A statue of Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar was unveiled his home ground – Wankhede Stadium, in Mumbai on Wednesday.
While stands at many grounds around the world are named after famous players, there are few statues of living cricketers anywhere and even fewer inside a venue.
“It is indeed a special moment for me,” said the 50-year-old Tendulkar following the unveiling. “I’m truly humbled...Standing here brings back so many memories.”
Earlier Tendulkar, surrounded by photographers, television personnel and police, was serenaded onto the outfield by a band playing traditional Indian dhol.
Then, at the push of a button, a statue created by local sculptor Pramod Kamble was unveiled amid fireworks and streamers.
The statue is sited high in a gap next to the Sachin Tendulkar stand, overlooking the field of play from square-on, with the ‘Little Master’ depicted at the finish of a classic straight drive – one of his most familiar shots.
Tendulkar, who retired in 2013 after a Test against the West Indies at the Wankhede, said every batter needs a non-striker as he dedicated the statue to “all the cricketers who played with me”.
Tendulkar recalled how his first visit to the Wankhede had been as a 10-year-old boy in 1983 to watch India play the West Indies soon after India had defeated the Caribbean side to win the World Cup for the first time at Lord’s.
He was in a group of 25, including his older brother, that only had 24 tickets.
“But somehow they snuck this small 10-year-old boy into the ground,” said Tendulkar, who added he was delighted to then find himself a member of the ground’s ‘North Stand Gang’, notorious for its vocal support.
He also reminisced about how boyhood hero Sunil Gavaskar, another Mumbai and India great, had invited him into the home changing room at the Wankhede during the 1987 World Cup when Tendulkar was a teenage ball-boy.
The following year Tendulkar was selected to play for Mumbai but did not feature in the same side as Gavaskar.
He did, however, take over Gavaskar’s space in the changing room and made a hundred at the Wankhede on his first-class debut.
“It was a seat that was not used to being occupied,” said Tendulkar in a reference to prolific opener Gavaskar. “So I had no choice but to make a hundred.”
Tendulkar, international cricket’s leading run-scorer across all formats, with 34,357 runs from 664 matches, including a 100 hundreds, said while it had been a huge honour to play for Mumbai it was always his ambition to play for India and win the World Cup.
“And the dream was realised in 2011,” said Tendulkar, whose international career had started when he was just 16 in 1989.
“That was the happiest day, without any doubt,” said Tendulkar of lifting the “beautiful trophy”.
‘Joy to watch India at World Cup’
Soon after, the 50-year-old said that the Indian team at the onoging 2023 ICC Men’s ODI World Cup were a “joy to watch”.
Tournament hosts India, bidding for a third World Cup title, are the only unbeaten side left in the ten-team event heading into their pool match against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede on Thursday.
Tendulkar, a member of the India side that defeated Sri Lanka in the 2011 World Cup final at the Wankhede, was keen not to add to the pressure on a team captained by Rohit Sharma, another talented Mumbai batsman.
But after several dynamic India displays – including a 100-run thrashing of struggling champions England last time out – he said: “They have been a joy to watch.
“I am extremely happy with the way they have played this tournament.”
With AFP inputs