Remembering Ramakant Achrekar, the Man Who Made God


Remembering Ramakant Achrekar, the Man Who Made God

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

“Cricket in heaven will be enriched with the presence of Achrekar Sir,” said his most famous shishya Sachin Tendulkar in a condolence tweet after the widely revered and legendary coach passed away in Mumbai on Wednesday.

For most fans, the last visual memory of Guru Achrekar was on November 14, 2013 at Wankhede Stadium, where despite age and ill-health, the Dronacharya and Padma Shri awardee attended his pupil Sachin Tendulkar’s final Test match. Visuals of Achrekar being lifted out of a car in his wheelchair brought tears to the eyes of fans present at the stadium and those watching on TV worldwide, in one of the sport’s most powerful and emotional moments.

Ramakant Achrekar had an eye for promise and talent, and the maidans of Mumbai became his canvas.

It was a contrast to the bustling scooter rides on which Achrekar Sir had carried the curly-haired prodigy all around Mumbai to play one game after another, a few decades earlier. A Mr Miyagi to his Daniel-san, a Dronacharya to his Arjun, the guru-shishya stories featuring Achrekar and Tendulkar are the stuff of legend. Not many can claim to have slapped Sachin Tendulkar, but the Little Master vividly recalls how that incident changed his life. Demonetisation may have rendered certain notes useless, but the one-rupee coins Sachin earned from Achrekar Sir’s sessions will always be priceless. Pani puri, kulfi, and Sunday lunches were treats for those who had done well; the coach wasn’t too big on verbal encouragement. A word of praise or even a reluctant “well played” was rare, for coach Achrekar feared that the boys would become complacent.

Ramakant Achrekar had an eye for promise and talent, and the maidans of Mumbai became his canvas. Achrekar brought a sense of romanticism back to the grounds of Mumbai, where kids come in from all corners of the country with heavy kit bags and childlike innocence, wanting to know “Is this where Sachin used to practice?” While the world is familiar with the genius of the Little Master, Achrekar’s illustrious list of proteges includes names like Vinod Kambli, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Sanjay Bangar, Ajit Agarkar, and Pravin Amre, among others. Not everyone justified their potential, but the guru’s job was to merely sow the seed, it was up to the individuals to blossom.

The greatest coaches do not simply train champions, but raise gentlemen that also showcase good character and discipline in their personal lives, and Ramakant Achrekar was no different. “Achrekar sir taught us the virtues of playing straight and living straight. Thank you for making us a part of your life and enriching us with your coaching manual. Well played Sir, and may you coach more wherever you are,” Tendulkar wrote in his statement.

Rest in Peace, Achrekar Sir. God makes man, but here was a man who made God.