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A plucky kid in a Lahore hotel to the embodiment of a nation's spirit — what a privilege to follow this journey.
After holding forth on the war in Sri Lanka in some detail last month (in a three-part series beginning with 'Such a long Lankan journey', IE, September 11), how do I justify a cricket story as the second instalment in this new series, First Person, Second Draft? It might be useful if I repeated what I had said last month while explaining this new series: that when publishers ask me to write a book, or more specifically, a memoir of my years as a reporter, my standard excuse is, editors write books between jobs. And since that wasn't on the cards any time soon, I thought I might start putting together these first person accounts on the 20 or so big stories I had covered as a reporter, to add up to a memoir some day. But how do I justify this piece on cricket, or rather Sachin Tendulkar, in that category? Cricket is, of course, the greatest running story in India for half a century, and Sachin its greatest star. But it isn't a story I can claim to have covered in too much depth or with any consistency. I started my career — with this paper in 1977, recruited by its Sports Editor K.R. Wadhwaney — to cover sports, but soon moved on to less fun things described, those days, with that catch-all description: general reporting. Editors and employers, however, like reporters who can multi-task. Which is why I got to do some free labour writing about sports on the side, sort of. Or rather, living out a fantasy for which my employers should have docked from my wages.
It was in one such "general" pursuit that I had my first encounter with Sachin Tendulkar in December, 1989. He was then on his debut series in Pakistan and the cause of great curiosity and wonder around the cricketing world. He had announced his arrival with a short but ominous innings in Sialkot, coming in at number 6 with Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and Imran Khan breathing fire, and hitting a boundary off Waqar while nursing a nose bloodied by a nasty snorter. He was still a child. So much a child, in fact, that he had not started to grow hair on his cheeks yet so he would need to shave.