On the Little Master's birthday, two of our young Shers share their fondest memory of meeting Sachin Tendulkar, and the advice he gave them.

The Punjab Kings have a duo who play together for their domestic team from Vidarbha and now share the dressing room in the same Tata Indian Premier League team.

One is the young left handed opener, Atharva Taide, who made waves in domestic cricket by becoming the first from his team to put up a 300+ score in the U-19 Cooch Behar Trophy.

The other is a slightly more experienced opener-turned-middler order batter, Jitesh Sharma, who has been putting up consistent performances for the team ever since he got a chance to do so.

It is always a youngster’s dream to meet their childhood cricketing icons, and when one is an active part of the cricketing circuit, there is always this hope of bumping into them somewhere or the other. Both Taide and Sharma have had the privilege of meeting and interacting with Sachin Tendulkar, and they shared this interaction with the Punjab Kings in an exclusive interview.

Sachin sir asked me to play one ball at a time: Atharva Taide

Taide was in Dharamshala attending a camp he was called for after his sizzling triple century in the 2018 Cooch Behar Trophy final. Arjun Tendulkar, Sachin Tendulkar’s son, also happened to be at the same camp.

“Sachin sir visited our nets when we were at practice,” Taide recalls. “He was just watching each and every one of us at the nets, seeing our batting and bowling,” he said. Post the session, Taide mustered up the courage to walk up to him and ask him some questions.

“After practice, I went to Sachin sir and asked him a couple of questions about my game. He answered me in just a simple sentence - to just play one ball at a time,” he revealed. He goes on to speak about what the multiple deliveries a batter faces can be.

“As a batter, sometimes we play two balls at a time - one is in your head and the other is what you actually face. The moment you get it out of your head, and the second is the one you actually face. The moment you just watch the ball and react to it, your batting is completely different,” the youngster elaborated.

“When he saw me, he knew I had skills that set me apart from a lot of others. But what hindered me was my mind. I used to think something and something else would happen on the field. So he just asked me to control my mind, be clear and stick to the game plan of watching the ball and hitting,” Taide further explained.

“Once I started doing that, I can get four ways of hitting a single ball. And that has helped me stay calm and play, and score runs consistently in first class cricket,” the smiling 22-year-old recalled.

Belief is most important: Tendulkar’s message to Sharma

Sharma met the Master Blaster under completely different circumstances. Before PBKS, Sharma was a part of the Mumbai Indians squad for the 2016 and 2017 seasons of the Indian Premier League, which functions with Tendulkar as a mentor.

Awe. Absolute awe. That is what Sharma felt when he saw the icon for the first time. “He was a mentor at that time. I walked up to him to talk to him. But just meeting him I felt so overwhelmed I went silent, I could barely register the fact that Sachin Tendulkar was standing in front of me,” he recalls, eyebrows raised, starry-eyed and smiley-faced.

However, Sharma did not waste any more time. He quickly began picking his brain. “I asked him about his mentality. I wanted to know how a batter should prepare themselves mentally and what aspect of this should they keep in mind throughout their career. I did not ask him anything technical,” Sharma said.

The Little Master told him to keep faith. “He said belief is the most important thing for a player. Don’t judge yourself by a net session or a single match. Cricket is a very big game. You have to fight everyday. Keep believing in your game and work on it everyday,” Sharma revealed.

It is heartwarming to see so many youngsters finding answers in small conversations with the cricket legend. As Sachin Tendulkar hits 49, the love remains not out. Here’s wishing him the happiest birthday yet!