Updated: January 4, 2019 12:07:30 am
Ramakant Achrekar belonged to a dying breed of coaches, who instilled in their wards a love for the game, not a greed for the green. His legacy goes beyond building Sachin Tendulkar’s character or Vinod Kambli’s enterprise. The coach was a throwback to the times when even professional sport was shepherded by coaches who revelled in helping wards learn the intricacies of the game rather than pore over clauses of endorsement contracts.
Tales abound of Achrekar’s selflessness. His coaching was not accompanied by the usual laments of lack of funds or space. He turned Mumbai’s choc-o-bloc maidan nets into a lesson in batting straight and correct. He could exempt his boys from the Rs 7 monthly fee if he found an inkling of a financial struggle. He could make wicketkeepers ramp up their game and impress him enough that he would buy them a new pair of gloves. And most of all, he gave his charges time and attention that was needed to make them fall in love with the game and learn to respect it in equal measure. His devotion in ensuring that the boys turned out the best versions of themselves, added to the love and respect he earned in return.
In an era of hyper-professionalism, when coaches call their teachings a masterclass, and charge by the hour, Achrekar refused to monetise his fame. Instead, he barrelled through their success, setting the same tough tasks for subsequent generations as those before the celebrated duo, and ensured that Sharadashram — English and Marathi medium — stayed competitive for two decades, a dynasty of champions who were the gold standard for their relentless pursuit of a win. Achrekar never craved financial compensation though he had a large family to take care of. His home was forever open for a Sunday lunch, a seat at the table ensuring the guest of the day, got a candid dossier of mistakes to go with the meal. The lesson was cricket for cricket’s sake, from Day One to Day Last.
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