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It has been a dream journey and I have no regrets: Tendulkar

Last updated on: November 17, 2013 22:26 IST

It has been a dream journey and I have no regrets: Tendulkar

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Harish Kotian

You can take Sachin Tendulkar out of cricket, but you cannot take cricket out of him.

This is already becoming evident as the batting legend struggles to cope with retirement after a long and illustrious career, spanning 24 years.

A day after he called it quits, Tendulkar revealed that the feeling that he will no longer be playing cricket is yet to sink. The 40-year-old confessed that he felt it was the right time to hang up his boots as his body was unable to take the burden of daily practice.

The master batsman spoke to reporters in Mumbai on Sunday on varied topics, including the prestigious Bharat Ratna, which was conferred on him a day before, and what's next for him after cricket.

You played for India for a long span of 24 years. Has the feeling sunk in yet that you have retired?

Playing cricket for 24 years for the country was an important thing for me. During those 24 years, different kind of challenges came up, but the desire to play for the nation was so strong that I was able to find solutions to those challenges and was helped by family, coaches, players, friends… a lot of people.

It was a dream journey of 24 years. But last night when I sat, it feels that it has not sunk in yet that I won’t play cricket anymore, but I will try to play somewhere.

If I have to talk about those 24 years, in short, I will say that it has been a dream journey and I have no regrets. I felt this was the right time to stop playing cricket. All I can say is it was an enjoyable journey.

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Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani

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'I thought that my body can't take that load consistently'

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How difficult have the last few hours been? Also, can you name two special moments that will remain closest to your heart?

I said earlier, when I went to the pitch and stood in those 22 yards, I realised that this was the last time I was standing in that place, in front of a packed stadium, as a part of the Indian team. This will never happen again... that I was emotional about and couldn’t control my tears. Knowing that I would never had a cricket bat in my hand here, playing for India, was really emotional.

There have been many wonderful moments. You guys might have noticed that I could not look up while shaking hands with my teammates and the West Indian players. I didn’t want to be rude, but I didn’t want anyone to see my face, with me in tears. In spite of all this, I know that the decision I took was correct.

How will you remain associated with the game in future?

Cricket was my life. As I said once, cricket is oxygen to me. Out of my 40 years, I have spent 30 of them playing cricket; so nearly 75 per cent of my life has been cricket. So my association with the sport will continue at different levels, maybe not in the immediate near future.

I have played for 24 years, and it has been 24 hours since I retired. I think, at least, I should get at least 24 days to rest and after that let’s see what happens.

How did you decide to quit cricket? Did you stop enjoying?

I was definitely enjoying the game, but, to tell you honestly, I had always maintained that the day I get the feeling that I should stop playing cricket I will definitely inform you.

There have been a lot of questions over my retirement and my answer was always that whenever I get that feeling I will tell you.

That feeling came now because after playing for 24 years you have to appreciate that I had a lot of injuries in between and it was not easy to overcome them. I think somewhere in your life there comes a stage where your body gives you a message that enough of this physical load… I think the body requires rest.

I thought that my body can’t take that load consistently. If I had to undergo a training session, it was becoming an effort. When I used to train in the past, it used to happen automatically. In between, I also got the feeling that I should just sit out and watch TV. So a few question marks cropped up in my mind, and when I tried to find answers to those questions I thought that this is the perfect time to leave the game.

Then I requested the BCCI that these two matches would be my last, and, if possible, please keep my last match in Mumbai because my mother had never seen me play even a single ball before this match. My mom never told me that I want to come to see a match, so I wanted this to be a surprise for her. But through you [media], she came to know of it on the television channels that the match was going to be held in Mumbai and especially for my mother. So this match became really, really special for me. But coming back to the question, the moment I got the feeling I should stop playing I stopped.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani

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'I will always be playing for India and praying for India's victory'

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Will you continue to follow Indian cricket?

Even though I am not physically playing for India, I will always be playing for India and praying for India’s victory. And it doesn’t really matter whether I am part of the team or not. As an Indian, I feel that whenever India participates, not only in cricket but in any other field, India should come first and then the first.

Is the Bharat Ratna the best award you got from the nation?

Yesterday I had said that this award was for my mother, and this award is for all the sacrifices she made for me right from my birth. As a child, it is difficult to understand life;  you don’t know what parents have to go through to make you happy. They have sacrificed everything, and the beauty of it is that I was never told till date that we did this for you.

And when you grow up, you realise all those things. So that is the reason I feel this award is for my mother. And I would like to go a step further -- not just my mother, but like my mother there are millions and millions of mothers in India who sacrifice thousands of things for their children; so I would like to share this award with the mothers for all the sacrifices they have made. I am humbled and honoured that this award has been bestowed upon me. This is for my contribution to cricket for the last 24 years.

