Chennai, Jun 26: It was in 1987 when former Australian fast bowling great Dennis Lillee "rejected" Sachin Tendulkar when the Master Blaster had arrived at the MRF Pace Foundation to become a bowler. Recalling that incident, Lillee joked that he did him a "huge favour."
Lillee, who is set to leave the Pace Foundation this year after serving there for 25 years as a coaching director, spoke on Monday on his association with Foundation and various other aspects.
"I certainly did reject a 14-year-old five-foot nothing's proposal to become a pacer in 1987 - didn't I do a huge favour for him?," Lillee joked. Two years later, Tendulkar made his debut for India in 1989 and has enjoyed a brilliant career with the bat, becoming leading run getter in Tests and ODIs. Arguably, he is regarded as the greatest batsman in the history of the game.
He added: "He came back a year later and this time he was padded up with the wood clasped in his palms. Sachin smashed the first ball straight back over the bowler's head and I said ‘well that could be a fluke'.
"So, I asked the next bowler to adjust his length - the promptly followed advice was yet again flicked for four disdainfully. I had a go at my bowlers but to no avail as the subsequent short-pitched delivery disappeared out of the park. I was awed by his talent and asked TA Sekar (then head coach at the academy) ‘Who is this man?' Sekar responded: ‘He is someone you rejected. His name is Sachin.'
"To me, his name sounded like ‘Searching' and I shot back saying: ‘Mark my words, this lad will not only search for runs he will also go on to get many during his search.' And as history would have it, he is one of the greatest players ever to put the boots on," Lillee was quoted as saying by Deccan Chronicle newspaper.
On his decision to leave the Foundation, he said: "It wasn't an easy call indeed. But then, one of the main reasons behind this decision is that I don't want to travel anymore. I have decided not to stay away from my family for lengthy periods."