On the day of Sachin Tendulkar’s 44th birthday, we revisit the place where it all started. At the age of 14, former Mumbai captain Milind Rege at the MIG Club discovered him. Rege had put in a request to the secretary of MIG, Pravin Barve to allow the young prodigy to play for the Cricket Club of India; the latter was willing to do so. At the time, Rege was the cricket in-charge of CCI. Following that, Rege negotiated with Ramakant Achrekar, Tendulkar’s coach to allow the latter’s protégé to play for them. Achrekar set a few ground rules for Rege, before finalizing the terms and conditions “I spoke to Ramakant Achrekar, whose only condition was that Sachin should get a spot in the first XI. Milind promised that Sachin would get to play,” said Barve.
But, there was a snag, CCI had strict rules in place and one of the rules was that the dressing room was out of bounds for any player under the age of 18. Playing membership was only reserved for players who were 18 and above. Tendulkar had turned 15 by then, but was still underage. CCI President Madhav Apte and CCI executive committee member, Raj Singh Dungarpur, had a lengthy discussion about the issue. Sachin’s talent was more than evident and they wanted to unleash that kind of talent. Finally, they decided to ‘bend the rules’ and allow the boy to become a playing member. The executive committee made an exception for Tendulkar and the country would soon be better for it.
To this day, Apte has had no regrets over his decision. “The first time I saw him play was at Shivaji Park when I was leading CCI through Purshottam Shield quarterfinals. Those who had seen him bat at the inter-school level knew of his talent. Hemant Kenkre asked me to have a look at him. He wasn’t even 15 then, but cracked a brilliant 70-odd. Later, my teammates wanted to know my opinion about him. I said ‘If this boy keeps a stable head on his shoulders, he will play for India very soon’ I am glad to say, he hasn’t let any of us down” said Apte.