From Greatness to Witness, child crusader Tendulkar turns heads in Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

From Greatness to Witness, child crusader Tendulkar turns heads in Sri Lanka

13 August, 2023
Sachin Tendulkar talks to a young boy after presenting him with cricket gear (Pix by Rukmal Gamage)

A flurry of cameras clicked like a burst of gun-fire as one of the world’s most iconic cricketers Sachin Tendulkar walked in, not to bat but to signal he needed attention to take his message of child welfare to all regions in Sri Lanka.

As children’s goodwill ambassador of Unicef, Tendulkar was the toast at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel in Colombo that hosted him and a group of needy welfare-benefitting kids who drew several media heavyweights.

“Unicef plays the first innings and you in the media have to play the second innings to spread the message,” said Tendulkar the maestro of 34,347 international runs that includes a hundred hundreds.

He was not Sri Lanka’s Minister of Children or a Mother Theresa of Calcutta but Tendulkar wore the true mantle of a child crusader with grace to open the hearts of the people who matter.

A father of a most privileged son Arjun and daughter Sara in the prosperous Indian city of Mumbai, Tendulkar wasted no time in declaring that all children no matter where they live or whichever parent they are born to have a right to what he contended was the first 1000 days of their lives.

“When we support children today, they make us proud tomorrow,” he told journalists, some of them from the foreign media.

On the previous day he visited more than 140 needy boys and girls in Kegalle’s remote Ruwanwella village and served them meals with the patronage of the region’s governor and former Sports Minister Navin Dissanyake as part of the Unicef project.

There were apparently none from today’s trend-setting vibrant social activists to be seen, but Tendulkar exhorted young adults to come out more energized in the cause of children.

“I would bank upon the youth of Sri Lanka to be innovative and work with the government and social sectors to provide impactful low-cost education for the ones who cannot afford it. It has the power to change the world and I am sure Sri Lankan youth will take an initiative and bring about that change,” said the mauler of many a bowler.

He got down to play some cricket shots with a tennis ball as girls and boys affiliated to the Department of Probation and Child Welfare Services bowled to him and many of the invited guests could not believe their eyes they were just a few feet away from the man who was almost worshipped by a billion followers across the Palk Straits.

Nothing seems to be more important for Tendulkar today than see children smile, play and eat on his visit to the island.

“Every child should have a right to education and it is the foundation for every child and something that should happen on its own,” he said while recalling that as a young schoolboy batsman he was privileged to study and have his meals on time.

But he told the children not to confine education to just classrooms and that there was more to learn outside school.

“I was a naughty kid (at school) and suddenly I became more focused. I started concentrating with more discipline with a structured life all because I wanted to play for India. Celebrations (on the field) were not over the top and disappointments were not so low that I could not get up on my feet again.

“Whenever I failed I got back and competed hard in the fairest possible manner. All these things were not learnt in the class room. There was another classroom called the dressing room and that is where I learnt all these things,” recalled Tendulkar the great man who was so simple, then and now.

At the end of the session it was hard to figure out who was the happiest on the day. The children or Tendulkar!