SACHIN Tendulkar’s final farewell last week brought back vivid memories of the one and only time that Bobby Rao played against the man affectionately known as the ‘Little Master’.
Tendulkar bowed out of international cricket arena in his 200th Test against the West Indies in Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.
The right-handed batsman – considered the greatest the game has ever seen – is the only player to score 100 centuries in Test cricket. He played Test cricket for 24 years after making his debut at 16.
Rao, who played four times for India, recalls Tenduklar coming to the crease in a first class match between Bombay (Mumbai) and Hyderbad in the late eighties.
“It was my last first class game against Bombay, it was a semi-final. There was a crowd of over 30,000,” explained Bobby, who played international cricket for both India and Ireland.
“There were international cricketers on both sides, including the Indian skipper at the time. Out came this young lad, for only his second or third game.
“I caught him at point but at that stage he had hit 52 runs. Even at that tender age he was so focused, calm and calculated. There was a huge crowd, a lot of pressure, a lot of big players on both sides and he never flinched. The rest of us were struggling but he played so perfectly.”
Bobby, who played four times for India against the West Indies and Australia from 1978 to 1980, has met Tendulkar numerous times since that first encounter. The Sion Mills man insists what made the ‘Little Master’ stand out from the rest was the way he conducted himself at all times.
“I met him quite a few times and we often joked about the time I used to have long curly hair,” laughed Bobby.
“He put Indian cricket on the map, that’s for sure. He played international cricket for 24 years and he really carried himself on and off the field.
“He was never fined once or anything like that, never caught up in controversy.
“He was a great role model for any sport. He was the greatest. Whether he got a 100 or a duck the next day he was in the nets working hard at his game.
“People like him are born in every two or three decades. I was blessed to play against him in my last game. OK, myself and others were bigger players than him at that time but when you think back he was a wonderful talent.”