Sez Les: Local pair who bookend Tendulkar’s Test career

Umpire Richard Kettleborough
Umpire Richard Kettleborough
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The population of India is said to be around 1.3 billion - probably a million or two more by the end of this column - and it is no exaggeration to say, babies apart, the lot of them have not only heard of Sachin Tendulkar but also revere and adore him to a level beyond comprehension.

There are those, particularly who have been to India, who reckon he is the most idolised and, dare we say, deified sportsman of all time, not least because of the longevity of his remarkable career and the superhuman nature of his conduct on and off the field.

Sachin’s farewell comes this week in his 200th Test, more an event than a sporting occasion. And the beginning and the end of his amazing Test career, separated by 24 years, is bookended very nicely indeed by two South Yorkshire cricket personalities.

When the Little Master made his Test debut at just 16 against their bitter rivals Pakistan no less, one of the umpires in Karachi was South Yorkshire’s very own John Hampshire, schooled in Rotherham and former Yorkshire and England batsman.

Umpiring out in Mumbai this week in Tendulkar’s historic final Test is one of John’s successors on the elite umpires’ list, Sheffield’s Richard Kettleborough.

It’s a remarkable coincidence and no doubt ‘Kett’, also an ex-Yorkshire player, will have his own tale to tell when he gets back to his mates at Abbeydale Park.

John, who lives near Rotherham, this week recalled that first Sachin appearance on the Test stage.

“I was standing at square leg when this little kid walked past me,” chuckled John. “He faced a fearsome attack in Waqar and Wasim but was good enough to counteract it and even at that age you could tell although no one would have thought what has happened would happen,” added John who was also umpiring when Sachin made his maiden Test century at Old Trafford in 1990.

As for my own Sachin memory... in 1992 he was Yorkshire’s first overseas players and I was sent to Leeds for the unveiling. The Sheffield Star was well down the pecking order and by the time tv, radio and national papers had got their slice, he’d been at it ages. Would his patience hold? When the time came, he was unfailingly courteous, suggested we pop outside, we chatted cricket, I got my interview and he signed my notebook “Best wishes Sachin” - and I still have the page. Wonder what it’d fetch in India!