| A 2002 file picture of Leander and Sachin at a promo for the sports goods maker they endorse
Bangalore: It’s not been a publicised friendship, but Sachin Tendulkar and Leander Paes have been pals for almost a decade. It’s no surprise, then, that Leander’s hospitalisation in the US has upset contemporary cricket’s No. 1 star.
“I heard about it on the TV in the morning and, well, it came as really bad news... I’ve sent an SMS and, like the rest of the country, will be praying that Leander’s illness isn’t serious,” Sachin told The Telegraph on Wednesday evening, soon after returning to the Grand Ashok from a Karnataka government function.
In fact, Sachin was curious whether there was an “update” during the time he was away from the TV — first, at the conditioning camp and, then, at the function. “Have you heard anything different'” he asked, in that tone of much concern.
Actually, without even waiting for an answer, Sachin added: “Leander’s such an easy guy to get along with... It was in the mid-Nineties that he met me during a game in Calcutta and, since then, we’ve grown to admire each other’s play... That both of us promote Adidas has, obviously, brought us together on quite a few occasions...”
While they haven’t met for some months, both have been in contact through SMS ever since Sachin decided to use a mobile — significantly, largely to allow his mother stay in touch whenever he is on the move.
Sachin, of course, hasn’t watched any Leander match in person, but recalled that India’s tennis ace did make an appearance during our 1999-2000 tour of Australia. “I just hope things will be fine,” he concluded, beginning to return some of the calls taken by the hotel in his absence.
Incidentally, Sachin (a John McEnroe fan) was hooked on tennis till the 1983 World Cup changed everything.
Meanwhile, Team India captain Sourav Ganguly, who also knows Leander (a fellow Calcuttan) well enough, said he was “distressed” and was “hoping” that the multiple tests don’t throw up anything crushing.
For those who need a gentle reminder, it was in 1996 that both Sourav and Leander had their finest moments: One got a Test hundred on debut at Lord’s, the other collected bronze at the Atlanta Olympics.