Exclusive: As Sachin Tendulkar turns 50 today, UAE fans reveal how cricket legend touched their lives

It's a perfect half-century on the 22-yard strip of life for the only batsman to have scored 100 centuries in international cricket

by

Rituraj Borkakoty

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Sachin Tendulkar is congratulated by the late Mark Mascarenhas after his match-winning hundred in the final of the 1998 Coca Cola Cup against Australia in Sharjah. — AFP file
Sachin Tendulkar is congratulated by the late Mark Mascarenhas after his match-winning hundred in the final of the 1998 Coca Cola Cup against Australia in Sharjah. — AFP file

Published: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 12:57 AM

April 24 is a day of celebration for a generation of people in cricket-obsessed India that lived every moment of Sachin Tendulkar’s cricket odyssey.

The boy wonder who warmed every mother’s heart with his curly hair and shy smile on his international debut in 1989, is celebrating his 50th birthday today.


A perfect half-century on the 22-yard strip of life for the only man to have scored 100 centuries in international cricket.

But for Dr. Mandar V. Bichu, a Sharjah-based pediatrician, Tendulkar was not just a record-breaking cricketer.


Dr. Mandar V. Bichu
Dr. Mandar V. Bichu

Sachin's ethereal batsmanship and his impeccable conduct made such an impact that Bichu ended up creating a one-of-a-kind web museum — TendulkarCricket.Com (https://tendulkarcricket.com) — on the batting maestro’s 48th birthday in 2021.

“Now Sachin turning 50 is a milestone for every one of us in a way because he is someone who means so much to the entire country,” says Dr Mandar, who first heard of Sachin from a friend.

"A friend of mine lived in Sachin's colony in Bandra (Mumbai). He told about this little boy with amazing talent. He said this boy would soon play for India.

“Then couple of years later, he was picked for the Indian team as a 16-year-old boy and went on to play for 24 years, becoming practically the emotion of India.

“Our lives and all those aspirations, were so much invested in this fellow for more than two decades. The entire game was centred around him while he was there. It was the magical era, which defined our lives.”

Dinner in Dubai

Shyam Bhatia is another man who has a special connection with Sachin.

Shyam Bhatia with Sachin Tendulkar
Shyam Bhatia with Sachin Tendulkar

The UAE's well-known cricket promoter and the owner of Dubai's famous Shyam Bhatia Cricket Museum was among the audience when Sachin scored the first of his 100 international centuries.

“I was there in Manchester (in 1990) when he scored his first century (119 not out). What an innings it was!" Bhatia said.

"I remember India lost six wickets on the final day and they had a big deficit. But he stayed there and showed remarkable temperament for a 17-year-old.

"He had a big partnership with Manoj Prabhakar and the two of them saved the match for India on the final day,” Bhatia remembered.

Few months after he witnessed Sachin’s first Test classic in England, Bhatia was presented with a beautiful surprise by his friend Sunil Gavaskar in Dubai.

“The Indian team was in Sharjah for a tournament in 1991 when Sunny was on a commentary assignment. I had invited him for dinner one night. But to my surprise, he also brought Sachin and Vinod Kambli to our house," the octogenarian businessman said.

"That was the first time I met Sachin. You know, it's hard to believe that Sachin is now 50 years old. He still has the same boyish charm I saw when he had dinner at our place that night."

Love for omelette sandwich

Sachin's love for ‘vada pav’, the popular Maharashtrian vegetarian snack, is well documented.

But few people know how Sachin fell in love with the ‘paratha omelette sandwich’, a popular snack for the Kerala community in the UAE.

Remarkably, the man who introduced Sachin to the snack was a Pakistani.

Tariq Butt, UAE's veteran cricket umpire, worked as a match official for more than two decades at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Tariq Butt
Tariq Butt

"I can't remember which year it was, but I brought some paratha omelette sandwich for Sachin during one of the tournaments those days in Sharjah. He loved it so much and he wanted to have it every day for breakfast," Butt said.

A former first-class cricketer in Pakistan, Butt had to bring omelette sandwich for Tendulkar every time the Indian team was in Sharjah for a tournament.

"Few years ago, Sachin met someone in London who had worked at the Sharjah Stadium in the past. The first thing Sachin asked him was: "Oh, you are from Sharjah, how's Mr Butt?"

"You know I almost had tears in my eyes when my friend told me this. For such a big cricketer to remember someone like me after all these years is incredible."

For someone who fled from Pakistan in 1977 fearing political persecution, Butt went on to share a bond with several iconic cricketers during Sharjah cricket's glory days.

But it's Sachin that still holds a special place in his heart.

"I came to Dubai because I feared for my life in Pakistan due to my affiliations with Pakistan People's Party. Those were dark days in Pakistan politics," Butt recalled.

"But l was lucky that I got a new life in the UAE and got involved with cricket, my first love.

"And meeting Sachin and knowing the person behind the cricketer, is something I will always cherish in my life."

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