'I was speaking to the pitch and I got emotional': Tendulkar on his final moments on a cricket field

Updates from his first press meet since his retirement from the game on Saturday.

The moment

Sachin Tendulkar spoke for the first time to the media since his retirement from the sport. Updates from the press conference:

On his 24 years in the field

It was the most important thing during those 24 years for me to play cricket. A lot of challenges came up during that time. But the desire to play for the nation led me to find solutions to those challenges, helped by family, friends... It was a dream journey of 24 years. But last night, I sat there, it has not sunk in yet that I won’t play anymore. Maybe I will find an occasion to play somewhere. I have no regrets. I felt this was the right time to stop playing cricket. All I can say that it was an enjoyable journey.

On touching the pitch at the Wankhede

I knew that I will never ever in my life get to do that. That’s where my life started and whatever I have today. Those 22 yards are like temple to me. When I touched the wicket and took its blessings -- main jab wicket se baat kar rahaa thaa, tab thoda emotional ho gaya tha. Mujhe khayal aaya ki ki kabhi wapas nahi aa paaonga (I was speaking to the pitch and I got emotional. I realized, I was never going to come back). But yes, it was a correct decision.

As I stood between those 22 yards in packed stadium, I knew this was the last time that I am here as a part of any Indian team. I knew that I will never have a cricket bat in my hand. I couldn’t control tears. It was a wonderful moment and it happened very fast. It’s hard to express in words as to how I felt at that moment.

On playing a weak West Indies team in his last series

Please understand that West Indies is a world class side but this sport is a great leveller. There has been occasions when we haven’t fared well. But they are terrific side but some times things don’t work out well.

Association with the game

Cricket is oxygen to me. In my 40 years, 30 I have spent playing cricket. 75% of my life has been cricket. My association with the sport will continue. Maybe not immediately, but in the near future.

On enjoying the game

I was enjoying the game, but the day I felt I was not, I should stop playing. I remember there have been lots of questions about my retirement over the years and I’ve always said I’ll tell you when I feel like I should stop. I have had injuries that have been tough to overcome. But there comes a stage where your body tells you “enough of this physical load.” So I thought my body can no longer take that load consistently. The training sessions were becoming an effort. Sometimes I felt I should just sit out and watch TV. These were raising questions in my mind, and I needed to find answers. So I requested the BCCI that if these two matches (against the West Indies) are to be my last, let one be in Mumbai because then I can bring my mother along since she had never seen me play. I wanted this to be a surprise to my mom. But through the media, she came to know of it. But coming back to the question, the moment I got the feeling I should stop playing, I stopped.

On nationalism

Even though I’m physically not playing for India, I’ll always be praying for an Indian victory. I feel India must come first in any field it participates in.

On winning Bharat Ratna and Dr. CNR Rao

Yesterday I said this award was for my mother, for all the sacrifices she made for me. As a child you don’t understand what parents go through to make you happy. The beauty of it all is that I was never told what all was done for me by my parents. Going further, there are millions and millions of mothers who sacrifice thousands of things for their children, and I would like to share this award with them. This award is for my contribution to cricket. When you’re growing up, all you want to do is score hundreds, take wickets, keep bettering your performance, and I’ve been able to do that. The people have praised me for doing that has given me the strength to go out and do it again and again. This award is also for those people. It’s a great honour to be named alongside Dr. (CNR) Rao as his contribution to science is immense. Cricket is played in the public sphere where it can be seen by the thousands, but not so many can be witness to his scientific achievements. So I would like to congratulate him.

On opening an academy

It’s a nice thought. I’d like to be involved with youngsters. I’ve been interacting with young players from U-19 and Ranji teams. I’ve not made this public. They’ve been low-profile and private interactions. It’s a nice thing. These interactions teach you things about the game.

On what was going through his mind when he touched the pitch.

It was an emotional moment. When I was thinking about retirement, I wasn’t so emotional since it was the right decision. My family were moved, I wasn’t. But I became emotional when my team gave me a send-off. When I went to the wicket (one last time), I felt emotional. The thought that I won’t be able to return to that place, especially for India, made me emotional.

On injuries and pressure

Injuries were tough on me. They were rarely the same type of injury. To overcome them and return to the sport was tough. You can’t say “I’ll work out in the gym for two months and be fit again.” The body heals in its own natural ways. The tennis elbow... I felt my career was finished and I might not be able to play. After my tennis elbow surgery, I could not even lift my son’s schoolbag. At a return game, I was playing with some kids with a season ball and even my hardest hits were not travelling more than 10-15 yards. It was tough on me. But I would like to thank the people who helped me recover and play again.

How he felt this morning when he woke up

When I woke up, at 6.50, and then I realised I don’t need to quickly have a shower and be ready for the match. I made myself a cup of tea, enjoyed a breakfast with my wife. It was a relaxed morning. A lot of guys sent me their wishes, I spent some time responding to their SMSs. The morning was relaxed.

On the upcoming Ashes

I’m sure the two nations are looking forward to it. I’m sure England want to prove they can go Down Under and give Australia a hard time, while Australia will be looking to bounce back. Looking at Mitchell Johnson bowl in India, Australia’s chances look good.

His favourite moment against England

The first hundred in Old Trafford (1990), and when we chased down 387 in Chennai (2008). That was a special moment for me.

Knocks his father and mother appreciated

The beauty of my family is that they never lost balance, whether I scored 15-20 or a hundred. They always encouraged me. I was able to perform since my school since that balance was maintained. If I did well, like any other family we bought a pack of sweets and offered it to the almighty to thank him. That tradition continues. That’s what I’ve learnt from my parents.

On his last innings of 74 and his mother’s reaction to it

My mother was extremely happy. Earlier, we were not sure if she would come (to Wankhede) since it was difficult for her to travel. Thanks to the BCCI for making arrangements. I requested the MCA for a room at the Garware guest house for us. I could see in her eyes that the occasion was special for her. But her reaction was controlled and balance. She spoke more through her eyes and I could sense that.

On his son Arjun

As a father, I’ll ask you to leave him alone and not have expectations and draw comparisons with me. If I had followed my father I would have had a pen in my hand instead of a bat since he was in the field of literature. Arjun is passionate about cricket. You have to be madly in love with the sport to be able to give it your best. As far as performance goes, I won’t pressurise him and neither should you. He should just enjoy the game. The script ahead for him will be decided by god.

Working with youngsters

Guys like Bhuvaneshwar Kumar were not even born when I started playing. I joke with some of them they should say ‘good morning sir’ to me when I enter the room. But it has been a joy working with them. When you understand what they have to say to you, you become a better person.

On including cricket in Olympics

It’s been hardly 24 hours since I retired, give me some time to breathe. We’ll discuss this later.

On an Indian coach

It’s not about foreign coach or Indian coach. It’s about how they coach, how they bring out the best results, and how they do it consistently. The coach should understand the players and be their friend. At this stage, we all know how to play a cover drive. But when sometimes it goes wrong, somebody should be able to sort the things in your head. When the relationship between a coach and a player is healthy and where they are friends, the player can shares his thoughts with the coach and not worry about those thoughts being leaked out.