This is recognition for grass-root level devotion. Tarak Sinha, guide to many international cricketers, can finally reflect on his career with a sense of pride and achievement. To his credit he never clamoured for any award. He has always maintained his award and reward come in the form of his trainees doing well in life and not just at cricket.

He can rightly hang a name plate outside his house proclaiming Dronacharya Tarak Sinha. But knowing him, he would refrain from trumpeting his newly acquired status in the world of cricket.

He is only the fifth cricket coach, after Desh Prem Azad, Gurcharan Singh, Ramakant Achrekar and Sunita Sharma, to be bestowed with the honour that is being celebrated more by his pupils than the master himself.

From Surender Khanna to Rishabh Pant, the list of Sinha’s students is impressive — Randhir Singh, Raman Lamba, Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Sharma, K.P. Bhaskar, Atul Wassan, Ashish Nehra, Sanjeev Sharma, Aakash Chopra, Shikhar Dhawan, Anjum Chopra and Jhulan Goswami. He picked them amidst a crowd, shaped their game and career, and yet had to wait so long to be acknowledged a cricket guru.

Sinha, a soft-spoken Bengali, who came to make Delhi his home, has endured a hard journey from the time he was asked to look after the cricket team at the PGDAV College.

'Ushers in a new era'

He ushered in a new era in Delhi cricket when he helped PGDAV emerge the inter-collegiate champion in 1980, defeating many times winner St. Stephen’s College in the final. It was quite like Nepal beating India at cricket.

From a humble start at DCM Mills, Sinha explored various parks and open spaces to run Sonnet Club, an iconic feature in Delhi cricket. He never compromised on discipline and was a great supporter of fearless approach to the game.

As a teenager he had lost out to boys from private schools who gained preference in selection matters. He had vowed then to create a club and offer best environment for players from humble background to become fierce competitors.

They call him “Ustadji”, which is a respectful reference to a teacher. Or mentor, as he has always preferred to be known as.

He has a tremendous quality to spot talent. “What I like is he knows how to spot a diamond. For Sinha, everything in life comes after cricket. Even when he is very sick, he won’t stay at home. You can always spot him under a tree at the Sonnet Club (in Venkateshwara College).

“He is a father figure to hundreds of cricketers. I take pride in being called his student,” says Nehra, a favourite of Sinha.

When he steps up to receive the Dronacharya Award at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on September 25, Sinha, 68, would be applauded by the cricket circuit for having served the game with dignity.