When Vinod Kambli walked into Ramakant Achrekar’s residence on Thursday morning, his expressions said it all. The former India batsman and one of Achrekar’s famous wards, could not come to terms with the fact that his ‘Sir’ was no more.
A few minutes later, when he joined his former team-mate and old friend Sachin Tendulkar for Achrekar’s final journey , neither Tendulkar, nor Kambli could hold back the tears.
For the two, floodgates of memories opened.
“Sachin and I shared a father and child relationship with Sir. It is a great loss for us,” an emotional Kambli told Sportstar later.
Talking about his mentor, Kambli walked down the memory lane. “At times, we (Sachin and him) would try to skip practice but Sir would come all the way to pick us up and would take us back to the nets. He saw something in me and Sachin, and there were also others. He gave time to each and everyone,” Kambli said.
Over the years, coach Achrekar has set an example, and Kambli calls it ‘outstanding.’
“He gave us freedom to express ourselves through cricket. The coach and father relationship is very rare nowadays. There will never be another Ramakant Achrekar,” Kambli said.
The former India cricketer also clearly remembers the first time he met Achrekar.
“I was just 11 when I met Achrekar Sir and that’s how our cricketing journey started. He played a very big role in my life,” Kambli said.
At that time, Kambli was a student of a local school. “That school had no cricketing facility. Sir saw me playing somewhere and told my parents that I should be admitted to Shardashram Vidyamandir. That’s how I went to Shardashram,” he said.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Kambli started a ‘new journey’ in the new school. Along with Tendulkar, he hammered a record 664-run partnership for Shardashram Vidyamandir in the 1988 Harris Shield semifinal against St Xavier’s High School, Fort.
That changed life for both the friends. “He (Achrekar) was the man who literally made me. I am into coaching now and I want to follow everything he taught us,” Kambli said.
As a coach, Achrekar would tell his wards to get the basics right and practice as much as they could. “People say that practice makes a man perfect but he told us ‘Perfect practice makes a man perfect’. Those words are still echoing in my ears. He focused on practice. He was there everywhere and at every step.”
“Whether it is personal or whether it is about cricket. He has been of great help in my career and also in my personal life,” a nostalgic Kambli said.
As the cortège reached Shivaji Park, Kambli could relive every moment of the days gone by. “He never told us, ‘Well played’. He wanted us to perform well, and even after I scored a double century, he asked me, why did I throw away my wicket? That was him,” Kambli said.
Today, as his wards bid him adieu, all Kambli wanted to hear were those two words, “Well played”!
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