Dubai: These days, any discussion on cricket begins and ends with Sachin Tendulkar and his 200th and final Test before he hangs up his boots in Mumbai a few days from now.
Over the past week or so, the Little Master, with a career spanning over 24 years, has been in the thick of things with everyone trying to do their part to give the legendary cricketer a fitting goodbye.
Here in the UAE, the Young Talent Cricket Academy (YTCA) is busy putting things in place to host a two-day cricket festival called Tendulkar ko Salam (Salute to Tendulkar) to commemorate his achievements.
The timing could not have been any better. While all focus will be on Tendulkar at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai from Thursday, the YTCA boys will be busy cheering their icon in a unique way during the weekend.
“Everyone at YTCA is excited to be part of this festival. It’s our way of saying ‘Thank You’ to the great man. They boys have watched him for years and when we planned this event their joy knew no bounds,” said head coach of YTCA Shahzad Altaf.
During the festival, Tendulkar will be visible everywhere - in the t-shirts, balloons and masks that would be distributed to everyone present on the day. The first day of the festival will be held at the Delhi Private School in Sharjah on Friday, while the second day will be organised at DPS, Jebel Ali.
“We will have nearly 400 people attending the event. It’s not just boys from India, but Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as well who are excited to be part of this. We will have fun-filled tournaments for different age groups (Under-10, 13, 15, 17 and 19). The parents of the kids were also enthusiastic and we decided to have a tournament for them and for the university students. The festival is in a way to salute a cricketer who has given so much to the game,” Altaf said.
He added that the youngsters have learnt a lot from Tendulkar and the entire cricketing fraternity will miss him.
“It will be tough not to see him in action any more. We are so used to him. The kids took a lot of inspiration from him. Everyone wanted to be like him. It’s not easy. One needs to be committed and fully focused and has to sacrifice a lot of things to achieve something like what Tendulkar has attained.”
Altaf, who represented the UAE from 1994 and 1999, said he was among those lucky few to have closely interacted with India’s greatest batsman. “During those days when India used to come to play in Sharjah, I used to pick him up from the airport. He was so humble and never fussy about anything. For me he is the biggest cricketer after (Don) Bradman. His achievements speak for itself and we are very happy that we could do at least something from our side when he is playing his final match,” he said.