So what if Sachin Tendulkar retired from international cricket? Sudhir Gautam, the maestro’s lifelong fan, still travels to cheer for Team India.

Yes, he is the man with tricolour all over his body with an Indian flag and a conch shell. 

The most striking feature about the 36-year-old is his memory. He remembers his dates. On the eve of the second ODI between India and Australia at the Eden Gardens here, Gautam told Sportstar that his journey, as a fan, started from this ground. “It was an India-England ODI on January 19 in 2002. Those days, I used to cycle to venues to catch a glimpse of Sachin sir (Tendulkar),” he recalled.

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Gautam is now a close friend of the legendary cricketer and they often meet at the icon’s Mumbai residence. “He retired, but it was he who gave me the opportunity to cheer for Team India at several venues,” added Gautam, who once cycled from Bihar to Mumbai to meet the legend in 2003.

“I had started on October 8 and I reached Mumbai on October 26. I finally met him at the Trident Hotel there on October 28.” Does he avail flights these days? “No, comes the answer. I use a flight only when I feel I can’t reach a venue on time. If there is a situation like that, I call up Sachin sir and he organises for tickets. Otherwise, I am happy taking trains.”

Gautam is also friends with M.S. Dhoni and whenever there is a match in Ranchi, he checks in at the former captain’s residence. His rapport with the current Indian team increased tenfold when he went for the Test match between India and Australia in Dharamsala earlier this year. “The team called me to the ground and let me touch their winning trophy.”

As of now, Gautam is trying to find a way to reach South Africa next year. “But before that, there is New Zealand who is coming here on October 22, they are playing the first ODI in Mumbai. Following them would be Sri Lanka who will play a Test on this ground.”  Quite a cricket calendar, isn’t it?