When you are growing up, all you want to do is go out and do your best, score hundreds, take wickets, take catches, win matches, and keep bettering your performance, and I have tried to just do that, and while doing that people have appreciated my performances. And the way they have responded, it has given me the strength to repeat those performances. So the award belongs to the entire nation and I am truly honoured.

Also, at this stage, I would like to congratulate Professor C N Rao for receiving the Bharat Ratna. I think it’s a great honour to be named along side Dr. Rao, because his contribution in the field of science is immense. It is just that cricket is always played in the stadium in front of thousands and thousands, and whatever he has done, it is never done in front of thousands. But his contribution is immense and I would like to congratulate him and wish him all the best. 

Were the West Indies worthy opponents for your farewell series?

Talking about West Indies team, please understand that the West Indies have world-class players. This sport is the greatest leveller and there are ups and downs. There have been few occasions when we haven’t fared well. We have been in that boat too and understand how it feels. At certain times things don’t work out and I would say it was one of those things when things didn’t work out for them. They are a terrific side and they play cricket in the right spirit and that is what matters. I think, as long as you turn and play cricket the way it is meant to be played, then, according to me, you score full marks.

Will you try to open an academy to nurture youngsters and bring up more Sachins?

It’s a nice thought that I need to be involved with cricket and I would definitely be. It is not just because I have retired. Even before retired, I have spent time with youngsters from U-19 teams to Ranji Trophy teams. It’s just that I have not made those things public. I like interacting with players. It’s just nice to share your knowledge and understand sometimes their problems also which also in return teaches you more about the game. I have thoroughly enjoyed those interactions and I will continue to do so. It may not be done publicly, it may be done quietly at a very low profile, but I would like to help the youngsters, the next generations, and jut share my thoughts and be involved with cricket.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani

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'I expected the compliment will come but it never happened'

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You went back to the pitch and touched it after the Test match in Mumbai?

I know, never ever in my life, during an international match, I would get to do that and that is where my life started. And those 22 yards have given me everything in life. Whatever I have today is because I have spent time between those 22 yards. It’s like a temple for me. So I just wanted to say a big thank you to cricket. Every time I would go to bat, I always touch the wicket and take the blessings, and that’s what I did yesterday. I didn’t say publicly, but I just thanked cricket for everything I got in life and it was as simple as that, nothing complicated. 

What went through you when you touched the pitch?

It was a very emotional moment. I remember, when I was thinking about retirement and trying to decide, I don’t think I was as emotional as this, because I knew it was the right decision. My family, everyone was emotional, but I wasn’t that emotional. I became emotional when I got the kind of send-off from the players. I got emotional when I went to the wicket and when I was coming back from the wicket.

Actually, when I was walking to the wicket, then I got emotional. Whenever I see those images on TV, that particular moment, I still get emotional. Otherwise, I was not that emotional, because I knew I had taken the right decision. I think the thought I would not be able to go back there again for a competitive match, rather, to put it simple and short, to represent India, that made me emotional.

Your coach Ramakant Achrekar never said ‘well played’ in 28 years, but yesterday he said well done after you were conferred the Bharat Ratna. Why did it take so long for the compliment to come?

At the outset, I must say that I could come this far only because of the blessings of Achrekar Sir. There were others along with him who were there to guide me, some coaches also. I could come this far because of their guidance. Achrekar Sir and my brother Ajit were a solid team. One taught me on the field, and the other guided me at home. These discussions have been around for 30 years.

Even the other night, he (Ajit) told me how I could have played this shot (after being dismissed). This is the beauty of our relationship. I cannot describe this relationship in words. True, Sir had never said well-played; the reason was very clear... that he did want cricket to go to my head. And he always reminded me that the game is bigger than any player and you have to respect it. And that is what I have done always. 

Every time I made runs, I expected the compliment will come now. But it never happened. And that is why I had said jokingly yesterday that, hereafter, there is not going to be any competitive match for me, so at least now take that chance to say well-played because I am not going to get complacent now.

He called me after the award announcement last night and said well done! He was very happy; I was very delighted that he was very happy. The joy of receiving such awards enhances when you share it with some special people, and that is what happened with me last night.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani

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'I represented India and I was representing Ajit also'

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Do you believe that pressure is a blessing, and injuries bring good luck?

Never thought of injuries as good luck! During injuries, it use to be very difficult because the injuries that I had, they were different injuries. To overcome injuries and come back to play wasn’t easy. Each time there were different goals ahead... that I had only two months to become fit, so let me put as much effort as possible in training during those two months. But it is not as if the recovery time is three months... I can work out extra harder in the gym for one-and-a-half months and start playing. It doesn’t happen that way.

