Meet Kenya’s ‘Sachin’

Named after the Indian legend, Kenya's U-19 captain dares to dream big.

Sachin Bhudia idolises South Africa’s Jacques Kallis.   -  Special Arrangement

A batsman took a pause and looked back at the pavilion.

Boys sitting in the make-shift players’ arena at the Gymkhana grounds in Nairobi raised their voices and within minutes, the entire ground could only hear chants of ‘Sachin, Sachin…’ Aware of the cheering, the batsman smiled and slowly went down to bat.

All of 18, Sachin Bhudia is now pretty used to his team-mates and coaches chanting slogans of ‘Sachin Tendulkar’ every time he takes the field.

For the record, Bhudia has no similarities with the Indian cricket legend, apart from sharing the name with him. But even then, the Kenya U-19 captain gets compared to his namesake in almost every game. “There have been occasions when even the opposition players have started calling me Sachin Tendulkar. Basically, it has become a common joke in our cricketing circuit,” Bhudia tells Sportstar, quickly adding that he enjoys this attention. “Who wouldn’t want to get compared with Sachin Tendulkar? I take that as a motivation.”

While he has already set his sight on next year’s U-19 World Cup, the young Bhudia is presently in Visakhapatnam, representing the NCPA, in an invitational tournament. “I love coming to India,” he says with a smile.

Of course, there is a reason behind it.

Indian roots

Hailing from an Indian family, Bhudia’s extended family is still settled in the Bhuj region of Gujarat. His father Ramniklal Bhudia — an engineer by profession — shifted to Nairobi a couple of decades ago, and that’s where Sachin was born. “Though I am a Kenyan citizen, I enjoy my Indian roots. Every time I come here, it feels like home,” the young gun says.

There is, however, another question that Bhudia faces every now and then. “Many people ask me if I am named after Sachin Tendulkar? And my answer remains, yes…” he blushes.

Ramnik — a big fan of Tendulkar — had indeed named his son after the Indian cricket legend. On September 24, 1998, when Bhudia was born, Tendulkar was in Zimbabwe with the Indian team. “He (Tendulkar) was a big thing, so that’s how I was named after him,” Bhudia says, pointing out that two days after his birth, Tendulkar hammered an unbeaten knock of 127 against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. “I have always been compared to him by my friends. At younger times, I would get irritated with that, but now, I cherish every moment,” the young captain adds.

‘Cricket is my calling’

Even Kenya’s U-19 coach Jimmy Kamande, a former national team captain, believes Bhudia has enough talent to walk that extra mile. The youngster, who is also a first-year student of electrical engineering, is wary of being inflated with compliments. “My only target is to play for a long time. It is tough to sustain for long in international circuit, but I think I will be able to stick around,” he says, adding that the preparations for the World Cup will begin after returning home from India. “Ever since I was 12, I knew cricket is my calling. It is an honour to lead Kenya. Hopefully, things will go my way,” Bhudia says.

After heading home, the focus will be back on batting and fielding, key factors in the World Cup, according to Bhudia. “Recently we played against Zimbabwe, and now, we know the areas which require attention,” Bhudia says.

Even though he shares his name with Tendulkar, Bhudia considers former South Africa cricketer Jacques Kallis as his idol. “He is my all time favourite,” he says, adding that the next batsman in the list is Indian captain Virat Kohli.

At a young age, Bhudia dreams of having a long international career. Coming from an associate nation like Kenya, the challenge will be more. But then, Bhudia is not afraid of taking risks just like an Indian legend from Mumbai.

Perhaps, that’s got something to do with his name!