After surviving more than 16 years in media spotlight, Sachin Tendulkar is set to put into words his incomparable drive and passion for cricket. Lauded as the best batsman since Sir Donald Bradman, he reveals in his forthcoming book Tendulkar's Opus how he evolved from being an unmanageable child to India's youngest-ever Test player.
"Cricket is something very, very special to me. It has never been about owning this or that car and the other things that come with this life. My parents taught me that it is important to live everyday of your life with grace and honour," the ace batsman says in the book to be published at the end of next year.
"An obsession with money or worldly matters was always thumbed down. My only dream was to wear the Indian cap and the Indian colours. In that respect, my childhood dreams have come true."
However, Tendulkar says cricket wasn't his only love. He also played a lot of tennis and believes he was pretty good at it too.
"My big-time hero was John McEnroe. I just loved that guy. All my friends and family would support Bjorn Borg. I was the only one supporting John McEnroe - everyone used to call me 'Mac' because I styled myself on him.
"I made my father buy me the same headbands and sweatbands and even grew my hair long. You wouldn't believe the pictures of me from that time. I was also extremely naughty. Very, very difficult to handle."
"I would climb the trees around the apartment complex and polish off all the guavas and mangoes. The fruit trees were strictly off limits, but I used to time it to perfection by waiting until nobody was around, normally in the evening when everyone was inside watching television.
"I had a nanny who used to run after me virtually 24 hours a day, because I never wanted to go home," he says.
Tendulkar says he settled down when he started playing a lot of cricket in his early teens - "all my calories were being burnt on the cricket pitch and my energy was being focused.
"I have my brother Ajit to thank for that - he guided me into the game. He used to watch me play downstairs with my friends, without me realizing. He figured out that I could bat by watching my swing, the way I connected with the ball and my consistency.
"He's almost 10 years older than me and had played at a decent level himself. He told me that professional cricket could be a future for me and convinced my father to let me change schools, to help me play more," he says.
"My father, who died in 1999, was never a cricket fan, not at all. He was a writer and a poet: he taught Marathi, my mother tongue, at the local university. But he understood exactly how to get thebest out of me. He always encouraged me and told my mother that he had full faith in me. It was probably reverse psychology, but as I got older I felt like I could not misuse that trust.
"Hewarned me against taking short cuts and told me to just keep playing, despite the ups and downs. When it came to choosing between cricket and going to university, he said: 'You can play cricket, I know that is your first love, so go for it'."
Tendulkar says his parents were extremely happy when he became the youngest player to play for India, at 16.
"Atfirst they were a little worried. In India, cricket is almost a religion and they had some apprehensions over whether I'd be able to cope with the demands and pressure at that age. Some of the players were almost twice my age and I was living away from home for most of the year. But it all went smoothly in the end."
In excerpts of the book published in The Sunday Timesmagazine, Tendulkar says "I now have my own family, daughter who is eight and a son who is six, so there's that other half of the coin to look at. I need to strike the right balance between cricket and family.
"Itry to follow my father's lead and give my kids the freedom that I had in my family. Having children brings back all my old childhood memories, wonderful years. Now, every minute is measured and calculated. I still dream - without dreams, life is flat, you stagnate. I don't go to the temple every morning, but I do pray. I thank God for everything He has given me, because life has been good to me," he says.
Asa child, Tendulkar says he always knew he would play cricket for India. The batting maestro says he received his first cricket bat when he was seven.
"My big sister gave it to me after returning from a trip to Kashmir, which is known for its high-qualitywillows. It wasn't the best bat, but it was like a piece of gold to me. I used to imagine myself batting for India, hitting fours and sixes, the people cheering. I used that bat until it broke when I graduated from playing with a tennis ball to a hard, seasoned ball."
Reminiscing his childhood, Tendulkar says he grew up in an apartment in central Mumbai, a nice middle-class area, the youngest of four children -"I have two brothers and a sister. There was a private green at the front of our building where I used to spend all my spare time playing with friends.
"Virtually every morning, evening and afternoon, playing football, volleyball, hockey -and cricket, of course. Batting came naturally to me, probably because of my physique. There were bigger guys who chose to bowl, and there were smaller guys like me who had no option but to bat."