Thursday, November 12, 2009

When Sachin Tendulkar played the role of a fan

In these days of intense frenzy about Sachin Tendulkar, Thursday was an unusual outing for the man who is two days away from completing 20 years in international cricket. While the entire nation has been undertaking a collective trip down memory lane, recalling the tales of the boy wonder who travelled to Pakistan for his first international tour in the late 80s, Tendulkar got a chance to play a starry-eyed fan to three 70s stars he has grown up idolising.
It was a delayed 60th birthday party for cricketing legends Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath, and the silver screen’s towering personality Amitabh Bachchan dropped in to honour them. With such a starcast on stage, Tendulkar’s status as chief guest for the function didn’t guarantee him all the attention. The occasion was a refreshing change for the 36-year-old, who has rarely been away from the media glare since adolescence.

All through the evening, it was an out-and-out Sunny and Vishy show. As footage of their schools, old tales by family members, loving recollections of friends, images of a clean-shaven batsman playing breathtaking straight drives and the one with a stubble essaying delicious late cuts played on the screen, Tendulkar and Bachchan joined those in the audience to smile and shake their heads in awe.
Compelling aura
But so compelling was the aura of the Fab Four that each of them seemed unwilling to play the star and was overwhelmed on encountering the hearty appreciation of the other. After the tributes were over and the four walked on stage, there was a reluctance to take the spotlight. Vishy wanted Bachchan to take the central seat while Sunny seemed to be moving to the side chair. The order was soon restored as the birthday boys were made to sit in the middle flanked by the special guests.
The presence of such strong personalities on the dais meant they all had been used to dealing with the pressure of public expectations, and there ensued a discussion on the frequent appearance of ‘butterflies in the stomach’ before a big game or when facing the camera. Bachchan acknowledged that the cricketing greats next to him were making him struggle for the right lines and Tendulkar too talked about pre-match anxiety. “When you are nervous, that means you care about what you are doing. And I care about cricket,” he said.
The mutual admiration on stage continued for a while as each spoke about the other’s greatness. If Tendulkar wanted to know about Bachchan’s preparation for his award-winning role in the movie Black, Viswanath spoke about how Sunny’s power of concentration and his ability to judge the length of a ball was unparalleled.
Tendulkar relived the moment when he got a special phone call from Gavaskar after getting his 34th Test century and described it as one of the most memorable moments of his life. The boyish grin on his face and the halting shy tone brought back memories of the days when the Indians stumbled upon a 16-year-old batting phenomenon in 1989.

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