Mumbai: Monday dawned bright and sunny in Maximum City, and people went about their jobs with the usual hustle and bustle. The local trains clickety-clacked their way over the tracks every few seconds, children returned to school, men and women to their offices and normalcy to Mumbai.
Shivaji Park, too, saw children return to the hallowed turf in the afternoon to resume their quest to be the next Sachin Tendulkar, even though the ground staff is off on this day and coaches generally take fielding practice before sending the kids away.
Among the assortment of coaches that dot the landscape, Kiran Adhikari stands out as the man who inculcates basics into the kids. A college cricket star of Sunil Gavaskar’s time who finds mention in the legend’s ‘Sunny Days’, Adhikari was putting the 8-12 year-old children through the paces when MAIL TODAY approached him for a comment on life after Tendulkar.
Adhikari replied: “We won’t be able to see another Sachin. Nobody can take his place."
"Because of TV, the kids can see Sachin forever and learn his technique — all his centuries are being shown and will continue to be shown. But his dedication — in his speech he said he had never taken shortcuts — that can’t be taught. That was given to him by his family. Not everyone has that. If you are very lucky, you will have one out of 10 students who will have that.”
Raja Adat Rao, another Ramakant Achrekar product who played first-class cricket and is now a coach, agreed with Adhikari.
“The problem now is that parents tag along with their kids and the first thing they want to know is whether their child has the talent to be Sachin. I have a hard time convincing them that Sachin Tendulkar is what he is not because of his talent, but because of the sheer effort and work he put into his game. From morning to evening, all he used to do was knock the ball with his bat, even if he wasn’t batting,” Rao said.
Recalling a club match in which he captained 12-year-old Tendulkar, Rao said: “He got 48 and we were pleased to see that a young boy whom sir (Achrekar) had literally forced on to us had played so well. But he kept shadow practising the shot he had got out to. Even while we were having lunch, he kept knocking."
"Where will you find that dedication today? Which child will stay till the end and help roll up the nets even on days when he doesn’t get to bat? That was the hallmark of Sachin.”
Jai Dhuri, a junior who played under Tendulkar’s captaincy for Shardashram School, however, believes that while there can’t be another like him, cricket will evolve and continue to thrive.
“This isn’t the 1980s and of course, the kids have so many more distractions now. With the advent of T20, they are all playing their shots. Nobody wants to bat for two full days anymore. But the beauty of cricket is that it will not just survive, it will evolve and flourish,” Dhuri said.
Another Achrekar pupil, Shreyas Khanolkar, former Railways first-class cricketer and Shivaji Park Gymkhana managing committee member, concurs.
“For years, we’ve been hearing that cricket is deteriorating and that the Mumbai school of grinding till the very end is dying. But for every Sachin who goes, there’s a Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane who comes and sustains Mumbai and Indian cricket. That’s the truth and so it shall remain,” he said.
And so, as the sun set on the second evening after Tendulkar’s retirement, life went on and cricket continued to flourish at Shivaji Park.
Reproduced from Mail Today. Copyright 2013. MTNPL. All rights reserved.