Mumbai, April 25: Former India captain and manager Ajit Wadekar spilled the beans about "prankster Sachin Tendulkar", who once got half a dozen belly dancers on his 53rd birthday during cricket team's tour of New Zealand back in 1994.
During a Cricket Club of India function, here yesterday, Wadekar recalled how Tendulkar had pulled a fast one on him during that particular tour.
"There was this incident in New Zealand. It was on my birthday which is April 1. We had a lovely net session day before and I retired to bed early as I used to fool others on All Fools' Day. I was half asleep when at stroke of midnight, Sachin was at my room door with a serious look on his face, Wadekar recalled during his keynote address at the Legends' Summit on the occasion of Tendulkar's 42nd birthday.
'Shocked and surprised'
"I asked Sachin as to why he was knocking at my door at such an odd hour and he said that something was wrong with Kapil Dev. I wore my pyjamas and went to Kapil's room two floors away. When we entered the room, I saw the entire team with a cake and champagne bottle. I was shocked and surprised," the septuagenarian fondly recollected.
What he said after that had the audience in splits. "Suddenly, from the connecting room, belly dancers, six of them, walked in and started dancing. I wondered this must have been Sachin's idea as Sunny (Sunil Gavaskar), though a commentator on that tour, was not to be seen. Sunny is famous for his pranks but this must have been Sachin's idea," Wadekar said bringing peals of laughter from those present.
"I really enjoyed belly dancing and had two glasses of champagne, before I realised that everyone had started leaving. I was suddenly left with one belly dancer. Being the manager of the team, I had to observe the code of conduct and retire to my room," he added cheekily.
'Sachin is above everyone else'
On Tendulkar's cricketing acumen, Wadekar recollected another incident during a series in Sri Lanka. "We were playing in Sri Lanka and he would come up with ideas. After team meetings, he would come to my room and have dinner so that he did not have to pay for it," there was another round of laughter.
"Sachin came up with the idea of us starting to attack by bowling only on the middle and leg-stump line. I said to him, "If you can show me how one can bowl all six balls on middle and leg, I will take it seriously". Next day, he did bowl six balls on middle and leg. That is Sachin Tendulkar. He is above everyone else."
Wadekar also reminisced about how the twist of fate made Sachin Tendulkar an opener in ODIs and the rest as they say was history.
"After warm-up on the day of the match, Navjot Singh Sidhu turned up limping and said to me,"Sir, I just twisted my ankle and won't be able to play". I did not know whom to send to open and was looking at Azhar and Kapil. Sachin politely enquired,"Sir, is it okay if I open?". Azhar and Kapil nodded and the way it happened not just in that match but over the years, a good discussion had taken place that day."
On Sachin quitting captaincy
Tendulkar lit up the small Eden Park ground by making a 49-ball 82 laced with 15 fours and 2 sixes to help India to a seven-wicket win over New Zealand. Wadekar also recalled the words of former Test opener Vijay Merchant when someone asked whether Tendulkar retired prematurely from ODIs.
"When Sachin made the decision to step down from ODIs (in 2012), I thought what Vijay Merchant used to say. Vijaybhai used to say "You retire when people ask "why" and not "why not". "Sachin could have played for another couple of years because he knew the game so well. But he also knew exactly well what fitness he had to do. Whenever he was not fully fit, he used to ask me,"Sir, would you risk me playing?" He was very particular on fitness. Age was telling on him."
Wadekar lamented that his mentoring did not have any desired effect on Vinod Kambli, who lost his way. "I was trying to mentor a chap called Vinod Kambli, and I failed," he said.