16 year old Sachin Tendulkar‘s first tour of Pakistan; hit by a snorter by Waqar Younis, his reply – a crushing boundary. The tale is a stuff of legend but there is a back story to Sachin’s international debut series and it revolves around the then national chairman of selectors late Raj Singh Dungarpur.
‘Raj bhai’ played a crucial role in helping Sachin take baby steps in international cricket and Sachin thought it was time to pay homage. Sachin was present in person to inaugurate the main gate at Cricket Club of India (CCI) which would now be called Raj Singh Dungarpur gate.
Some of you would know the story but it’s the kind one wouldn’t tire listening to again. Speaking on the occasion, Sachin said, “There were usual discussions whether Sachin would go to West Indies or not, so Raj bhai came to me when I was playing the semifinal at the Wankhede stadium against Delhi. I had scored runs in the first innings and Raj bhai walked up to me and he said I will tell you one thing that you will not go to West Indies, you focus on this match and if you get a chance to play in the final then score there and after that you are focusing on SSC exams, I was in 10th standard.”
Sachin also went on to thank Dungarpur in breaking protocol as a selector and advising him to keep at it and that his time would come.
Dungarpur was one of the few who played a stellar role in young Sachin’s progress also helping him secure exposure tours to England as a teenager when he ‘did not have deep pockets.’ Dungarpur was also instrumental in amending the rules of CCI to allow the teenager to use its dressing room.
Later in 1999 when Tendulkar wanted to step down from captaincy in the middle of the South Africa series, it was Dungarpur who tried to persuade him to stay on till the end.
Sachin recalled how Dungarpur remained a cricket devotee even in his last innings with Indian cricket. “When Raj bhai was on his last tour as team manager in Pakistan during 2005, I could still feel his passion for the game despite his old age,” he said.
This tour was the most eventful with the Ganguly-Chappell feud at its prime with Dungarpur unfortunately plagued by ill health.
It was Sachin who proposed that the main gate at CCI be named after Raj Singh Dungarpur which was finally acted upon by the club today.
“I know these things take time. But I am happy its happening for perpetuity. For Rajbhai, CCI was everything,” – Sachin Tendulkar