Nobody is going to be able to replace Dravid at No 3: Tendulkar
With a hectic season coming up, who better than batting ace Sachin Tendulkar knows what's in store for Team India. After the upcoming ODI series against Sri Lanka, the going only gets tougher with the challenge of New Zealand, England and Australia to follow.
Tendulkar feels the series against New Zealand will be a vital platform towards India regaining the No 1 ranking in Test cricket.
Speaking to CNN-IBN in Herzogenaurach, Germany, the game's highest run-getter in all formats also dismissed talk of him calling it a day in the near future, saying at the moment he's only looking forward to the new season.
Excerpts from the interview:
People looking for this headline 'Sachin Tendulkar contemplating retirement' should shut-up because clearly there is no thought of that just looking at you...
No, absolutely not! This is going on since 2006. It has been six years now and I am enjoying cricket and I will continue enjoying cricket, because as long as I am passionate about cricket, it makes sense in being part of a team sport. If it is an individual sport, you have various things to think of. If you are not in the right frame of mind, it does not affect your team. You are an individual there but being a part of a team sport, you have to be on top of your game, especially when you represent your country.
All these things are really important. At this moment I don't want to entertain anything else, but all I can say is that I am looking forward to this season.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
'I just wanted to spend time with my family'
You know the reason why this keeps coming up... In India, everybody knows everything about you, all the facts and figures and numbers. You are now 39 years old. Everybody starts to remind you that you were 16 when you started playing, that you have played 23 years of international cricket. So, come on, Sachin, you have got to start thinking about life after cricket. Seriously, are you telling me, Sachin, it never crosses your mind what is life going to be when I stop playing cricket?
When the time comes, I'll start thinking about it. I have never thought that way; each person thinks differently. There were different opinions in 2006, whether should I continue or should I retire. All I can say [is] each person thinks differently; you don't know what the other person is thinking.
You decided not to play in the one-day series in Sri lanka. What are the reasons for that?
I just wanted to spend time with my family. It's as simple as that. So I spoke to [the] BCCI and requested them to leave me out. To prepare myself for Sri Lanka, I shouldn't be here; I should be back home, preparing myself. So to be able to spend enough time with my children is also important for me because once we go back, then their school starts and it is not the same quality time which any family man expects. That is something, which will keep me going for the next 10 months.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
'I feel I should not be part of T20 because the team did well'
You know the reason why this one-day conversation keeps coming up. People wonder what is Sachin's reason to play one-day cricket? He won the World Cup, his records are never going to be broken and you do not play as much one-day cricket as you used to. What is it particularly in playing one-day cricket that keeps you involved?
It's not about what XYZ thinks. It's what I feel, and I feel like as long as I am enjoying and feel like being part of it, I'll continue. I felt that I shouldn't be part of the T20 squad, although I have been asked. But I feel I should not be part of T20 because the team did well. When I get that feeling in one-day cricket, maybe, I will take that decision.
After winning the World Cup, was there never a finish point for you? Before that there was a lot of talk, remember? The final is in Mumbai, India won the World Cup, wow that's the perfect finish. But it wasn't like that in your mind; that was just everyone else.
Absolutely, it was everyone else. I never thought about taking all these decisions. So, again, coming back to same thing, when I feel like taking that decision, I won't want the rest of the guys to take that decision for me. As long as I am enjoying, it makes sense.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
'We are playing a Test series after a long time in India'
There is a big season coming up; it is at home. What are your thoughts? You are playing New Zealand to start with, but the big-ticket series will be England and Australia. We will build it up as the revenge series. What are your thoughts on the big home Test series coming up?
It is going to be a big season. Every season is important, but this one, I am sure everyone is looking for because it is England followed by Australia. It is going to be a competitive season. All I can say is we need all the backing, all the support for the entire team to put up a good performance and produce that kind of cricket that everyone is expecting us to, and entertain everyone.
We are playing a Test series after a long time in India and it is against the top two Test sides, England and Australia. The series against New Zealand, I feel, is going to set a good platform and will be important. We are looking forward to it.
