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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > Interview > Sachin Tendulkar

'I told myself, if I see it I will hit it'

March 03, 2003

Faisal Shariff

Waiting at the front desk of the Indian team's assigned hotel in Pretoria is a fax -- from Dr Ali Bacher, chief of the World Cup organizing committee, to Sachin Tendulkar.

Sachin Tendulkar"We wanted this World Cup to be the most successful World Cup ever and your innings against Pakistan at Centurion has helped us achieve that," the telegram reads.

I take the fax up with me, and knock on the door. Tendulkar, dressed in steel gray woolen pullover and pale white trousers, opens the door with one hand; his other hand holds a remote.

"Sri Lanka has won the toss and elected to bat first," he tells me, almost before he says hello.

Ah, that makes it tough for South Africa, no?, I ask. They have to chase under lights at Kingsmead...

"Not really," comes the quick response. "Eventually, you have to bat, and chase the runs down, that is it."

So much for assessments of pitch and conditions; so much for theories about batting first or chasing -- for Tendulkar, cricket is a game reduced to its essence: Pick up a bat, go out there, and do what comes naturally.

The man who, just 48 hours before, played the innings of a lifetime is now perched on the edge of the bed, one eye on the television screen even as he talks to me.

It is a gesture that could be interpreted as either rudeness, or boredom -- it turns out it is neither. Tendulkar wants to check out Zondeki, the young South African fast bowler who is playing in the game against Sri Lanka. After all, he points out, India might have to play South Africa in the Super Sixes -- it pays to keep tabs on the bowlers he will be coming up against.

He talks, I listen, the tape recorder records. Later, in my hotel room, I rewind, and listen to his take on an innings that has had the cricket world in raptures. Excerpts:

Everyone calls your 98 against Pakistan on Saturday very special -- where do you rank it?

I would put it up there with the best I have played -- it was easily one of the biggest games of our lives, for all of us, and we came through it with a win. I am very happy about that.

From a technical point of view, how would you review this innings?

I think that throughout the innings, my body balance was very good. I was getting into line well, and was early into my shots, so technically I would rate this innings very high.

And emotionally, given the history involved between the two sides?

Winning a World Cup game against Pakistan is special. Nothing can be better than that. We were very excited, and though they scored 274 runs we didn't lose hope.

I thought that if we batted well, we could achieve the target. We fought well till the end, and that's what really counts. The way we played the whole game, each and every player contributed.

Was that number two batting position a superstition? You batted two even in the last World Cup, against Pakistan...

I prefer to bat at number two. It was a big game, a big moment, and every ball mattered. We, Sehwag and I, spoke to each other and decided that I would be the one to face the first ball, I thought it was the way to go and it worked.

You are famous for not sleeping before a Test. How about before a game like this? Did you sleep on Friday night?

We have been having terrible nights. I was thinking about the match and planning my batting and what I should do against bowler a, b, c... it goes on and on in your mind. I didn't sleep before the big games against Zimbabwe and England either, and it was difficult to get sleep on Friday night too. This is a big tournament, it is difficult to get sound sleep.

You missed the one-day series against the West Indies, and also first four games against New Zealand -- did that spell away from the game make you more hungry to score runs?

I have always been hungry to go out and score runs, break or no. It does not matter against whom you get the runs and where you get the runs as long as you get them. I have always been like this; the time-off from the previous series did not change anything.

How do you think through an innings as important as this?

When I started out, I found I was picking up the line and length very early, and when that happens, I play my shots. When I played that back-foot drive off Wasim (Akram) in the first over, I felt confident and I thought, today is the day I have to put up a big performance.

I didn't set myself any targets, I simply decided to go after the bowlers. I told myself, if I see it I will hit it. I wanted to bat like that, without thinking too much about anything -- I decided I was just going to bat.

Everyone I spoke to has a favourite among the shots you played, which is yours?

A couple of them were good. That shot they are talking about, off Shoaib Akthar that went for a four was not supposed to -- I didn't intend to hit it for four; I just wanted to block it firmly; but I timed the block well.

I thought a back foot cover drive off Akram in the ninth over, which pierced covers and mid off, was good -- I thought my body balance while playing that shot was very good.

The last World Cup was supposed to be your show but it didn't quite work out like that. This time, you've taken the world by storm -- people are comparing it with the way Ronaldo played in the soccer World Cup last year...

I don't have to worry about what people say; I only have to worry about what I want to do. I want to focus on doing the right thing at the right time. What people say is beyond my control -- what is in my control is doing what I want to do and getting it right.

Was there some additional pressure when Sehwag and Ganguly went off successive balls? Did you think of changing your approach?

