Kolkata: Fifteen years have passed since Nayan Mongia watched and enjoyed at the other end as Sachin Tendulkar celebrated his 25th birthday with a glorious 134 in the Sharjah final against Australia but its momories are as fresh as morning dew ahead of his former teammate's 40th birthday.
As the Mumbai Indians batsman turns 40 on Wednesday playing against Kolkata Knight Riders in an IPL clash at the Eden Gardens, the former wicket-keeper recalled the day in 1998, saying Tendulkar is born to play cricket.
"Having won the World Cup which was missing from his cabinet, Tendulkar almost has achieved everything. He should play as long as he is enjoying the game. No word is enough to describe the living legend. He has been sent by God to play cricket," Mongia told PTI.
Paying rich tribute to Tendulkar, the former wicket-keeper said: "I wish him well on his 40th birthday. He is taking pressure of billions of Indian fans and has been playing consistently over the years, that speaks volumes about his career."
The very mention of birthday brings back the old memories of 1998 when Mongia shared an 89-run stand with Tendulkar who was in marauding form, sending Shane Warne to the cleaners to post his second consecutive century in the tri-nation final at Sharjah.
"It was a special strategy to promote me to No. 3 and get runs quickly so that I could take some pressure off him. We had discussed this in our team meeting. I am glad that it worked.
"He always had that X-factor in him. It was the best Aussie attack which was dominating world cricket at that moment. But he took them on with ease." .
"The whole world and the crowd in the stadium watched it. But it's difficult to describe how special it was for me to witness it from the other end, as he clobbered Warne for boundaries and sixes. It was a treat to watch," Mongia added.
"It was certainly one of the best one-day innings ever. I remember it every bit as I fondly recall each and every day of my career for the country. Like Laxman, Sachin also enjoyed the the Aussie bowling attack," Mongia fondly recollected.
The Mohammad Azharuddin-led side indulged in double celebration as Tendulkar returned with both the Man of the Match and Man of the Series performances.
"We really had a good time. It is difficult to describe the feeling but his birthday made it a doubly special occasion," Mongia, who is now a Baroda Cricket Association selector, said.
Speaking about Indian cricket in general, Mongia said the team is going in the right direction after handing Australia a 4-0 thrashing.
"What more could we have asked for after the 4-0 thrashing of the Aussies. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is doing a fine job at the helm. The youngsters are doing well and it's time for them to learn from Tendulkar," he said.