Dronacharya awardee, Ramakant Achrekar’s name is synonymous with the cricketing genius of Bharat Ratna, Sachin Tendulkar. In fact, these two names are taken, at times, in the same breath. It can be recalled that every time the Master Blaster hit a magical stroke, played stupendous innings or went on a record-breaking spree, media persons would rush to his proud “guru” to get bytes and the coach couldn’t feel more honoured. Achrekar (87) breathed his last on January 2, 2019, but his legacy continues to shine through his brilliant wards, the God of Cricket being one of them.
In 1945, Achrekar dabbled in club cricket by playing for New Hind Sports Club, Gul Mohar Mills and Mumbai Port amongst others. During 1963-64, he demonstrated his skills in what is known as his singular first-class match for All India State Bank. The team played against Hyderabad for the Moin-ul-Dowlah Gold Cup. However, later Achrekar focussed all his attention and skills in coaching young aspirants for the game and founded Kamat Memorial Cricket Club at Shivaji Park, Mumbai. The club rose to fame after producing phenomenal players like Sachin Tendulkar, Chandrakant Pandit, Sanjay Bangar, Pravin Amre, Ramesh Powar, Vinod Kambli, Ajit Agarkar and many others. The story of his life and his efforts in honing skills of young sportspersons has been beautifully captured by Kunal Purandare in his book Ramakant Achrekar: Master Blaster’s Master.
He was fondly called as Achrekar ‘sir’ by his protégés who would always meet him on Guru Purnima to thank him for his efforts. “#HappyGuruPurnima to Achrekar sir and other coaches who have helped me throughout my career. Your contributions have been priceless!” This 2017 tweet by Tendulkar also had a picture of a young Sachin with his proud “Sir”.
The docu-drama biopic Sachin: A Billion Dreams bears the testimony of the mentor’s efforts to help his brilliant ward achieve his dreams. The credit for introducing the Padma Shri awardee to Tendulkar goes to his elder brother Ajit. Their collaboration spawned many a cricketing lore about the Little Master and his celebrated teacher. The oft narrated one is how Achrekar lured a tired Tendulkar to play by placing a one-rupee coin on the stumps. The condition: The coin could be earned by the bowler who got him out or by Tendulkar himself if he played the entire innings without a dismissal. Till date, the Master Blaster proudly treasures the coins he won.
Six years ago, Ramakant Achrekar suffered a stroke which resulted in restricted mobility. But that did not stop him from keeping a tab on his students’ performances. Keeping the Guru-Shishya parampara alive, the proud Sir’s students, too, made sure that they customarily called on him and thanked him for all his efforts amidst sharing of cricket stats, techniques and light banter.
On his death, an emotional Tendulkar, who rose to fame under his tutelage, tweeted a moving note about the void created by the passing away of one of the most respected and revered coaches, ending it with, “well played Sir and may you coach many more.”