg-spinner Abdul Qadir,
had gone off the field at lunchtime.