The Humble Little Master – An extract from Pitch It!


‘Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime; and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.’

—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 When I began writing this book, I had a tough time deciding who should feature in the first chapter and what attribute of theirs should I describe first. Luckily, a management workshop that I conducted solved my quandary. During one of the sessions, I distributed a sheet of paper to all the participants with just two questions:

1.   Which cricketer and corporate leader do you consider as the greatest of all times?

2.   What is their most important attribute?

To my first question, more than 80% of the participants had written Sachin Tendulkar and JRD Tata. This was not surprising since Indians consider Tendulkar as the ‘God of Indian cricket’ and JRD Tata as one of the greatest visionaries of the Indian industry.

However, the answer to the second question stumped me!

I had expected the participants to pick from Tendulkar’s and Tata’s numerous enviable traits like competency, passion, dedication, people management skills, communication skills, and self-belief. Surprisingly, none of the participants chose any of these qualities. In fact, everyone had used the same attribute to describe the two great men—‘humility’!

Later, while driving back home, I thought about the proceedings of the workshop. Tendulkar has excelled in cricket for more than two decades. He holds practically every cricket record. Similarly, JRD Tata’s qualities and achievements can fill an entire book. However, none of the participants cared about the number of runs Tendulkar had scored, nor the centuries he had hit. Neither did they care about the numerous companies that JRD Tata had established and led successfully.

What mattered to everyone in the room was their humility.

After some retrospection, I asked myself, ‘Why am I surprised? If I too was a participant, wouldn’t I have mentioned exactly the same characteristic of theirs?’

Of course I would!

When I think of Tendulkar or JRD Tata, the first word that comes to my mind is ‘humility’.

Sachin Tendulkar has been considered one the greatest cricketers in the world and is often compared with the legendary Donald Bradman of Australia. The debate regarding who is the better of the two never ends. Tendulkar has broken almost every cricketing record, be it in Test or One Day matches.

It is a cliché to say that in a country where cricket is a religion, Sachin is considered a God, and is worshipped by over a billion Indian fans. In fact, it is a cliché to say that this is a cliché!

Every sports writer and cricket commentator says that each time Sachin goes out to bat; he carries the hopes of a billion Indians on his shoulders. What differentiates this diminutive genius from other cricketing giants is his humility. He is known to have his feet firmly planted on the ground and head firmly on his shoulders. Whether he is speaking at a post-match ceremony, as a chief guest at a social function, or playing with underprivileged children at an orphanage, his humility comes shining through.

One of the oldest fans of Sachin is 87-year-old Saraswathi Vaidyanathan, a resident of Chennai. Despite her old age and failing health, she stays awake late at night and watches all his matches. She had also maintained all important statistics and records related to the Little Master. In 2010, she had
the opportunity to meet the cricketing legend during one
of his visits to Chennai. It was an emotional meeting for both of them. The old lady had difficulty in walking, so Sachin himself walked to her and seeked her blessings with folded hands.

His voice was choked with emotion when he said, ‘I read that you have followed all my innings and know all my records. I need your wishes.’

Saraswathi too was overcome with emotions and said, ‘I am so lucky to meet you.’

Sachin, in all his humility, was quick to reply, ‘No, I am lucky to meet you.’

She affectionately called him her fourth grandson and gifted him an idol of Lord Ganesha. The batting genius touched her feet and once again sought her blessings.

In his 22 long years of cricketing career, there has never been a single instance of Sachin getting involved in any kind of controversy—be it throwing tantrums, sledging players, confronting umpires, or rebelling against the cricketing board. There have been many other cricketers who have remarkable batting or bowling records but they do not evoke the kind of respect Sachin does—probably because people respect the man and not just his records.

There was an instance when Sachin was batting and the Australian players tried to sledge him, hoping to make him lose his concentration. It is believed that Brett Lee, one of Australia’s fastest bowlers, walked to his teammates, and asked them not to sledge the Indian batting genius. He told them that Sachin is the greatest cricketer ever and deserved to be shown respect worthy of his stature. It is also believed that Brett Lee told his teammates that they were better off watching and learning from his game.

Tendulkar had his share of detractors too but that has rarely affected his attitude and approach towards the game and his fans. Whenever India has lost a match, his critics have held him responsible, forgetting that cricket is a team game where everyone needs to contribute. Similarly, whenever he has played well, he has received lots of accolades from his fans. However, he remains unaffected by brickbats and accolades. Humility has always been his hallmark.

About the Book

Pitch It! is an innovative and delightful book consisting of enthralling anecdotes linking top cricketing giants and corporate moguls that will act as a catalyst for professionals to soar to top echelons in their respective fields. Peppered with fascinating case studies from an eclectic spectrum of industries ranging from IT, Consumer Goods, Automotive, Aerospace, Banking, Petrochemicals, and Food & Beverages, Pitch It! provides the essential blueprint for creating and sustaining winning organizations.

Pitch It! is available with all leading booksellers. You can also order it here:

The Penguin India Blog

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