IT didn’t take time for Sachin Tendulkar to turn nostalgic as he unveiled a life-size statue of him at the Wankhede Stadium — between the Tendulkar and Vijay Merchant stand.
Tendulkar recalled how in 1983, friends and elders from the Bandra housing society he lived in, decided to watch the India versus West Indies ODI game at the Wankhede Stadium. He slipped in without a ticket.
Tendulkar was just 10 and they took the local train from Bandra to Churchgate. The group of 25 people sat in the North Stand.
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“All my colony friends in Bandra, not 10-year-olds but my brother’s friends, possibly 30-40 year olds… they all decided to go for this match,” he said. “I do not know how it happened but a 10-year-old Sachin was also asked to accompany. I went along with them,” Tendulkar said.
“We all cricketers know what the North Stand can do… when they get behind the team, no opposition can stop India and Mumbai. We decided to take a train to reach the Wankhede Stadium. I was a part of the North Stand gang, I also made a lot of noise, enjoyed the game. Later after the game, when 25 of us boarded the train, someone said, ‘acha manage kiya? Someone asked, ‘kya manage kiya? He replied, ‘we had only 24 tickets and Sachin ko chup chap andar ghusaya.”
Tendulkar also recalled his first inter-school game at the Wankhede Stadium. He found more gaps compared to while playing in Azad maidan. He stated how in Azad maidan pitches are pretty close to each other and batsmen get confused whether a fielder is part of this game or another.
“When I first entered the Wankhede Stadium, Sunil Gavaskar showed me the dressing room. Following year, I was picked for the Ranji Trophy team and as I entered the dressing room I was wondering where to sit as Mumbai had established players. I saw one empty chair in the corner and I went and sat there. Then someone told me, this is SMG’s seat (Gavaskar’s),” Tendulkar recalled
“I am truly humbled when I stand here. I go to the ground, there are thousands of images that come to my head and thoughts, so many incredible memories. It is truly an honour to walk on this turf which has given me everything in life,” he added.
Tendulkar was offered Indian team captaincy after India lost the 2007 World Cup in West Indies.
“I remember having a meeting with Mr Pawar (the then BCCI president) in England and I told him that as a player, my leadership role will always be there,” he said. He recommended MS Dhoni as captain.
“It was getting more challenging as my body was not ready for that kind of toll. It was then I suggested MS Dhoni’s name because whatever conversation I had with him while standing in slips, I felt he is more suited for the job. And I informed this to Pawar sahab,” Tendulkar said.
It was in February this year that Tendulkar got a call from MCA president Amol Kale and BCCI’s treasurer Ashish Shelar saying that they wanted to erect a life-sized statue of him at Wankhede Stadium.
BCCI secretary Jay Shah, who was at the unveiling ceremony, said that Tendulkar wanted to play his last game in Mumbai and it was for this reason the Indian cricket board arranged a Test match between India vs West Indies at the Wankhede Stadium in 2013.
Shah also came up with a stat of Tendulkar’s. “Out of 365 days in a year, the only day Tendulkar hasn’t batted in his career is May 1.”
Tendulkar was accompanied by his wife Anjali and daughter Sara.