When injuries happen, you need the help of nature to recover fully. And it’s really important to respect nature. When I had the tennis elbow, it took four-and-a-half months after surgery for it to become alright and the doctor had told me that I would be able to play competitive cricket after four-and-a-half months.

So I tried to come back earlier, but it was just not possible. All I want to say is you need to respect time. The challenges that were then weren’t easy, they were difficult. Sometimes I felt that my career was over, that I might not be able to lift a bat again. After the tennis elbow surgery, I could not even lift Arjun’s plastic bat and when I went to practice for the first time with a season ball on the ground, there were 10-12-year-olds fielding, and they were fielding my hardest hit balls within 10 or 15 yards and I felt, maybe, I will be able to play again.

At that time, the pressure you feel, that is completely different. I don’t think you can continue thinking of injury as a blessing. It was a difficult phase in my life and because of the support of a lot of people, I could come back, so I would like to say thank you once again to them.

Your brother Ajit had a dream for you. How will you repay him for his contributions to your successful career?

We lived the dream together. I represented the country, and along with that I was representing Ajit also. I can’t describe it in words what he has done for me. When we met yesterday I could sense he was emotional, but was trying his best to hide it. At the same time, he looked relaxed and relieved.

The manner in which I retired, and the warm response from the public, can never be planned. It is decided by god, and I thank god profusely to have blessed me with this day. I couldn’t have asked for more. Ajit had the same feeling yesterday. We didn’t speak much, but he was relieved that everything went as we had desired.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani

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'A lot of people had sent me their wishes'

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What did you do this morning? What was your favourite moment playing against England? How will the Ashes go?

I woke up this morning at 6.50. I go according to my body clock. I woke up at 6.50 yesterday and again at the same time today. I suddenly realised that I didn’t need to quickly have a shower and get ready for a match. I made myself a cup of tea and enjoyed a nice breakfast with my wife. It was a relaxed morning.

A lot of people had sent me their wishes, so I spent some time responding to those text messages and thanking them for their support and good wishes over the last 24 years. And now I am here in front of you.

I think the Ashes are something both nations are looking forward to. England want to prove a point that they can go Down Under and give Australia a difficult time. Australia would want to bounce back and prove England wrong. It’s going to be exciting. The way I saw Mitchell Johnson bowl here in India, if he is part of the squad, it should be interesting.

I have two memorable moments against England. The first was my maiden hundred, at Old Trafford. And the second was in 2008, when we chased 374 in Chennai. That has to be a special one for me. 


Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani

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'I received the Bharat Ratna on behalf of all my countrymen'

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You were the first player to be awarded the Bharat Ratna. Can this set a trend of sportspersons getting Bharat Ratna?

I am giving an opinion which will be heard by the world. I received this award on behalf of all my countrymen. I respect the award. It’s a special award. This is the ultimate. What more, beyond this? As for other sportsmen, I would say that I have accepted this award on behalf of them also.

We have had a history of great sportsmen and sportswomen. I have grown up hearing their names. We have all grown in that culture. Their contribution can never be forgotten.

In my opinion, the doors have opened for the future. I pray that in future there is appreciation for all great performances by our sportsmen and sportswomen. This award should go to special sportsmen. 

Your sandstorm knock [in Sharjah in 1998], you said that your mother was in tears after seeing that. When you look back, which is the knock that has given you most satisfaction in life?

The beauty of my family is that they never lost balance. Whether I scored a 100 or 15 or 20 it did not matter. My father and mother always had encouraging words for me. I was able to perform well since my school days because the balance was maintained at home. Nobody got carried away with my good performances and celebrated those occasions endlessly.

Like any other Indian family we used to buy a packet of sweets, offer it to the almighty and give thanks. That process continues. Even yesterday, my mother said she’d kept sweets in front of god. That will never stop. It’s something I have learnt over the years from my parents.

When you grow up you understand more of what your parents have done for you. This is one of those things. Their reaction to me, when I got back from any tour was never related to how I performed. It was more about parents and their child. It has always stayed that way.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani
Tags: Sharjah

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'My mother preferred to sit and watch each and every ball'

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Are you happy with your last innings of 74? What was your mother’s reaction?

My mother was extremely happy. Earlier, I was not sure whether she would come or not, because it’s a little difficult for her to travel.

That was the only reason I requested that this match be played in Mumbai. After the first day itself, I was worried that she might not be able to sit there for long. For safety, I had also told the [Mumbai Cricket Association] MCA to keep a room for my mother at the Garware guesthouse.

