'I believe that we will definitely win the World Cup'
Sachin Tendulkar may have achieved everything possible in his career, but is yet to win cricket's ultimate prize, the World Cup.
The run-machine, who will play in his sixth, and probably his last, World Cup next month, made no secret of his desperation to win the mega-event.
"I still want to achieve something and everyone knows that," he told the audience that had gathered for the Castrol Awards for Cricket Excellence in Mumbai on Friday.
The tournament, which will be played in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, begins on February 19, and many experts reckon India are favourites for the crown they last won in 1983.
Mohinder Amarnath, who was part of India's 1983 World Cup-winning squad, believes the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led team is the best ever to represent the country in the quadrennial 50 overs-a-side tournament.
"I believe that we will definitely win the World Cup. This is the best team I have seen and I don't think I have ever seen a better Indian team. It has everything whether you talk about spin, pace, all-rounders, experience, quality players, match-winners or everything else," he said.
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani
Image: Mohinder Amarnath (left) with Sunil Gavaskar
'Bring home the World Cup'
Amarnath was conferred the Castrol Lifetime Achievement Award. He represented India in 69 Tests and 85 ODIs and was acknowledged as one of the best batsman against pace, having tamed the West Indies and Pakistan speedsters.
"I don't believe in home advantage, because all the teams come and play here regularly. But, definitely, when you play at home there is the extra determination and you have the experience of how to handle the conditions better than the opponent. And if you look at the team's record over the last few years our record has been outstanding and all the top teams have struggled here [India]," he added.
Sunil Gavaskar, who was also part of the 1983 World Cup-winning squad, echoed those views.
"This is probably the best India could have had to win the World Cup. The aspiration of so many millions rest with the boys, but there is no pressure at all. We will continue to love you despite the results.
"Bring home the World Cup, because the Cup belongs here," he declared.
Image: Mohinder Amarnath
'I grew up thinking about getting 34 centuries'
Tendulkar, who is the only cricketer to score over 50 centuries in Test cricket, said his aim when he started playing for India was to break Gavaskar's long-standing record of 34 centuries.
"To be honest, I grew up thinking about getting to 34 centuries and that's how we were brought up. Right from the day I started playing season ball cricket I decided this is going to be my life, this is how I want to be and my goal is to play for India. But what after that and that is when everyone started talking about 34 Test hundreds and if you get 34 hundreds you have done something remarkable.
It has always been special to get to that platform and once I got there I also managed to speak to him [Gavaskar]. I remember Mr Gavaskar was in Nepal and I managed to speak to him and he congratulated me. It was a wonderful moment for me and I had to wait a long time to get there," he said.
The 37-year-old paid rich tribute to coach Gary Kirsten for playing a big role in helping India reach the No. 1 spot in Test cricket. Incidentally, Kirsten is set to quit as the India coach after the World Cup.
"To get there was not easy; we worked really hard for that. The day Gary took over we had a plan and we just focussed on our process. Along the way there were various challenges and we all stood together backing each, trusting each other and achieving various things as a team. And when we got there people thought that this was just a matter of 30-40 days, and after losing the first Test to South Africa in Nagpur we got to hear a lot that we will lose the number one spot.
But we're standing here a year later and we are still No. 1. So that has been the most satisfying thing. To get to No.1 is wonderful but to stay there for a year is just fantastic."
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
'It is difficult for me to explain my batting'
The ace batsman, who holds the record for most centuries and most runs in both Tests and ODIs, said his career took a turn after 2007 following a spate of injuries.
"In between there was a rough period in which there were a lot of upper body injuries which may have faltered my bat swing or the grip because I had three or four surgeries and it took me a while to recover from that. Every time I got operated it took around 3-4 months to get back into action, so, somehow, I felt that the bat swing was not quite there.
As the time went 2007 onwards working with various coaches -- especially I would like to mention Gary Kirsten and before that we had Chandu Borde Sir, who was my first coach in Pakistan in 1989 and then on we had Venkatesh Prasad, Robin Singh and Lalchand Rajput," said Tendulkar, who named Indian Cricketer of the Year as well as the Test batsman of the year for 2009.
Tendulkar also took a pot-shot about the fascination to bring in youngsters, and said all selections to the Indian team must be deserved.
"I don't think it is about age, it is about what you bring in as a team member and what you contribute. That is more important, and age has got nothing to do with the way you play or the way you perform; I am a firm believer of that. I started at the age of 16 and I still feel that you can start at any age and stop at any age; it is about the performance!"
Meanwhile, Virender Sehwag, who was named the Batsman of the Year 2009, was at a loss of words when asked to explain his batting style. "It is difficult for me to explain my batting because I don't think I can do that."
He also revealed his new fitness regimen to keep him shape for the World Cup. "My aim was to lose weight till the World Cup and I will resume my eating habit after the World Cup," the dashing opener said.
"My secret of stamina is that you take less singles and hit a lot of boundaries," he added.
Image: Virender Sehwag
'I wait for the balls to be pitched in my areas'
Asked why he opts to play the big shots when approaching his century, Sehwag replied: "I try not to waste time in the 90s and get to 100 as quickly as possible, because, I feel that if I spend a lot of time at the wicket in the 90s I might get out."
"I believe that if I start thinking of landmarks, I would never be able to get them. A lot of people think about landmarks but are never able to achieve them."
Yusuf Pathan, who is in red hot form, was honoured with the Castrol Impact Cricketer of the Year award.
His batting mantra was special. "I wait for the balls to be pitched in my areas, and when it is my area I just go for my shots and it doesn't matter whether there are 3-4 fielders on the boundary ropes."
Among the other winners at the event were:
ODI Cricketer of the Year -- Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Bowler of the Year -- Harbhajan Singh
Junior Cricketer of the Year - Jaidev Unadkat
Special Achievement award for highest catches in Tests -- Rahul Dravid
Image: The Castrol Awards for Cricket Excellence winners