Even now, almost five years after retiring, Indian Sachin Tendulkar is still mobbed wherever he goes.
Nicknamed “Little Master,” he is the highest run scorer in Test cricket history and widely considered the greatest batsman of all time.
Adored and idolized by millions, Tendulkar is one of those few stars who has managed to transcend their sport.
That adoration is evident when he visits Middlesex County Cricket Club in London earlier this week, where the 45-year-old has set up a new cricket academy.
“When I turned up here in the morning the kind of reception I got (was great), especially from all the children,” Tendulkar told CNN Sport ahead of the second Test between England and India, which starts at Lord’s on Thursday, with the home side leading 1-0 in the series.
“It took me back 35 years when I started my cricket, I was their age and the enthusiasm, the vibrant energy was very much there and that’s what I told the children. Continue with this energy.
“It’s a blessing, I cannot complain. I would want to tell all the people: ‘Continue to love me like this. It’s a blessing, thank you so much.’”
Winning the Cricket World Cup in 2011 – just India’s second ever triumph and first since 1983 – cemented his legendary status back home. Such is Tendulkar’s popularity, fans in India often refer to him as the “God of Cricket” – though it is a title he has humbly rejected.
The Tendulkar Middlesex Global Academy – a joint collaboration between the Indian great and the English cricket county – will offer coaching to children aged nine to 14.
The academy’s first camp will be held in Northwood, London and will then move to other places in England’s capital and Mumbai.
Tendulkar says the aim of the academy is not solely to produce good cricketers, but also “better human beings.”
“As a child I learned a few things from my father,” Tendulkar recalls. “One message which particularly stayed with me was: ‘Okay, playing for India was your dream but what happens after this? Where do you go from here?
“‘Of course you want to be a good cricketer, but I also want you to be a good person. So people continue to love you beyond your cricketing years.’ And that is one message I want to share here with the children.
“It’s not just about becoming a good cricketer, but it’s about bettering yourself as a person. That process never stops in life.”
Tendulkar believes he has learned some of life’s most valuable lessons not in the classroom or boardroom, but out on the pitch as part of a team.
Eventually, his plan is to open the academy to other sports, such as tennis, badminton, swimming, pool and squash.
“I think it goes beyond your knowledge and your grasping ability sitting in the classrooms,” he explains. “So it gives you real life lessons and it teaches you teamwork.
“In most sports where a team in involved, you learn to sacrifice for each other because there are going to be good days and bad days.
“How do you move forward as a team is something that sport has taught me.”
Motor racing passion
Tendulkar’s test cricket career spanned 24 years, in which time he amassed a record 15,921 runs.
But if he had the option to be the top star in any other sport, who would he choose to be?
“I think I would be Michael Schumacher because I’ve always loved cars,” he says, referring to the Formula One great, who won a record seven world titles. “Motor racing has been my passion.
“Motor racing and tennis I would say, Roger Federer and Michael Schumacher would be the ones.”
But if he had to pick just one?
“I would sit in the car and go to the tennis court,” he laughs.