But my mother preferred to sit and watch each and every ball. It is special, and when I went to meet her in the president’s box I could see in her eyes what it meant. We are not people who get carried away and respond differently. It was a very controlled and balanced reaction. But she spoke to me more through her eyes than her words.

Would Arjun Tendulkar also like to become a cricketer? 

See, as a father, I will say leave Arjun alone. I will say let him enjoy the cricket, and don’t burden him with expectations, like his father had performed like this and he should also perform like that. If I had such pressure on me, then I would have a pen in my hands, because my father was a professor and he was in literature field.

That time nobody has questioned my father as why your son has a cricket bat in his hand, and why not a pen? So, Arjun has opted for cricket bat in his hand, and he’s passionate about cricket. I will say that you need to be madly in love with cricket to bring the best, and he’s madly in love with cricket. That’s what matters.

I don’t want to put pressure on him whether he performs or not. You [media] shouldn’t also put pressure on him. You need to leave a young player free so that he’s able to perform and enjoy cricket. That’s what I expect, and what lies in future is determined by god, and not by us.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani

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'It was my dream to win the World Cup'

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What were the best and the most disappointing moments in your cricketing career?

The best moment I will say was when we won the World Cup here two years ago. It was my dream to win the World Cup. But I had to wait for 22 years, and that was such a long period. But God helped me to see that day, and that was a special moment. I will also say that yesterday was also a very special day for me.

The way people responded to me… I would like to say big thanks to everyone. It was very special for me to see that reaction from people. So, these two moments have been very special for me. If you ask me about the disappointing moment, then I will say it came in the 2003 World Cup. We were playing very well in that tournament, reached the final. It has been a big disappointment for me that we couldn’t cross the final hurdle despite playing well. Like any other sportsman, I was also disappointed.

How do you view your influence on the youngsters in the Indian team, and whose success have you enjoyed the most?

To answer your last question first, I enjoy everyone’s success. It’s about team sport, and in team sport it doesn’t matter who performs well. Out eleven players, you will not see all eleven players performing well. There will be two or three exceptional performances, and they will be supported by the rest. As long as those consistency is maintained, it doesn’t matter who performs.

Talking about the new generation, I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the team. I know that someone like Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) wasn’t even born when I started playing for India. I have told them jokingly, wish me good morning sir when I come to the dressing room. It has been a joy to work with them and being part of the squad, because it’s not about whatever I am saying is 100 per cent correct. If you understand what they are also telling, then you will become a better student of cricket.

I think that process will continue till the time I stop breathing. If you are prepared to learn, you will learn, and that’s what I have maintained all along. I have shared my various experiences with them, and then about my batting, and my observations about their batting and what should they do.

It is fun to do all that and I have always done that, and that’s not only because I am the senior-most player in the side. Even when I was the junior most member in the side I would still do that. It’s about talking cricket, breathing cricket; it’s all about cricket! It doesn’t matter at what stage of life you are, and I enjoyed talking cricket with various players, and it was fun. 

Will you lead the campaign to include cricket in the Olympics?

As I said, it’s been hardly 24 hours since I retired and you are already engaging me into various other things. Give me some time to breathe; we will talk about them in time to come.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani

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'I did not think much about the critics'

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How did you react to criticism throughout your career?

I observe it to a certain stage about who is writing and about what subject he is writing. Opinions will be available all around the world. A stage comes when you are convinced as to which person’s advice you should follow and who are the ones who offer constructive criticism and what is the motive behind it. I don’t think I have paid much attention to it, because those who were guiding me were by my side and they didn’t hold a pen for a long time.

They had either a cricket bat in their hand or cricket thoughts in their mind to encourage me to perform better... so that I could perform better. I was normally interacting with such people whose interest was in how I could make more runs and how I could perform better. Beyond that, I didn’t think much about the critics.

Having played for so long under so many coaches, what are your views on India having foreign coaches in the last few years?

I don’t think it is more about a foreign coach. It is about who is coaching and how best can they bring the best results for India; how consistently they can do that is what matters. I don’t think in that direction ki there has to be a foreign coach or there has to be an Indian coach. To me, there should be a proper coach who understands the players; he is more like your friend.

At this level, we all know how to play a cover drive. But when something goes wrong, it is not technically as such. but sometimes, it is between the ears. So who can you sit with and sort that out is what eventually matters. So, to me, I feel, a coach is a coach. It really doesn’t matter where he comes from.

As long as the relation between the coach and the player is a healthy relationship, where they are more friends and any sort of problem which a player has he should be able to confide in this coach and also know for a fact that it would not be leaked out, which is really important because to have that confidence in your coach is so so important; it is as simple as that.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani
Tags: India

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