In 1981, John McEnroe became Wimbledon champion, ending Bjorn Borg’s five-year reign. Some seven thousand kilometres away in the Mumbai suburb of Bandra, an eight-year-old thus found his hero. Sachin Tendulkar (already an aggressive brat with a penchant for beating up older boys) decided he was going to be McEnroe.
He moved around with a racquet in hand. The curly hair was already in place, and the headband screamed out his obsession. Wristbands completed the picture. The nickname followed. Tendulkar was ‘Mac’.
What if the tennis-obsessed boy had stuck to his first love? What if—like our over-ambitious parents today—Tendulkar’s family had enrolled him in an ‘academy’ and pushed him into age-group tournaments? Given his ball sense, natural competitiveness and sporting intelligence, it is reasonable to assume Tendulkar might have been national champion at 16 —the same age when both Ramanathan Krishnan and Ramesh Krishnan won that title.
In a couple of years, influenced...