A momentous occasion

Sachin Tendulkar's exploits are unprecedented in the annals of the nation's sports history and already fit for verses, sonnets and ballads as the evening was to show and well documented for posterity to read, view and rejoice.

K. Srikkanth, the Chief Guest of the evening, presents a silver salver to Sachin Tendulkar, The Sportstar Sportsperson of the Year 1994. Srikkanth also handed over a cheque for Rs. 1-lakh to Tendulkar on behalf of The Sportstar.   -  The Sportstar

It was the moment thousands of The Sportstar readers were waiting for. And when it dawned, even as dusk began to blanket Madras on May Day, a noticeable mood of gaiety prevailed in and around Hotel Taj Coromandel on the busy Nungambakkam High Road.  Inside the opulently decorated Ballroom, the chandeliers mirrored the iridescence of the evening, enhancing the carnival atmosphere.

Everything, it seemed, was getting ready for a momentous happening. Suddenly, there was a ripple of excitement. The spotlights sprang to life and TV cameras began to whir. Photographers scrambled for vantage slots. The place was draped in an amazing incandescence. Into this ambience entered the hero - calm, composed, radiating rare charm, unaffected by the celebrity status he undoubtedly enjoys.

His exploits are unprecedented in the annals of the nation's sports history and already fit for verses, sonnets and ballads as the evening was to show and well documented for posterity to read, view and rejoice.

The hero: Sachin Tendulkar.

The occasion: Presentation of The Sportstar Sportsperson of the Year 1994 Award.

The award included a silver salver, a cheque for Rs. 100,000, and a citation.

Perfect was the setting. Awaiting the spectacle of a hero being honoured was the city's glitteratti, a virtual who's who from industry, banking, social and cultural institutions, not to speak of the grateful sports community headed by a stalwart among administrators, Mr. M. A. Chidambaram, former President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

Appropriately, the chief guest was the former Test cricketer and captain, K. Srikkanth. Why, you may ask. The chroniclers will tell you that it was under Srikkanth that Sachin was baptised in Test cricket. That was in Karachi when Indian cricket was passing through a turbulent period.

Present on the occasion was another colourful personality, Ravi Shastri, who readily accepted to participate as a speaker. He was in Madras as a member of the Technical Committee of the BCCI.

The two other speakers, Ramanathan Krishnan, tennis maestro, and Dr. Sarvepalli R. Gopal, a historian, were unrelated to cricket but as connoisseurs of sport they turned up to felicitate the cricket genius.

Tendulkar was swamped in an avalanche of adulation. Probably the best string of words were scripted by the Editor of The Sportstar, Mr. N. Ram.

In a speech punctuated by humour and candour, Srikkanth delighted the audience in the same way he used to regale the multitude with the willow in his heyday. As the compere, Mr. P. C. Ramakrishna, remarked, "It was shot from the first ball." Srikkanth was uninhibited in his appreciation of the qualities that separate Sachin from the rest.

"He makes batting look so simple," Srikkanth said, and rated Tendulkar as an outstanding cricketer on the contemporary scene. He placed only Vivian Richards ahead of the Indian.

Much to the amusement of the audience Srikkanth related his predicament of convincing his children about the fact that Tendulkar had really played under him. Srikkanth also touched upon the sensitive issue of the perceptions of the media with regard to the players.

He took exception to excessive speculation in the media over the role of Sachin as an opener, especially when the batsman was going through a bad patch. He perceived a note of inconsistency in the assessment made by the media about  Tendulkar.

Srikkanth was generous in his tribute to The Sportstar for the quality of its coverage, depth of analysis, photographs and production, which he termed as comparable with any other.

Ravi Shastri laid emphasis on Tendulkar's ruthless spirit, fortitude and the will to fight when the chips were down. He recalled two instances to show the stuff Tendulkar is made of.

The first was at Sialkot when the youngster was subjected to a bumper barrage from the Pakistani pace battery. Impervious to a bleeding injury, Sachin conquered the Pakistani attack. The second was in Sydney, Australia, where he made a century, turning a deaf ear to the continuous sledging by the Waugh brothers, Steve and Mark.

"He is the best I have seen," Ravi Shastri declared. "I am aware that this statement may cause some eyebrows to be raised, but I say this with emphasis," he said.

For Shastri, only Richards occupied a higher slot than Tendulkar. The punchline came when Shastri described Tendulkar as: "He is humble, level headed and walks on the ground."

Shastri also had a word of praise for the staff of The Sportstar and particularly mentioned the role of the writers for their knowledge, range and vision to hold the attention of the readers like him.

Ramanathan Krishnan made a brief speech emphasising the importance of hard work and how much of it must have been put in by the young Tendulkar to reach the pinnacle at this young age. He hoped Tendulkar would be an inspiration for the youth of the nation aspiring to find a place in the world of sports.

Dr. Gopal compared Tendulkar's genius to that of the 'King of the Willow Game', Ranjitsinhji, and the legendary CK. He rounded off his felicitation with a quote from a Greek philosopher, "Go, go my boy, for the stars danced at your birth."

Even the usually placid Sachin looked overwhelmed by the torrent of praise. For a moment the champion groped for words appropriate to convey his gratitude. Predictably, he thanked those concerned for choosing him for the prestigious award and said how difficult it was going to be to live up to the expectations of the millions of lovers of cricket. Sachin's unshakable faith in prayers is well known, and he was confident they would stand by him in any situation. Sachin also showed no qualms in admitting the fact that he always sought guidance from senior cricketers. He acknowledged the counsel received from veteran cricketers in his quest for excellence.

A poem was composed on the hero of the evening by Mr. V. Ramamurthy IAS (retd.) and was read out by the author.

The first recipient of The Sportstar Award was honoured with a ponnadai (shawl) by Mr. S. Krishnan, Sports Editor, The Hindu and The Sportstar. The citation, which captured the essence of Tendulkar's personality and performances, was read by Mr. R. Mohan, Cricket Correspondent, The Hindu and The Sportstar.

A word of praise for the support extended by the Professional Management Group for planning and conducting the function cannot be deemed as an exaggeration. The programme concluded with a video presentation of the finest moments in Tendulkar's brief but brilliant career so far.

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