Every Sachin Tendulkar Fan Must READ : Friendship Day Special : ''Meet The Sachin Gang'' :
Atul Ranade, Faisal & Vivek Palkar: Meet the Sachin Tendulkar gang...
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has never operated in isolation except when on the cricket pitch. On the 22 yards strip he has indeed been alone fighting his battles for India for a long 24 years. But off it he has always had some real close friends beside him, who, I have labelled 'The Sachin Gang'.
The first member of the gang has to be the ever jovial Atul Ranade. Growing up with Sachin at Sahitya Sahawas colony in the 1970s, Atul, a first class cricketer of some repute, has always been with Sachin in good and bad. A customs employee by profession, Ranade is a permanent feature in anything Sachin.
Unselfish and loyal, Atul, as each of the other members of the gang will attest, "has nothing to gain from this relationship". Yet he turns up at weird hours to provide support and help if Sachin needs it. Students of one common guru, Ramakant Achrekar, Atul played a significant hand when Sachin was recuperating from his tennis elbow.
Down with injury and uncertain if he'd play cricket ever again, Sachin needed his friends more than ever before in 2005-6. And there they were 24/7 to motivate and inspire, offer support and strength.
Moving away from this serious stuff, however, my favourite Atul Ranade story is a rather funny one. The gang celebrated Atul's birthday in Mussorie a couple of years earlier and Sachin, in his prankster avatar, was at his very best. With Atul fast asleep after a rather long day Sachin decided on giving him a second birthday gift and put Amrutanjan in his eyes. On waking up Atul had tears in his eyes, which were burning under the Amrutanjan effect. Sachin was the first to come to his rescue. Or rather did he? He hand held Atul and took him to the bathroom only to put Coalgate on the Amrutanjan to add to Atul's misery.
With Atul in tears, Mr Tendulkar had a hearty laugh. The second member of the gang is Faisal, a Taj Group employee and an automobile freak. Faisal is a car connoisseur and that's what brings him closer to Sachin. With Sachin away on long tours all his life, it was Faisal who was entrusted with the responsibility of driving Sachin's favourite Nissan GTR.
Faisal too played a significant role when Sachin was recuperating from the tennis elbow. At the time the legendary batsman was unable to sleep and went out for drives at 2am in the morning. Faisal was a constant compassion. Driving round Mumbai these were more therapy sessions than anything else.
The third member of the gang will have to be VivekPalkar, a successful professional and another of Sachin's childhood friends. When Sachin was due to play his 200th in South Africa Vivek was the one entrusted with the task of putting together the travel group. He had volunteered to play the role and had already made his bookings in Capetown assuming the third test would be at the Newlands.
I remember calling Vivek the day the West Indies series was announced and his first reaction summed up his commitment to the master, "Do you know the dates yet? I have a holiday booked in Cambodia but I have to cancel if there's a clash?" Vivek stated. The final member, who is not so much a gang member but more a mentor, is elder brother Ajit.
Ten-and-a-half-years older, it was Ajitwho discovered Sachin's cricket prowess when he was growing up in Mumbai's middle class Sahitya Sahawas colony. Seeing Sachin hit the tennis ball hard, Ajit decided on taking his kid brother to RamakantAchrekar. And when Achrekar Sir, as he is fondly called decided to reject Sachin, it was Ajit who asked him to hide behind a tree and give the kid another chance.
The deal was Sachin should feel Achrekar had left the nets and wasn't around to see him anymore. Achrekar agreed and the rest is history. Sachin batted like a champion and was soon a part of Achrekar's summer coaching camp.
he leaves the cricket field forever. He has done nothing all his life but play cricket and will surely need support to overcome life's gravest challenge. What will life be like after retirement? What is going for him though is he is in good hands. The gang will forever be with him, now and in the future.