‘My introduction to him was quite overwhelming ’

If Sachin Tendulkar hadn’t spoken to me, I would never have had the courage to talk to him. So he went out of his way to ask questions for which he already knew the answers.

“He’s (Sachin) a wonderful man when it comes to easing youngsters into the team environment,” says Akash Chopra.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

There’s an obvious ‘star struck’ moment of following Sachin and then meeting him for the first time. That’s when you realise that all your life you’re primed to meet him and now you’ve the opportunity of sharing the dressing room with him.

This was during a Test match in Ahmedabad. I walked into the team meeting — the banquet hall was assigned to the team — and then obviously, you start looking at all the faces in the room. And there’s no bigger face than Sachin. We exchanged pleasantries but I was slightly nervous too because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. I’m sure he comes across people who’re in complete awe of him everyday.

But he’s a wonderful man when it comes to easing youngsters into the team environment. There was this one time when we were split into two groups — bowlers and batsmen — and I, of course, went to the batting group. That’s when Sachin started asking questions because I had already played two games against New Zealand. He asked me how Daryl Tuffey was bowling, if the ball was coming in. Then about Daniel Vettori and whether his arm ball was spinning in because he bowled it with the seam up. In my naivety, I kept saying ‘this is happening, that is happening’ but a little later, I realised he had done that to break the ice. If he hadn’t spoken to me, I would never have had the courage to talk to him. So he went out of his way to ask questions for which he already knew the answers.

He made me comfortable to the extent that two, three days into the Ahmedabad Test, I called him up and said ‘I would like to meet you’ and then went and had a nice chat with him in his room. He told me stories about playing against Pakistan, the 2003 World Cup and all that. From outside, you see this man who’s demolishing the best bowling attacks in the world, so you attach a certain amount of ruthlessness to his style but you never get to see the person behind the performer. Suffice to say, my introduction to Sachin was quite overwhelming.

(As told to Ayan Acharya)