On January 28, 2002, in an ODI against England at Kanpur, the Indian team sported black armbands. It was a tribute to Mark Mascarenhas, the larger-than-life sports promoter and Sachin Tendulkars first agent, who had died in a road accident only a few hours earlier in Nagpur.
Mascarenhas, who was based in Connecticut, US, was no run-of-the-mill Jerry Maguire. In less than six years leading up to his death, the WorldTel boss had turned cricket into a profitable business by cutting ground-breaking deals for TV broadcasting, and had introduced more zeroes to Tendulkars pay cheque than the cricketing world could ever imagine.
On that emotional day in Kanpur, Tendulkar paid rich tributes to Mascarenhas before doing the same with the bat, scoring an unbeaten 87 off just 67 deliveries to crush England. And just like he had done three years earlier following his fathers death, he celebrated his half-century by hailing his lost pal and mentor with a poignant glance heavenwards.
While Mascarenhas was raking in the moolah in India, often controversially, wife Karen remained a homemaker in Connecticut, raising their four children. And though her contact with Tendulkar was limited, she recalls that the two were like brothers. Mark always told Sachin to focus on cricket and leave deal-making to him, she says.
Having met Tendulkar in 1995 through Ravi Shastri, Mascarenhas wasted no time in signing him up for a five-year contract, guaranteeing the right-hander Rs 30 crore. In a later interview, the ambitious agent would justify his decision: I chose to promote Sachin Tendulkar because I have never seen (Donald) Bradman play; never saw (Garry) Sobers play; I saw Viv (Richards), but he couldnt figure out (Bhagwat) Chandrashekhar on his debut. And then I saw Sachin. I had never seen anyone like this.
The deal was a win-win. From the time he roped Mascarenhas in as his commercial custodian, Tendulkars batting only flourished, as he produced some of his more breathtaking knocks, including the Desert Storm specials. Mascarenhas was a fixture at Tendulkars matches, and he never shied away from talking up his clients cricket.
Karen believes that their mutual trust worked in the best interests of both. Mark was an enormous fan of Sachin and didnt want to impede his career by taking his focus off the game. And Sachin relied on Mark to look out for his best interests, she says. That trust only got stronger when Tendulkar signed a new, eye-popping Rs 100-crore deal with WorldTel in 2001.
Being away from the action also meant Karen got to see a side of Tendulkar that few in India have been privy to. Sachin was a quiet, soft-spoken guy. When he and his family stayed with us for a week in Connecticut, we had a blast just hanging out at our home, eating seafood, and driving our boat around Long Island Sound. When his daughter Sara fell ill, he was like any father of a sick child far from home, she says.
Tendulkar has always marked out his relationship with Mascarenhas as having been a turning point in his career. It was a big moment for me when I signed WorldTel in 1995. Unfortunately, we lost Mark in 2002 when England were playing in India. That was a huge blow, not because I lost my manager, but because I lost my friend, who understood how I operated; how my family operated, and who never pressured me to do advertisements when a series was on, he had said last year.