Sachin TendulkarNot really. We had lost two big wickets, but with four batsmen -- Rahul (Dravid), Yuvraj (Singh), (Dinesh) Mongia and (Mohammad) Kaif -- yet to come, I was not so worried. And the kind of form Yuvraj was in, it was nice. He batted very well. I thought it was important to keep up the tempo for a few more overs and make it more difficult for them to come back into the game. I just continued to play my game. It didn't disturb me very much because Kaif looked very good.

How disappointing was it when you were dismissed for 98?

I was rather disappointed that I could not be there till the end. It is a batsman's dream to win a match. I had planned to go on till the end but unfortunately I got a bad case of cramps; I couldn't even stand, forget running between the wickets. Standing upright was itself a big problem and that is when I asked for a runner. That happened for the first time in my life, and I was dismissed.

How would you compare this knock with the one against Australia in Sharjah?

Both are equally important; that won us a tournament against Australia and it is always important to win against Australia. We were chasing 275-280 -- a huge total; it was on my 25th birthday and it was a big occasion. All these things made it very special.

But a World Cup match is a World Cup match and playing Pakistan is a big occasion. Everyone was waiting for this game and it turned out in our favour with a decent contribution from me.

The defeat against Australia seems to have sharpened the team. Did what happened back home affect the players?

It was very difficult for the players when they found out what had happened back home; it didn't give us good vibes. The players were not very happy about it.

These things don't help players to perform better; it actually adds more pressure. Everyone was absolutely determined, but sometimes things just don't happen your way. We tried hard against Australia also, but it didn't happen and that is part and parcel of the game. If it does not happen, it does not mean we are not trying hard enough.

That is what I wanted to assure the people back home, that players are determined to win games. We can go to any extent to win games and I am happy that the effort has paid off and shown results -- and results are what matter in the end.

Was there anything different you did on Saturday morning, any superstitions...?

No, nothing different; I just did the normal things that I do before the game.

Of the four Cup wins against Pakistan, which was special?

Every win is special. This one was big because we were chasing 270-plus against their bowling attack, and that too on South African tracks. All these factors make it one of the best Cup wins.

Do you think the Pakistan bowlers bowled badly?

Yuvraj SinghRather than saying that they didn't bowl well, I think our batters played well. I think the way Rahul and Yuvraj controlled the innings was good; the way Kaif displayed controlled aggression was good; and I also played some nice strokes. Sehwag also contributed well to a good start. More than running the opposition down, I would give credit to our batters.

Increasingly, there are fewer middle order collapses -- even after you are gone, the team pulls through and wins. How has this change come about?

We had a long meeting, where I shared my thoughts and the senior players shared their thoughts. This was before the Zimbabwe game, and we just took it ball by ball from there and we discussed a lot of things, which helped us. We have been discussing things earlier also, but this time we sat down again and refocused on each and every factor,  and that meeting really helped us.

Tell us a bit more about these meetings?

The bowlers and batsmen plan separately before each game. We batsmen share our views and ideas among ourselves. Everyone gets to speak his mind; then we take all that forward at the team meeting, where everyone shares his views. That way, by listening to everyone's points of views, we all get to learn about the game.

Back home, everyone is worried about your injury and your health, how are you feeling?

I am fine; it will take a couple of days more to get back to normal. The muscles at this stage are very soft, that is all. There is nothing to worry about.

You dedicated this innings to your brother...

I have been talking every now and then with my brother, Ajit, and he has been guiding me a lot. He knows my game best, and I have been discussing a lot of technical aspects with him and planning my innings with him.

This innings is for him -- he has been as tense as me or, maybe, ten times more tense then me. Once I go in to bat, the pressure is off since I am playing my shots, but he is still under pressure and so are my other family members.

You once told me he does not watch your matches live...

No, he doesn't, he records them and watches later; watching live is too much for him.

And he blames you for it -- he told us that you once complained to your father about him watching your games...

That was a long time back. When I first started playing, every time I looked up at the dressing room he would be there. So when I did badly and needed an excuse, I would say I got out because he was there. (laughing). So, from then, he stopped watching me live.

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Read what others have to say:

Number of User Comments: 147

Sub: india is best

hai sachin,it was really a great batting display which has brought lot of smiles on indian faces all over the world.iam in japan now and ...

Posted by madhukar

Sub: sachin

chalo india karlo duniya muti mein

Posted by susy

Sub: What a stable head on the shoulders!

He is probably the calmest and the most controlled Indian Cricketer I have ever seen. Hats off to Tendulkar for all the contributions he had ...

Posted by Sriram Atchutuni

Sub: hi

the greatest knock ever palyed by indian,and that too played against a strong pakistan bowling line up makes it much more special.well done man

Posted by prasad

Sub: Great Innings

Sachin, we are very pleased to read your article. Waiting for the great moment when we are going to get the cup home. Wish you ...

Posted by bhuvan & srini


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