'I still get goosebumps when the national anthem is on'
My critics haven't taught me my cricket," Sachin Tendulkar has said in a rebuttal to those who were calling for him to retire.
The day he feels "a little less passion" when walking out to bat for India, "I will give up the game", the master batsman said, adding, "critics didn't need to tell me to do so."
Tendulkar said he had played cricket because he loved to do and there was nothing better than playing for India.
"I still get goosebumps as I stand with my teammates when the national anthem is on. I still feel the same passion when I pick up my bat and go out," he said in an interview carried in the latest issue of Open magazine.
"They (critics) can question but none of them have answers to their own questions. None of them has been in my predicament and it is impossible for them to understand what I have been thinking and feeling," said Tendulkar, who scored the historic 100th international ton in the Asia Cup match against Bangladesh last week.
'My retirement was a non-issue, really'
When asked whether the final hurdle of scoring the hundredth century was the most difficult, the veteran batsman said: "There is no doubt it was. The 100th hundred was the most difficult to get. I really don't know why but it was."
"May be because it turned into a national obsession. May be because I wasn't able to escape talk of the 100th hundred and it was affecting me at a subconscious level. May be God was trying me harder," he said.
Asked whether the thought of retiring from ODI cricket had crossed his mind after India won the World Cup last year, Tendulkar said such a thought had never occurred to him.
"A number of my friends have also asked me why I didn't retire from ODI cricket after winning the world cup, they may well be right. It would indeed have been a grand exit, emotions were running high and the timing could not have been better but to be honest such a thought never occurred to me," he said.
"The World Cup was about India and I had no right to make it an event of my own. My retirement was a non-issue, really. Had I announcement soon after winning the trophy, the focus would have shifted from the Cup triumph to my retirement," Tendulkar said.
"Frankly, retirement isn't of any significance when pitched against a World Cup victory. It was never about Sachin Tendulkar, it was about India and India only. It was not the time to turn selfish," he explained.
'I am enjoying my cricket'
Tendulkar said he was enjoying his game and retirement was not something he was thinking about as yet.
"All I can say is I am enjoying my cricket, and as long as I do, I will play the game. There is no need for me to hide my retirement from the media. Of course I will tell them, they have been with me for the past 24 years of my life. I am enjoying my cricket as much as I have always done and retirement isn't something I am thinking about," he said.
On whether he doubted that he will reach the milestone, Tendulkar said, "I was batting near my best, if not my best in Melbourne. I was playing and moving the best I have done in years ... I was batting well for my 80 and should have just gone on to get the hundred and save the match for India."
"There was a very strong wind from the other end and I was just waiting for the wind to die down before I stepped out to (Michael) Clarke but as I said, it wasn't to be. I am telling you all these because I never had a period of self doubt while batting in recent times. But I was just not able to convert the starts into a century," he said.
'You must be prepared to work hard'
Tendulkar said he had always wanted to strive for excellence and his long career has taught him that however good you are, you still have to grind it out in times of difficulty.
"I have always wanted to be good and always wanted to strive for excellence, but to be labeled 'the Greatest' is the doing of people like you (media). I feel humbled and embarrassed at the same time," he said.
"There's Sir Donald Bradman and Sir Garfield Sobers, two of the greatest ever cricketers to have played the game. In my time, there have been Brian Lara, Shane Warne, Jacques Kallis, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid. Each of them is a great player," Tendulkar said.
"The one thing my journey has taught me is that however good you are and however talented you are, you have to be ready to grind it out in times of difficulty. You must be prepared to work hard. Keep working hard. And harder.
"There was never and never be a shortcut to success and it is important to know this and pursue your dream with passion, determination and intensity. That has been my belief right through my career," he said.
'It is important to overcome the really bad phase and move on'
Tendulkar said he wanted to see India playing well in Tests and be a part in the resurgence.
"I want to see India start playing well in Test matches and I would want to play a part in the resurgence. We played very good Test cricket for five to six year before we lost the series to England and subsequently to Australia.
"I can tell you losses hurt, they hurt really badly. The entire team is keen to stage a turnaround and give fans a lot more to cheer about when we play England in October/November this year.
"It is important to overcome the really bad phase and move on and I want to do my bit to ensure that Indian Test cricket is back on track," he explained.