Gooch salutes 'true hero' Sachin

Mumbai: England spearhead James Anderson may have asked teammates not to treat Sachin Tendulkar with "too much respect" out in the middle, but batting coach Graham Gooch saluted The Master on Thursday evening.

Very publicly, at that.

At the Cricket Club of India (CCI)'s Brabourne Stadium, which has turned 75, Gooch said: "Sachin has not only inspired a nation, but has been such a wonderful ambassador for the game... He's a true hero... He has the desire, the discipline, and has made the sacrifices... I salute him."

Gooch was the England captain when Sachin scored his first International hundred, at Old Trafford, 22 years ago. He now has 99 more.

[Later, Gooch told The Telegraph: "I remember we talked about Sachin on that 1990 tour by India... We continue to talk about him. Absolutely amazing."]

Himself an outstanding opener, Gooch was speaking after being made an honorary life member of the elite CCI. Sachin, a Member of Parliament, was felicitated.

Raj Singh Dungarpur is no more, but the tradition of conferring honorary life memberships continues. Board president Narayanswamy Srinivasan, England captain Alastair Cook (who preferred to fine-tune strategy for the second Test), England coach Andy Flower and Duncan Fletcher, India's coach, also got the "honour."

Fletcher remarked that he was "surprised." Actually, many in the gathering felt the same way! Fletcher, after all, has done little to take Indian cricket forward.

In fact, Fletcher's tenure has been marked by humiliation in England and in Australia, between July 2011 and March this year. We also failed in the Asia Cup and didn't make even the semi-final of the recent World Twenty20.

Sachin, who spoke before Gooch, was eloquent and thanked the CCI for having made an exception back in the mid 1980s, which allowed him to play for the institution.

Had the rules been followed, Sachin couldn't have come anywhere close to the dressing rooms, strictly out of bounds for the U-18s.

Sachin got a tad emotional. "Whatever I say won't be enough, for the CCI is a fantastic club... I can't say try and get better, for you're already the best."

The exclusive gathering, which included Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men and a few of the England cricketers, gave an ovation.

Significantly, Srinivasan assured the CCI that a request to again become a regular venue for international cricket would be considered. He'd personally make a "strong recommendation" to colleagues in the Board.

The CCI has been losing out, to the Wankhede, for almost 40 years. It has been having its moments, but they have been very few, like the historic Test against Sri Lanka three years ago.