Alappuzha, Sep 1: The crowds on either side of the sprawling Punnamada lake here cheered in frenzy on Saturday evening as Sachin Tendulkar was invited to speak at the inauguration of the Champions Boat League alongside the historical Nehru Trophy Boat Race.
As the batting legend began his address as the chief guest of the function with a smattering of Kerala's Malayalam language, the response from the onlookers went even louder. It was again so when the 46-year-old Bharat Ratna awardee concluded his 11-minute talk with the words ‘Nandi, Namaskaram’ (Thanks, Greetings!).
Dapper as usual, though this time with his shirt not tucked into his trousers as if in accordance with the general Malayali style, globe-trotting Tendulkar said, ''Whichever part of the world you go, if you speak about boat race, the first name you hear is always Kerala.'' To the famed Mumbaikar, CBL marks the turn of a new leaf in the history of Kerala’s boat races. ''I have led teams where the players' number totals 16, while it is around 100 in a boat race! That requires tremendous understanding between the members and skills of coordination from the part of the captain,'' added the massive run-getter, who has a long string of cricketing records to his credit.
“It is more so, considering that most of the rowers aren’t exactly trained athletes. It’s their passion that makes them fit to be competing here.” Hailing the gender equality in the boat races, Tendulkar said, “I see a lot of women rowing the boats here. It’s very encouraging. Women are not just to manage kitchen. A healthy woman at home means a healthy family. That happens only when you venture out of your home and bond well with the public at large.”
Tendulkar noted that the “love and affection” from the people of Kerala has always had a distinct appeal whenever he visited the state during his cricketing days or after. “Kerala is just back on its seat after the monsoon floods,” he noted. “My prayers to all the families who lost their dear ones in the tragedy (at the start of this month).”
Earlier, Tendulkar’s entry into the CBL inaugural venue had its fair share of glitter when the icon was taken on a round of the starting point on a boat that had over a dozen Kathakali artistes dancing in colourful costumes.
As the chief guest waved his hands to the gathering below overcast skies, many fans were seen responding almost deliriously. The CBL was originally slated to begin on August 10,but got rescheduled owing to heavy rains that wreaked havoc across the state. The second race of CBL will be held at Thazhathangadi, near Kottayam, 25 km from Alappuzha, on September 7. (UNI)