Twenty-five years ago, two boys with a never-seen-before appetite for runs etched their names in record books with a 664-run partnership in schools cricket. Sachin Tendulkar, two months short of 15, and Vinod Kambli, 16, announced their arrival with individual scores of 326 not out and 349 not out for Shardashram Vidyamandir against St Xavier’s High School, Fort, in the Harris Shield semi-final played at Sassanian ground at Azad Maidan between February 23 and 25, 1988.
“That partnership was the turning point of our careers. It changed our lives and opened the floodgates for our selection into the Mumbai and Indian team,” Kambli, former India cricketer, told DNA.
Recalling the minutest detail, Kambli talks about the fun Sachin and he had in bludgeoning the Xavier’s attack led by Sairaj Bahutule. “Once we got into the groove, Tendlya and me toyed with the attack. After every boundary and six, we would sing Wham’s Wake me up before you go,” he said.
Kambli particularly remembers Sachin going down on one knee and hitting Bahutule for a six over midwicket. Not to be outdone by his friend, he did the same a little later.
Batting first after winning the toss, Sachin and Kambli were unbeaten on 192 and 182 respectively at the end of day one. The following day, they ignored all instructions to declare. “Every time the 12th man came with a message, saying Sir (Ramakant Achrekar) has asked to declare, Tendlya would drive him away,” Kambli recalled.
Since coach Ramakant Achrekar was not at the ground, his assistant Laxman Chauhan tried to convey the message from the boundary line. “Tendlya told me to ignore him,” Kambli said.
“I finally walked to my office at Ballard Pier and called up Achrekar to complain that the boys had crossed their triple hundreds,” Chauhan recalled. “Sir gave them a bamboo (scolding) later.”
Sachin and Kambli called up Achrekar from a PCO at Khau galli, a bylane opposite Azad Maidan, during the lunch break. “Declare!” Achrekar told Sachin, who gave the phone to Kambli. “I need just one run to score 350,” Kambli pleaded. “Nothing doing. Declare at once,” Achrekar shouted.
They finally declared and went on to win the match with Kambli taking 6 for 37. “Why are you reminding me of that nightmare 25 years later?” Bahutule said. “But seriously, Sachin and Kambli were in a different league and I could have done nothing. The partnership did wonders to their careers.”
However, it was only after a month and because of persistent efforts by Marcus Couto that the world got to know that the 664-run stand was a record partnership for any wicket in any class of cricket. Sachin and Kambli bettered the previous record of 641 runs, created by T Palton and N Rippon for Buffalo River versus Whoroughly in Australia in 1913-14.
“There were 10 scorers for that match and the scorecard was in a mess. We had to delete three runs from Sachin’s score to tally the scores. He still pulls my leg about it and says why didn’t you remove them from the extras,” Couto said.
“Sachin and Kambli batted brilliantly and never looked like getting out. I took a knock on day one and batted in the nets at the end of the day’s play. I did the same early morning the next day, but then I realised I was not going to get a chance to bat,” said Amol Muzumdar, who remained padded up on both days, as he was the next man in. “I have been giving reactions for 25 years,” he joked when DNA called him on Thursday.
Since 1988, the cricketing fraternity has seen boys with lots of talent and big partnerships at various levels, but nothing comes close to the 664-run partnership between Sachin and Kambli. It was a special effort from two special boys.
Kunal Purandare ● @kunaljp