Bangalore:Meet Ram Bhandari, the Bangalore man who gave Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar the bat with which he created history yesterday.
When the flashbulbs went into overdrive after Master Blaster hit his 50th Test century in South Africa on Sunday, one man in Bangalore quietly celebrated his own share in Sachin Tendulkar's milestone. As Tendulkar looked heavenward, 50-year-old Ram Bhandari admired the man in whose hand was his 'creation' -- the bat with which he cornered that crucial single off Dale Steyn at the Centurion.
"It's his favourite bat," beamed Bhandari. "I feel I am part of Tendulkar's history. It is by God's grace that the bat I crafted is in the legend's capable hands."
Bhandari, a housekeeper at a commercial complex, customises bats as a part-time vocation. He came to Bangalore from Bihar in 1979. Bhandari, having learnt carpentry from his grandfather, was an avid cricketer and loved to make bats. When the owner of the commercial complex came to know of Bhandari's passion, he gave him a small shop in the building, and thus began his journey that gave many a cricketer his personalised bat.
Bhandari would often watch the matches organised by Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) and observe the batsmen carefully. Over the years, he mastered the art of customising bats according to the way batsmen gripped the handle and their individual style of batting. He would modify the weight and curvature of bats to suit his customers' needs.
"The bats cricketers use need to be modified according to their batting style," said Bhandari. "That is where I come in."
The big meet
Bhandari once shared his tips with Rahul Dravid during a training camp at the National Cricket Academy. The Great Wall of Indian cricket was impressed by Bhandari's work and in 2003, introduced him to Sachin. Ever since, the little master has been using bats modified by Bhandari.
"I have given him around 20 bats so far," said Bhandari. "Tendulkar says they complement his batting."
When Tendulkar hit a bad patch in 2006, Bhandari figured that the weight of the bat was the culprit. He then reduced it from 1350g to 1250g.
"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 always has a tip or two for batsmen -- for instance, those who grip the handle at the top need a heavier bat, while those who grip the handle's bottom need a lighter one.
Yuvraj Singh, Virendra Sehwag, and Yusuf Pathan use the heaviest bats, weighing 1350g, whereas Dravid and Gautam Gambhir use willows weighing 1150g.
Bhandari recalls with joy the moments he spent with Tendulkar. "Sachin always asks about my health and family first. He then requests for the bat, never forgetting to add, 'please, na bhoolna'. He is an extremely polite man."
Yesterday, as he watched Tendulkar, Bhandari chose not to call him after the match. "I did not wish to disturb him. I know he will call," he laughed.
Bhandari's son, Narendra, is a budding cricketer. He is currently playing Under-16 and uses Robin Uthappa's bat. Cricketer Shikhar Dhawan too has given a bat to him.
A sweet promise
Vishnu, a young cricketer from Chamaraj Nagar, is playing Under-14. He approached Bhandari to have his bat customised. When his parents offered Bhandari Rs 100, the latter refused, but asked them to bring him sweets if their son did well. On Saturday, Vishnu scored a double century during a state zonal match.
Vishnu's proud parents were so delighted that not only did they offer Bhandari sweets, but also gave him an honorarium of Rs 500.