Ramakant Achrekar breathed his last at his residence which was opposite Shivaji Park gymkhana, on 2nd January, 2019 (Wednesday) at the age of 87. In the cricketing folklore, the Dronacharya and Padma Shri awardee was most famously known for giving the world the greatest cricketer and batsman of all time, who goes by the name of Sachin Tendulkar. Achrekar was of the dying breed of coaches who gave quintessential talented middle-class boys hope and imparted knowledge that they carried a lifetime.
Despite limited success as a cricketer, he had an unmatched eye for talent and unselfish desire to groom and it’s often being said about him that he did not coach cricket to kids, he created cricketers out of them. Hopping from Dadar to South Mumbai was his daily routine but Shivaji Park was the one constant around which his life revolved.
Achrekar was a hard taskmaster, and he identified Sachin’s genius with the bat and was very strict with him to make sure his talent does not go to waste. A story which is now part of cricketing folklore was him putting a one rupee coin over stumps and challenging Tendulkar not to get bowled in order to earn the coin. He on one instance even slapped Tendulkar for missing a match as Sachin went to watch the senior school team play a final match. Sachin said of that incident “At that time, sir told me ‘You don’t have to be here to cheer for others. Play in such a way that others cheer for you. Since that day, I began practising very hard and put in a lot of hours. If not for that day, I might have been cheering others from the stands”. After Tendulkar’s discovery Shivaji park’s status as cradle of Mumbai cricket was underlined as it went on to produce an assembly line of cricketers like Vinod Kambli, Chandrakant Pandit, Paras Mhamrey, Pravin Amre, Balwinder Sandhu who went on to play for India.
So it was only fitting that his last rites would be performed at the very place which has now become a Mecca for cricket in Mumbai. His body was kept at Shivaji park and was taken outside the ground amid the chants of ‘Amar Rahe’ by young boys who practice there and where his famous ward picked up many of his first cricketing lessons.
As a mark of respect, in his final journey,young boys in cricket whites offered the moving caravan a guard of honour with their bats held high.
A fitting tribute to a man who was the greatest coach of the world’s greatest ever cricketer . He will forever be an institution amongst cricket coaches and would be happy to see generation next acknowledge his toil. As Sachin said ,
“sir will enrich the game in heaven”.