The wise man in the dressing room

November 15 and 16 will remain two of the most important dates in the history of Indian cricket. On the first, the great Sachin Tendulkar set foot on a Test ground for the first time 28 years back, against Pakistan in Karachi. And on this day four years back, the master bid adieu to the game following his 200th Test against the West Indies in Mumbai. Looking back at the fairy-tale career of Sachin, we can find a lesser-known trait of the great man’s personality — his calm presence in the dressing room.

During the tour of England in 2002, Sachin emerged as the pacifier after the team was ready to revolt against the then coach John Wright after the Kiwi allegedly slapped Virender Sehwag for throwing away his wicket in an ODI at The Oval. Recalling the incident, Rajeev Shukla, who was the manager during that tour, said it was Sachin who saved Wright from the embarrassment, as captain Sourav Ganguly wanted him to apologise to Sehwag.

“I saw Sehwag in a bad mood. When I asked him he said Wright had slapped him. It became a big issue and Ganguly insisted they will not leave the dressing room unless Wright apologises to Sehwag. When I asked Wright, he said he wanted Sehwag to score a century but Sehwag repeated his mistake of lifting the ball and got out which made him lose his cool. Wright added ‘he is like a disciple to me, so I just pushed him out of anger,’” Shukla later recalled.

As the tension built up in the dressing room, Sachin requested Shukla to ensure Wright’s dignity as coach is kept intact. “Sachin came to me and said ‘you must ensure that Wright does not apologise, otherwise the coach will lose his respect.’ I got back to Sehwag and explained the situation following which he let it go,” Shukla said.

According to another former India coach Gary Kirsten, Sachin had a ‘fantastic’ presence in the dressing room without having to say too much. “But whenever he spoke during team meetings, there would be pin-drop silence,” Kirsten once said.

Aritra Mukhopadhyay