Since we are talking about Test cricket... when you started out, India weren't very successful at Test cricket. Subsequently, in the middle you were part of a very successful Indian team that did well overseas. But the last two overseas series have been terrible, perhaps the worst that you have had as a cricketer. Do you believe there is a problem in our systems, in the overall structure of our cricket? Or were these just two series where things just went horribly wrong and India could not recover?
I don't think we can point our fingers at our structure, because with that same structure we hit the number one spot. So, if there was something wrong with the structure, we would have never reached that spot. I just feel, you know, that if you compare the Australian series, you felt they always managed to get one big partnership. We were able to pick up early wickets, then invariably there was one partnership which tilted the game in their favour and there were not many big partnerships in our side.
There are two ways to look at it. The batsmen aren't scoring enough runs, and, the other side, the bowlers are allowing that one big partnership because one side was getting that advantage of one big partnership, the other side was not.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
'Younger players do care about Test cricket'
But you are not concerned about Test cricket overall, because your generation grew up devoted to Test cricket. I am sure you kept an eye on the A tour of West Indies where India lost the Test series. There is a general line of thought that there is a problem in the way young Indian cricketers are thinking about Test cricket. How do you respond to that point?
I don't think so. Younger players do care about Test cricket, and when it comes to playing at the top level, I am sure everyone wants to be part of it. I mean I haven't followed much of what happened in the West Indies, but we definitely need to lift our performance and standard of playing.
You don't fear the influence of IPL? A lot of people say that it is the culture of the IPL which encourages this kind of thinking in a young cricketer that, you know, 'how does it matter whether I play Test cricket or not! I have an IPL contract'.... Do you believe that's having negative impact on Indian cricket?
I feel it is up to an individual and no system can change that. The guys who want to play Test cricket for India; for them, however much they perform in IPL or any other tournament is not going to give them this kind of satisfaction of playing a Test match for India.
The guys who don't care, anyways there is big question mark in front of them. I would much rather have guys in the team who are dying to play Test cricket. If I have to pick a Test team, that would be something very important because there is no such system which actually teaches to start liking Test cricket.
It has to be there within you and if its not, then there is a question mark and we need not be talking about those players. Don't force them and someone who is wanting to play, you need to find a way to encourage them to play Test cricket.
Image: Virat Kohli
'We were all used to Rahul padding up batting at number 3'
You bat at number 4 but a different guy has to bat number 3 now because Rahul Dravid has decided to retire. How different will it be in the Test XI that Sachin Tendulkar bats at 4 but Rahul Dravid isn't available at 3?
Rahul has been an incredible player for India and for world cricket. Nobody is going to be able to replace Rahul in that position. You need someone to be dedicated, be committed and disciplined.
The entire country will miss him, because we were all used to Rahul padding up batting at number 3. So, obliviously, these things will continue to happen because that's how the game goes around for years. Before our generation there were so many great players but the game continues.
When you look back on the 100 hundreds, have you experienced for last few weeks a sense of relief or has it finally given some way for joy?
It's definitely relief because I felt all the focus was only on getting 100 hundreds and nothing else. In the last 10 months, there were certain good things that I also did and you know that wasn't noticed enough; like the Test match in Delhi. I thought against West Indies I played an important role in the second innings.
I scored 76 and the partnership between me and Laxman was the important one because we lost Rahul's wicket in the first over of the day itself. But the focus was not on winning the match; the focus was on Sachin missed his 100. So I thought sometimes the individual targets are in the forefront and the team goes in the background and conveniently that changes.
According to me, it should be team first, then the individual. Great individual performances put together achieve something great for the team.
Image: Rahul Dravid
'Let Arjun enjoy his cricket and leave him alone'
Arjun is already in some kind of Mumbai team. The only problem is he is carrying the Tendulkar second name.
He's only 12 right now and he's in the probables of the under-14 team. All I can say is don't compare. Let him enjoy his cricket and leave him alone.
You've got a debut coming up as an MP. That will be interesting for you. Are you going to be nervous about the first day that you go to Parliament?
I don't know what to expect, because this is completely new for me. It is an honour. My name was nominated because of my contribution in cricket.
I am playing cricket and I am focused on cricket. I just wanted to continue that right now, not thinking about anything else; and when the time comes, I will start thinking in that direction. But I am very much enjoying the game, so I will continue doing that.
Image: Arjun and Sachin Tendulkar