The who's who of Mumbai cricket gathered on Tuesday at the Bandra Kurla Complex to felicitate Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar along with school cricket stars Prithvi Shaw and Mushir Khan. The Mumbai Cricket Association-organised function saw Tendulkar's cricket coach Ramakant Achrekar feted while celebrating his 81st birthday. (Read: Sachin Tendulkar's advice to MCA: Make school ties 15-players-a-side affair to increase talent pool)
Tendulkar, Achrekar's most celebrated pupil of Mumbai school cricket, was one of the first to feed his coach the birthday cake on Tuesday. Tendulkar's wife Anjali was present at the function along with Sharad Pawar and former MCA president Ravi Sawant.
Apart from wishing Achrekar on his birthday, the iconic player, also acknowledged the contribution of former India opener and Mumbai stalwart Madhav Apte to local cricket. "I still remember playing a game at Shivaji Park, representing the Shivaji Park Gymkhana. I remember someone who is four times my age but still with passion and enthusiasm of a young man. Wish I can play an exhibition match someday. Whenever we used to have team meetings for Mumbai, we used to give your example of winning 15 times in a row," Tendulkar said.
Tendulkar also recalled his school cricket days when there were no indoor facilities to practice. "When it used to rain and there were no indoors facilities, we used to practice in the muck with my friends. Those days won't be seen by the likes of Prithvi and Mushir, but it was fun playing in the rain coz the muck used to go in the eyes before the ball reached us," he said.
The Indian cricket legend said school cricketers need more opportunities to prove their worth. "My suggestion to MCA is that in the inter-school and inter-college matches should be played with 15 players instead of 11. A young boy travels long distance and he is not sure whether he will play or not. Some players have to miss out and players have to miss out unfortunately. Players work for the whole year round and they still don't get chances in tournaments like Giles Shield and Harris Shield," Tendulkar said.
For Tendulkar, Mumbai cricket has a lot to gain from school cricket. The 40-year-old feels the local administration must support the young cricketers till the time a player becomes a professional. "I am planning as how to we can have a player play atleast three matches in a season in the tournaments. Till a player is able to stand on his feet, MCA should support them. We have a larger pool of players to select from, the selectors will have more options. I think we should introduce something new and try to give everyone an opportunity which will benefit Mumbai cricket and the rest of the nation will follow suit. Imagine nearly 10,000 kids will benefit," he said.
Prithvi, 14, scored a 546 in an elite division Harris Shield game and eight-year-old Mushir, took 20 wickets in the Kanga League (G division), were also honoured in the ceremony.
Tendulkar said that he would continue to support his son Arjun irrespective of his success and felt it is important to give opportunity to children. "I feel whether Arjun becomes successful or not my support will anyways be there but what about those unfortunate children who may not have support from family and still a lot of them (parents) would be saying nothing is going to come out of cricket study and become an engineer, a doctor, I have a doctor at home, and there is nothing wrong in it," he said.
"But it is all about how you give the small child the opportunity. If they fail after getting opportunity then there is no reason to continue but without getting the opportunity if you leave the platform, then MCA and me as a former cricketer I would say we would be lacking in our duties somewhere. We all hope that we would make more such special players, which will help us celebrate next year even better," he added.