5 Questions

A plateful of biscuits, and an unforgettable car ride

Covering Tendulkar for 25 years has to be pretty eventful. Clayton Murzello recalls his days waiting at airports and chasing leads

Tendulkar: never too far from a media horde  •  Getty Images

Tendulkar: never too far from a media horde  •  Getty Images

What is your first Tendulkar memory?
I first saw him outside a sports bookshop where I worked. It could have been 1987. He and his pal Vinod Kambli used to pass the shop, which was not far away from their school. At times, Kambli entered the shop to get a feel of the books, but Tendulkar never came in. He used to stand near the door and see the books through the glass cupboard.
When did you first interview him?
It was an interview that I wanted after he returned from the 1990 New Zealand tour. He was playing a Purshottam Shield match for Shivaji Park Youngsters against Sunder Cricket Club, the team I managed at Cross Maidan. It was a one-and-a-half day game. At the end of the first day, I approached him when he was packing up to go home. He gave me directions - which bus to get into and where to get off. A week later, I landed up at his place at Bandra East. His father, Ramesh, taught in the same college I studied in. But I'm not sure he recognised me. He opened the door, welcomed me and called out, "Sachin, someone has come to see you."
Soon Sachin was in the living room. He served me tea and biscuits, arranged on a plate.
The piece was part of an "Intimate Interview" series that we did with various people in sports. We would give them one or two words and see how they respond. For example, "Car?" "Don't have one!" "Best friend?" "The game of cricket".
What was your biggest Sachin story?
It has to be the one in which he told me that he was ready for the India captaincy. He had just arrived from the Netherlands, where the team had played a couple of one-day games after India's 1996 tour of England.
I couldn't interview him at the Mumbai airport, because the crowd just surrounded him, so had to speak to him in his car. He told his brother Ajit that he would drive and asked me to sit in the car. After a few questions on the [England] tour, where India lost the Tests 1-0, I asked him whether he was prepared for the captaincy. I still remember the exact turn he took before the highway (in Andheri) when he gave me my biggest story. I knew it would be a page one lead. The headline was, "I am ready for captaincy: Sachin".
It was a long night.
How stressful was it to cover him?
The most challenging assignment was to get a reaction to his appointment as captain in 1996. I reached his Bandra residence and discovered I had a lot of company - reporters, photographers and a few from the electronic media. Tendulkar was not home. He had been dining at his in-laws' place in south Mumbai. That's what the buzz was all about. He arrived at midnight when all but one newspaper had gone to bed. To everyone's surprise, he didn't react to the news of him replacing Mohammad Azharuddin as captain. He said he would speak at the airport the following morning.
So we all had to go home (in my case, the office) and arrive at the domestic airport at 6am to grab a few quotes before Tendulkar flew to Kolkata for a selection meeting. We ran with: "Azhar was the first to call me" as the headline that very day in our second edition.
Which Sachin innings is the closest to your heart?
Undoubtedly, the 155 not out that helped India win the Chennai Test of 1998 against Australia. Remember, he was out cheaply in the first innings - caught by Mark Taylor at slip off Shane Warne for 4. The Test was in the balance for the first three days. That was before Tendulkar played that knock on a turning pitch.
I also enjoyed his 76 and 65 against Australia in the 2001 Mumbai Test.
Clayton Murzello, the sports editor of Mid-Day, spoke to Siddhartha Vaidyanathan

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is a writer based in the USA