Dear Sachin Paaji
You have a million fans and I am one of them. In fact, I started playing cricket because of you. Simply watching you play motivated me. I don’t know if you remember this but I first met you at Wankhede Stadium in 2007.
I was part of the Indian under-19 side and we were set to leave for New Zealand. Mr Lalchand Rajput was our coach and it was he who’d requested you to come and have a chat with us. I was barely 17 then and I must apologise that I — in fact, all my teammates — did not pay much attention to anything you said!
Well, we were simply in awe of you. The boys stood in a huddle and you were, literally and figuratively, the centre of attention.
You had told us about the conditions in New Zealand; you spoke about the bounce, the swing and how we need to tackle that. Your technical knowhow held me in good stead on that tour.
Ravindra Jadeja, Ajinkya Rahane, Piyush Chawla and Dhawal Kulkarni were also part of that team and each of them has either played for India or done well in the IPL.
People crave to shake hands with you, get your autographs, have a picture clicked and here I am so abundantly lucky to be sharing a dressing room with you. To get to know you personally has been a huge honour.
I have had a fairly good start to my international career and I want to thank you for helping me in every possible way. Paaji, I have never said this to you, but I actually connect with you very easily. I feel comfortable and reassured when I speak to you about my game and, invariably, you tell me what I am actually thinking! I consider it an honour to be on the same page with you.
It’s always a pleasure talking to you about the game. You know how frustrated I was after the first two Tests in Australia recently. I was batting on 40-odd in the third Test at Perth and you came up to me and said that I’d get a big hundred. I am sorry I disappointed you by getting out for 75, but I hope I pleased you by scoring my maiden Test hundred in the final match at the Adelaide Oval.
You have no idea how much that one statement from you motivated me. It was amazing; I started hitting the ball really well and I knew that if you thought I could get a hundred, then I was going to get it.
On Friday, you achieved something which no other cricketer can or will. Yes, I know the last one year was frustrating, but I admire you for the way you handled yourself during this tough phase.
I was at the other end when you missed out on the landmark in Mumbai. It would have been great had you got it there, but it’s fine. I know you were not desperate because that’s what you have told me: never think too much, just play your game.
We admire you for your patience. You never lost your cool throughout this period. You behaved so normally. You were, are and always be a team man first. I am honoured to be part of a historic day in cricket. You are my childhood hero and I am equally thrilled to be part of this celebration.
You had once told me during our 75-run stand during an ODI in Nagpur that I must follow my instincts. I am doing just that and the results are showing.