“Allaha Shukr (By god’s grace), if I ever visit India, I’d love to meet Sachin Tendulkar,” says Karachi-based Ahsan Arain, palms open, as if raised in prayer.
The 52-year-old head curator of National Stadium, Karachi, where Tendulkar made his Test debut against Pakistan in 1989 as a callow teenager, says he’d care little about meeting some Bollywood actor or even visiting the Taj Mahal.
Despite the Taliban’s diktat to the Pakistani media about refraining from showering praise on the Master Blaster, the man on the street in Pakistan, especially those associated with cricket, seem to be in agreement with their nation’s media.
Recalling the 1989 Test match, Arain says he did not witness Sachin’s debut on that ground as he joined a bit late. “But I got a chance to make the wicket for the Indian team in 2006. This time, I saw Sachin closely. He’s a completely different personality,” he says, an animated expression on his face.
“I saw Sachin in the dressing room where he loved to binge on samosas instead of meat... We feel that, after retirement, Sachin should revisit this ground once. Everybody here will be happy,” he says with a wide grin.
Tendulkar has a huge fan following in Pakistan like in other parts of the world.
The National Stadium is Pakistan’s second largest cricket stadium after Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
Shoaib Ahemad, media manager of the National Stadium, has his own reason for heaping praise on Tendulkar. “True, there are several talented cricketers but the one thing that’s different about Sachin is that he never got embroiled in any kind of controversy throughout his career. The best part is that he’s a very down-to-earth man.”
Asked why no picture of Sachin has been put up at the ground office although photos of other cricketers adorn it, Ahemad replied: “We don’t have a good picture of Sachin from his first Test match. If someone sends it to us, we’ll happily put it up on our wall.”
After his retirement, most Pakistani channels ran headlines about Tendulkar’s retirement and even did special packages on him. Kamran Mannan, senior producer of leading Pakistani news channel, Geo TV, who has been covering cricket for over a decade, said, “Apart from Pakistani players, Sachin is one from outside the country who gives us news and makes headlines.
Sachin’s a newsmaker in the cricket field. In fact, most of cricket news is related to Tendulkar,” said Mannan.