Veteran actor Tom Alter breathed his last on Friday night at his Mumbai residence. He was battling stage four of skin cancer. Alter was known for his acting and writing skills. However, many may not know that he was a sports lover as well. And in fact, it was he took Sachin Tendulkar’s first video interview when the latter was 15.
Tom Alter, with his blue gaze and a strong command over Hindi as well as Urdu, was known more as an accomplished actor rather than a cricket journalist, enthusiast and even a player. His first job was that of a school teacher at St. Thomas School, Jagadhri, in Haryana. Being a cricket aficionado, he also became his students’ cricket coach. Starting as a coach, he went to become a cricket writer as well, penning pieces for publications like Sportsweek, Outlook and Debonair.
In 1988, Alter probably took the most important sports interview of his life, though few would have had any hint of at that point. Sachin Tendulkar, a 16-year-old boy, then took his questions on West Indies, their fast bowlers as well as his though on domestic cricket. That interaction would go down as the first TV interview of India’s most famous cricketer and Alter played a prominent part of it.
Interestingly, Tendulkar, at the time had played the Ranji Trophy for Mumbai and scored a century against Gujarat, but he was yet to make his debut for India. When the interview was conducted, selectors were considering the teenager for India’s tour of the West Indies. Alter’s tryst with cricket did not stop at interviewing cricketers as he himself played for an Indian XI, led by Sunil Gavaskar, against a USA X in 1983, after the World Cup. That Indian team included Mohinder Amarnath, Ravi Shastri, Roger Binny, Yashpal Sharma, Sandeep Patil, Madan Lal, Balwinder Sandhu among others.
The 67-year-old actor of American descent appeared in over 300 films and his work on television ranged from “Bharat Ek Khoj” to “Shaktimaan”. In 2008, he awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in the country.