Dubai: Ramakant Achrekar, who shaped Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest batsman in the history of cricket, will be remembered for his unique approach to coaching youngsters.
It was soon after he started training many promising young cricketers in Mumbai that I first met him for an interview at the famous Shivaji Park in Dadar in the late 1980s.
His answer to my query on how he managed to craft youngsters such as Vinod Kambli, Praveen Amre and Ajit Agarkar, all of whom were making waves in schools cricket, was: “I have no secret. All that I tell them is that if they intend to become a good cricketer then they should play lots of cricket, and the more hungry they are for the game, the more they would succeed.”
Years later, in 2013, when Gopal Jasapara of G-Force Academy flew Achrekar to Dubai for a short coaching camp, I asked the legendary coach what was it that made Tendulkar the best among his students. His response was: “Tendulkar was more hungry than others and worked harder, and that is why he became one among the best in the world.”
Achrekar’s keenness on wanting his students to keep playing as much cricket as possible and not waste their time is reflected through an instance when he slapped Tendulkar for having skipped his match and had instead gone to watch a Harris Shield match. Years later Tendulkar confessed that it was that slap that changed his career. “You don’t have to be there to cheer others,” he said. “Play in such a way that others cheer you. Since that day, I began practicing very hard and put in a lot of hours. If not for that day, I might have been cheering others from the stands.”
Achrekar had such a rapport with his students that he used to take Tendulkar on his own two-wheeler to play matches on different grounds in Mumbai.
Achrekar never played at the highest level, but had played for New Hind Sports Club, Young Maharashtra XI, Gul Mohar Mills and Mumbai Port. In fact he had played in only one first-class match for State Bank of India against Hyderabad in the Moin-ud-Dowla tournament — but he knew what makes a good cricketer.
Speaking to Gulf News soon after Achrekar’s funeral, Test star turned coach Pravin Amre, said: “He was my godfather who stood by me during my ups and downs. He showed me the path to reach the Indian team by imbibing in me how to face hardships and remain sincere to the game. I have never seen anyone so passionate about the game like him, and for him every student was special and it did not matter if he was a national player or a club cricketer.”
The veteran coach inspired many to become coaches too, as G Force Academy coach Jaspara attests. “It’s from Achrekar that I learnt how to be committed to kids,” he said. “As a coach one needs dedication and discipline too while coaching.”
Achrekar never trumpeted about his student’s achievements nor showered them with praise over their performance. If any of his student cracked a century and returned, his first question to him would be on how he got out. Along with cricketing techniques, he also inspired his students to succeed and never fail. All those who followed his simple advice made the world sit up and appreciate them. They were all aware that behind their success was the hand of this coach who taught them a valuable lesson: “Look into your performance and work hard rather than talk about others.”
Who was Ramakant Achrekar?
• Ramakant Vitthal Achrekar, who was born in 1932, guided many Mumbai cricketers to become India’s top players.
• He shaped cricketers such as Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, Pravin Amre and Chandrakant Pandit, to name a few.
• He played in only one first-class match but was blessed with the unique ability of spotting and shaping young cricketers.
• He founded Kamath Memorial Cricket Club at Shivaji Park in Dadar and coached numerous cricketers.
• He was awarded Dronacharya Award for his services to cricket coaching in 1991 and in 2010 he was conferred with the Padmashri, India’s highest civilian award in sports category.