When teen Sachin bowled coal town - Memories of 16-year-old crown prince

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  • Published 11.11.13

As the god of cricket prepares to bow out after his 200th Test in hometown Mumbai, Dhanbad recalls a curly-haired, shy 16-year-old who lofted two sixes in an exhibition match on December 28, 1989.

Fans vividly remember Sachin Tendulkar who reached Dhanbad on the chilly morning, along with cricketing veterans Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohinder Amarnath, Manoj Prabhakar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Maninder Singh, Chetan Sharma, Kiran More and others.

The stars were supposed to take part in the Nehru Centenary Cricket Match — exhibition match between teams led by Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar — at the revamped Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Jealgora.

Some 25,000 spectators were eagerly waiting for the Kapil versus Sunil match to start.

Then came the downer — similar to the India-Australia ODI washout at JSCA stadium in Ranchi — a burst of unseasonal rains.

To their dismay, Dhanbad’s cricket functionaries realised a full-fledged match was impossible. But, to miss in action two Little Masters — Gavaskar and Sachin — as well as Kapil Dev, Shastri, Vengsarkar and other legends was unthinkable.

By 2pm, the grounds were dried anyhow for a single wicket match.

All ended well. Kapil’s broad willow hit 29. Sachin scored a robust 23 with 2 sixes.

“It was delightful to watch the teen prodigy. When I look back, it was definitely an experience of a lifetime,” said vice president of Dhanbad Cricket Association (DCA) Asit Sahay, back then DCA assistant secretary.

“Sachin had just returned from his debut tour of Pakistan in September 1989. He was 16 years old when he came to Dhanbad. He was shy and very well behaved. Watching him on television now, I feel he has stayed just the same,” Sahay said.

Divulging more about the match, Sahay said: “Though it was a single wicket match, we got to see Sachin and the greats of Indian cricket play. This was possible only due to the hard work of functionaries in the biting cold. Rains had left the grounds soggy. We even burnt coal to dry the grounds.”

Who was the champion? “Haryana Hurricane Kapil Dev. He was given a Kawasaki Bajaj bike,” smiled Sahay.

“All the players rode the motorcycle one by one after the match. The spectators went crazy,” smiled Balashankar Jha, a coach of Tata Steel at Tata Digwadih Stadium at Dhanbad. “I watched the match as a member of the Bihar Under-17 squad.”

Sachin stayed at the Koylanagar-based BCCL guesthouse, Sahay recalled. “We had put up cricketers at Jagjivan Nagar and Koylanagar guesthouses of BCCL. Sachin was put up at Koylanagar.”

“Everyone knew who Sachin was, even at 16,” president of Dhanbad Cricket Association Manoj Singh said. “Due to his records in first-class cricket and his selection as the youngest player in Team India, people loved him already. But few had imagined he would play for Team India for 24 years and break every record in the book.”

“Even then, we knew Sachin would speak with his bat and not his mouth,” said Imtiyaz Khan, then another DCA assistant secretary.