“I was born in a village called Damodarpur in Bihar, where most of my evenings were spent playing cricket. I often joke about how I was born with the love for the sport. I was fearless and always looked for an opportunity to watch cricket. It was a time when a young superstar debuted in team India at the age of 16 – none other than Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar sir. I soon became obsessed with the Indian Cricket team and started calling myself the biggest fan of Sachin sir. I used to skip my classes every time there was a big match. I never missed a single opportunity to watch Sachin sir play.
During my history honours undergrad course, I decided to do a Cycle Yatra, travelling to different stadiums on a bicycle, to meet my hero. It was in 2002 that I travelled from my hometown Muzaffarpur to Jamshedpur on a bicycle to watch the first ODI of India vs West Indies. Unfortunately, I couldn’t meet Sachin sir as he was injured. A year later, when I was in my 3rd year of my college, Team India was hosting New Zealand and Australia in a tri-series. In 3 weeks, I cycled 1700 kms from Muzaffarpur to Mumbai. My sole intention throughout was to meet Sachin sir personally. I later got to know that there’s a press conference to be held at Trident hotel in Mumbai.
That’s when I saw my God very closely for the first time. When he arrived, I waded through the photographers and journalists who were standing in front. I fell at Sachin’s feet and it was a dream come true! Later, he invited me for lunch after the conference. I was nervous and emotional. He sat down for a while and chatted with me. I kept pinching myself because I couldn’t believe this happened. He also gave me a ticket for an upcoming match. But I had my final exams for graduation coming up. I was really in two minds and even sir suggested I give my exams and return for another match. But I refused. I went to watch the match skipping my final exams. Till today, I’ve not given my exams.
Cricket became my life after that. I travelled across the country to cheer for my Team India. This decision made me stay away from my family for years. They always forced me to have a stable job but I never listened to them. Infact, my father didn’t speak to me for many years. I had to quit 3 different jobs because of the travelling required to watch all the matches. In 2005, I also had an opportunity to become a ticket collector. I even got a call to attend the interview but there was an important match on that day. It was the 6th one day between India and Pakistan. I skipped that interview and cycled to Delhi. For many years, I used to travel to stadiums across the country by train without a ticket. Once I was caught by the Railway TC and I escaped by suggesting that I was Sachin Sir’s biggest fan. The ticket collector told me that by travelling without a ticket, I was spoiling Tendulkar’s name. From that day, I never travelled without a ticket. Sachin sir sponsored me for all my International matches and I kept sending him handpicked litchees every year from my village. For many one-day matches, Harbhajan sir also gave me passes. He even insisted on helping me monetarily, but I refused and requested for match tickets instead. Once, M S Dhoni sir invited me for a lunch at his hometown Jharkhand and I will never forget that moment either.
During 2011, when Team India won the World Cup Final at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, Sachin sir called me inside the dressing room during the post-match celebrations. I was even allowed to hold the World Cup trophy and I remember chanting ‘India, India, India, India’. That resonates in my mind every second I breathe. Even during the India vs Ireland World Cup match in 2015 ICC World Cup, I remember, the Ireland crowd tried to bog me down and then Chacha (Pakistani superfan) came running towards my stand and supported Team India. Cricket gave me many memories to cherish. The only way I can show my love is to be the superfan of Team India for life. Everytime I watch a cricket match, I paint my body and face on the previous day and I avoid sleeping that night to preserve the paint on my body. If it’s a test match, I will not bathe for 6 days. Earlier, I had ‘Sachin’ painted on the torso during matches. But ever since Sachin retired, I have changed that to ‘Miss U Tendulkar 10.’ Till I have the privilege of being on this Earth, I will support Sachin sir and team India. That’s a promise!”
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