Never thought Sachin Tendulkar would play for India at 16, says brother Ajit

Sachin Tendulkar's family members had never imagined that he would represent India at the age of 16 and go on to break so many records, his elder brother Ajit said on Monday. He added that Sachin's decision to quit Test cricket came at a right time as he is bowing out on a high.

"We never thought of Sachin getting the India cap at such a young age of 16. We were thinking of going step by step, from school level to zonal level and then the all India level, from Under-15, Under-19 and to senior level and so on," Ajit said.

"We were proud and happy when he was selected for the first time for India in the Pakistan tour of 1989 and the family was absolutely delighted at that time," he added.

Ajit said that Sachin's decision to quit from Test cricket did not surprise his family members.

"At some point of time, he will have to retire. You can't go on playing forever. For some time, he was assessing every tour. It was not a shock as such to us. All the family members were around and a lot of discussion went into it. Finally it was his own decision," he said.

"The family had a mixed feeling as he has given so much joy to us in the last 24 years. But at the same time, we were happy that he has done the country and the team proud. He has achieved almost every record in world cricket. I think, he has got the timing right as he is bowing out on a high."

Talking about Tendulkar's character and his passion for the game, Ajit spoke about the time in 1999 when their father passed away.

"I remember father suffered a heart attack and it was on 28th Feb 1995 and Sachin did not know about it. He was going to bat the next day and that was the last day of the match. The same thing happened during the 1999 World Cup (during which Tendulkar's father passed away) as well," said Ajit.

"We really did not have to convince him to go back to England to play in the World Cup. He knew his father well. He (father) would have asked him (Sachin) to go back and play.

"Undoubtedly, it was very, very tough. But keeping all the emotions behind, he decided to leave for England and play in the remaining part of the World Cup."

Tendulkar scored a century in his first match after coming back from home against Kenya in the World Cup.

Ajit said that Tendulkar's trait of putting the team ahead of his personal achievements was an inborn quality.

"We did not inculcate that trait in him. He was born like that. It came naturally to him. In all his 24 years, he was never involved in a controversy and was never self seeking. It (team spirit) was an inborn quality."

Ajit also narrated how Tendulkar was hit on the nose by a Waqar Younis bouncer in his first Test series in Pakistan.

"He misjudged the bouncer and it hit some part of helmet and I could very clearly hear the noise in the pavilion. Then that ball deflected on his nose and it started bleeding. His shirt was soaked in blood and he was surrounded by Pakistan players. Even in that situation, words were exchanged just to push Sachin down psychologically," he said.

"Sachin had to take a quick decision whether to go back to the pavillion or stay batting. Sachin usually takes quick decisions and at that instance also, he took a quick decision that he would stay and fight back. He did just that and he remained not out that day and batted on the last day also and saved the Test for India," said Ajit.

"(The then BCCI president) Raj Singh Dungarpur next day called up my father saying that the country was proud of Sachin. The family felt proud of him," said Ajit.

Ajit also said that no one had expected that Tendulkar would destroy legendary spinner Abdul Qadir's bowling in a 20-over exhibition match during the Pakistan tour.

"He hit four sixes off Qadir and all of them proper cricketing shots. I have seen many batsmen using their whole body while hitting sixes. But Tendulkar's sixes off Qadir were simple hand-work. His aggression was not brutal."

Ajit said that he was sent to Pakistan by his family to give psychological support to Tendulkar.

"In the third Test (of the 1989 Pakistan tour), Manoj Prabhakar was run out in a mix up and from his body language it seemed that Sachin had taken all the blame on himself. Then my elder brother said somebody should go to Pakistan immediately. Father supported the idea and I was at Lahore for the final day of the Test."