Ram Bhandari, the man who claims to have repaired and crafted more than 20 bats for the master blaster, won't be present there to watch Sachin Tendulkar to witness the exciting farewell Test series of Sachin. However Ram wants Sachin to break Brian Lara's record of 400 runs in a Test before saying ‘Alvida’ to the game.
"I pray to God that Tendulkar breaks Lara's record of 400 runs in a Test. That's one record not many are holding. If he gets it, it will make all Indians proud," Ram Bhandari, said.
It is worth mentioning hat Sachin Tendulkar earlier announced retirement from International cricket after playing his 200th Test match against the West Indies in November.
Although Bhandari admitted it would be a tough ask from Tendulkar to score 400 runs but if anybody is capable of doing it, it is the diminutive Mumbaikar.
"Cricket is a funny game. Anything can happen. Did anybody in the world dream of somebody scoring a double hundred in a one-day game. Sachin did it. When he can do the unthinkable, why can't he do the thinkable?" he probed.
Asked about Tendulkar's retirement, Bhandari said, "It is really sad that we will no more see Tendulkar after the West Indies series. I suppose he decided to quit probably to give chance to youngsters. All should respect his decision."
"It was Rahul Bhai (Dravid) who introduced me to Tendulkar. Ever since, the little master has been using bats modified by me," he said.
When Tendulkar hit a bad patch in 2006, Bhandari figured that the weight of the bat was the culprit. He then reduced it from 1350 grams to 1250 grams.
"It worked like a charm. Tendulkar hit 157 in Malaysia that brought him back to form," said Bhandari. "Tendulkar was so happy that he asked me to give him bats of this weight only."
Bhandari's life-story is no bed of roses. He started his career as a stunt man after completing a course in the Vijaya Film Institute. He chose to work as a driver for film producer Shailendra Babu and soon became maintenance in-charge for a multi-storey commercial complex in Gandhinagar here.
It was around this time that Bhandari, to support his family, started repairing bats of local cricket players.
The most satisfying moments of Bhandari's life was when Tendulkar got his 50th Test century in South Africa with the bat he had crafted.
"That innings made me feel I am part of Tendulkar's history," he said.
Reminiscing another memorable incident, Bhandari said, "Four years ago I met Shivnarine Chanderpaul in Bangalore. While I was giving a new look to his bat in his hotel, he served me food and after lunch was over, he himself cleared the plates. I was touched by his hospitality and humbleness which till remains fresh in my mind."
Bhandari is not only popular with Tendulkar, but is a celebrity among other cricketers like Chris Gayle, Ricky Ponting, Tilakaratne Dilshan, Luke Wright, Ross Taylor and Kieran Pollard.
'Bhandari ji', as he is called by members of the Indian cricket team, has showed his skills on the bats of Dravid, Virendar Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, besides other top cricketers.
(With inputs from PTI)