(This story is from The Quint’s archives and is being republished to mark Sachin Tendulkar’s birthday)
Sachin Tendulkar's astonishing achievements are documented in detail – we know about his wonderful cricketing skills: head still, perfect balance, sense of timing, ability to pick length early, mental discipline to shut out distraction and a fierce drive to excel at all times.
However, the master blaster is not only adept at the game but also has a profound respect for it. Tendulkar treats cricket with the seriousness and devotion that’s usually associated with dedicated artists. It’s akin to music exponent Lata Mangeshkar’s love for singing. Tendulkar has often said cricket is his life, his mission – almost, and not just his calling card to the world of celebrities.
Tendulkar feels blessed and immensely grateful for the love and support that he receives from his fans. These are not empty words or politically correct statements but genuine sentiments of a megastar who understands his responsibility towards the game that gave him an opportunity to display his skills. Tendulkar knows that the dua (blessings) of millions of well wishers contributed to his success and made him the star that he went on to become.
How seriously Tendulkar takes his fans is most strikingly reflected in the way he signs autographs.
If a person's signature is supposed to reveal his character, surely the manner in which Tendulkar appends his signature speaks a lot about him.
Remarkably, Tendulkar always, always, signs an autograph with full attention whereas other celebrities often scribble hastily.
Signing an autograph for him is serious business, done with concentration and undivided focus. He pays as much attention to signing an autograph as he does to a bowler running in to deliver the next ball.
Tendulkar signs with his left hand, writing each letter carefully, ending with a Nike-like swoosh. His autograph, from the time he started playing to now, is the same – neat, consistent, legible. Never a squiggle or an untidy scrawl.
Over the years since I was manager of the Indian cricket team that first toured South Africa in 1992 – ending years of sporting isolation because of apartheid – I have seen all kinds of people approach Sachin for photographs and autographs.
Political leaders, social celebrities and business leaders have lined up to catch his attention, occasionally intruding into his private space or disturbing him when he's busy doing something important.
During the 2003 World Cup, the high point of Holland’s cricket team (and their wives!) was that they got a picture with Sachin. There are many instances of Test players from other countries (including Pakistan) asking him for signed mementos.
Sachin must have signed millions of autographs but there won't be one occasion when he was rude, abrupt or brusque about the request. This attitude is illustrated by an incident on a tour to England when the Indian team was playing a practise game at Hampshire's newly constructed Rose Bowl stadium. There was an elderly person who would come to the ground and stand patiently outside the dressing room, hoping Sachin would sign a coffee table book on the cricketer that had just been released.
Two days passed without the gentleman being able to catch Sachin's attention. Seeing him suffer silently, I offered help and took the book to Sachin in the dressing room. On hearing the plight of the elderly fan, Sachin signed without a moment’s hesitation, came out to meet the person and posed for a photograph with him.
Later, I asked Sachin if he had collaborated with the author for the coffee table book on him that he just signed. “No,” he replied. “I was not aware of the author or the book. I saw this for the first time!”
(Amrit Mathur is a senior journalist, former GM of the BCCI and Manager of the Indian Cricket Team. He can be reached at @AmritMathur1. The opinions expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them)