The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sachin, gift-wrapped for Sania
- One sports icon turns 19 today, another 16

Hyderabad, Nov. 14: It’s not known what Sania Mirza’s parents intend gifting her, but on the eve of turning 19, she described hero Sachin Tendulkar’s presence in her city as “the greatest” birthday gift.

It embarrassed Sachin, who was sharing the Hyderabad 10K Run platform with her this evening, but the applause at the Taj Residency’s Raaga hall was near deafening. Incidentally, the morrow will be special for Sachin as well ' it’s going to mark the completion of 16 years of international cricket.

A birthday with a difference, really, and the attention won’t be on Sania alone. First, though, more on her.

Asked by The Telegraph whether sitting alongside Sachin had been a first, Sania flashed that billion-watt smile: “Yeah... I can’t remember any previous instance.' It has been a special occasion.”

Sachin, of course, has been invited by the Mirzas to grace the “small birthday party”, as mother Naseema put it, but it’s not clear whether our biggest sporting icon will actually head for Sania’s Jubilee Hills residence.

The first ODI against South Africa is on Wednesday and Sachin usually stays away from media-attracting events in the lead-up to a big match. Sania, by the way, won’t be in Hyderabad that day.

“I’ve got work in New Delhi and, unfortunately, it can’t be rescheduled.' I’ve got no choice but to watch whatever little I can on the TV,” she said, smiling yet again.

Sachin, it may be recalled, was into tennis in a big way till the 1983 World Cup. That’s when he took to Shivaji Park full-time and skipped the hardcourts. Yet, he followed the careers of John McEnroe, Steffi Graf and Pete Sampras with “huge interest”.

He has already gone on record applauding Sania’s fighting spirit and the example she has set for youngsters.

In fact, Sachin and Sania (as also 2001 All-England badminton champion Pullela Gopichand who, sadly, got ignored) set an off-the-playing-arena example by coming together to promote the 10K Run, scheduled for November 27.

The funds collected, largely through sponsorships, are to go towards charitable causes. The organisers contributed a handsome Rs 20 lakh towards the chief minister’s fund for ‘Save a Child’s Heart’ from the second edition last year.

“I’m happy that the Run has been bringing a smile to children who have problems of one kind or the other.... We’re involved with sports, but there are larger issues ' like saving the lives of (underprivileged) children,” Sachin, who is associated with the Mumbai-based Apnalaya, remarked.

Sania spoke on much the same lines: “We’re in a position to influence society and I’ve been doing what I can'. Hopefully, it’s going to be more when I reach Sachin’s age (32)'. Words can’t describe the satisfaction on lending a hand to charitable causes.'”

Both urged sponsors to come forward more generously.

The last word, not surprisingly, rested with Sachin. When someone asked just how much he himself ran to keep fit, he responded laughing: “I was telling Gopi that I don’t like running unless it’s for runs!”

Well, to avoid getting mobbed, Sachin had to make an exception once the Hyderabad 10K Run promotional got over, Such was the frenzy ' in Sania’s presence, mind you ' that he had to exit through the hotel’s kitchen.

The chefs, a couple of whom promptly took out their camera phones, didn’t mind.

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