How Mark Mascarenhas, Sachin Tendulkar’s first agent, helped him earn millions.
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 Tendulkar’s 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 Tendulkar’s 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 father’s 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 couldn’t 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, Tendulkar’s batting only flourished, as he produced some of his more breathtaking knocks, including the Desert Storm specials. Mascarenhas was a fixture at Tendulkar’s matches, and he never shied away from talking up his client’s cricket.
Karen believes that their mutual trust worked in the best interests of both. “Mark was an enormous fan of Sachin and didn’t 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.