The Telegraph: Sachin 'The Master' Tendulkar reserved the 6 pm slot, on Tuesday, for an exclusive with The Telegraph at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon in Dhaka. The interview began half-an-hour behind schedule as he hadn't finished his workout in the hotel's gym and also had to oblige fans who'd been waiting for him to emerge after sweating it out on the treadmill and doing the weights. The gentleman that he is, Sachin more than made up by taking questions for close to an hour. There was a forced break, for a few minutes, as Sachin got a belated congratulatory call.
The following are excerpts:
You were mentioning that, nowadays, you actually wake up stress-free...
Absolutely, for a year I couldn't... Life in that respect has changed, has changed in a big way. My family had also been under so much stress.
Having raised the bar to such an extent, what next?
I've achieved a number of personal milestones, but that's not why I started to play...To repeat what I've said a number of times, the earliest dream cricket-wise was to play for India and, later, to be a World Cup winner...Milestones have come along the way. Look, you can't wake up one morning and say that today is the day when I will get a hundred. That's not the way cricket goes.
But with nothing left to prove, how will you keep challenging yourself?
I didn't take to cricket to prove something. Playing for India continues to motivate me and, as long as I remain motivated, I don't really have to look at a fresh challenge. Being motivated is the key.
Surely, like Sir Donald Bradman's Test average of 99.94, your record of 100 International hundreds won't be bettered...
(Smiles) I haven't thought about it...The belief is that records are meant to be broken.
A few days have gone by...Today, how do you look back on the 100th hundred?
I do feel different...Instead of wishing me for that hundred, people are now congratulating me! I could have done with the people not talking (only) about the 100th hundred for a year, the time it took me to get it.
It's not that you hadn't been batting well...
Yes, but only a hundred would've satisfied the people.
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For the first time, perhaps, you looked at the bat instead of gazing upwards on getting a hundred. You looked up only later (to thank God and to remember his late father). Why?
Probably because my first thought was that even after scoring 99 International hundreds, it was tough to get one more...People had been giving advice left, right and centre, but scoring a hundred is never easy...I mean, I had to wait a year to move from 99 to 100...There were occasions when I felt that people had forgotten that I'd scored 99 hundreds. The attention had only been on when I'd get one more.
Did that upset you or make you angry?
Well, I felt too many people were expressing too many opinions...That I should be doing this or should be doing that...After 22 years, I know what I should be doing. The 100th International hundred is a gentle reminder to those people...But don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that I've got back at certain people.
It's not that you don't care about your fans...
I do care for their sentiments, of course...I respect the fact that I have so many well-wishers, everywhere, and I value their support.
Of late, quite a few people had been advising you to retire from ODIs...Opinion polls were conducted...Did it bug you? After all, nobody told you when to make your debut, so why should they advise you on when to quit?
I didn't follow the polls and neither my family nor my well-wishers told me what others were saying (on the retirement issue)...My family and friends know that such things won't make me play better cricket...I'll play as long as I feel confident of delivering. I'll stop the day I feel I've lost that confidence. It's not about 'I' or about 'me'...It's about Indian cricket.
A day after the hundred, you told the media that you'd be acting in a selfish manner if you decided to quit ODIs immediately after getting to such a huge milestone...
Exactly. For that would mean the 'I' and the 'me' happen to be much more important, but that's not so.
Retirement is a very personal matter, isn't it?
Your first match after the 100th hundred was against Pakistan. How different did you feel?
My preparation was the same, my routine didn't change...Just because that hundred has been achieved, I can't go out and do what I want to do...I've got to play for the team.
But the pressure of getting that hundred was off...
It was, but the pressure of having to chase 330 was there! I couldn't think of anything else, that the (100th) hundred had already been realised or that it was a 'fresh' start for me. My concern was for the task at hand.
You've been a part of some truly memorable chases. Where would you place Sunday's win over Pakistan?
I don't like to rate or rank...But, yes, I was thrilled with our victory...Eventually, we won with so much to spare (13 balls remaining) and the level of satisfaction was very high. [Despite a swollen right hand, the result of a Nasir Jamshed hit, Sachin opened the innings and contributed 52.]
Young Virat Kohli played a tremendous hand (183 off 148 balls)...
Virat has matured in the last three-four years, has grown as a cricketer...I like the way he builds his innings and the way he absorbs pressure...Of course, there's a long way to go before he realises what he wants to achieve, but he has tremendous talent and is turning out to be so consistent. Virat has what it takes for a good cricketer to turn into a special one.
Besides asking youngsters to chase their dreams, what would be your advice to them?
Be sincere and honest, to yourself and to the game...There are bound to be tough phases, but don't look for shortcuts...Face those situations head on, as you'll then emerge a better cricketer. Above all, enjoy the game. That's very important.
What does it take to stay at the top?
Despite being in the public eye for over 22 years, you're such a private person...
That's the way I am...Everybody is different...The way I look at things, the way I respond to situations, could be very different to others...I accept that...I do the things I want to do, react the way I want to, not because somebody wants me to behave in a particular manner. I respect others for the way they are and I should be allowed my space.
Do you keep a distance even with friends?
Not intentionally, never...But I'm different from X or from Y...I have friends and I have close friends, as it is with other individuals. I don't socialise much and, to me, my comfort level (in interacting with people) is important. There's no reason for me to be uncomfortable.
Cricket is a lot different today compared to 1989...Are you happy with the path its taking?
The changes, I think, have been good for the game...It's only when you try out something new that you'll know whether it's going to work or not. Like each team having two innings of 25 overs in ODIs instead of batting once only for 50 overs...If that's there, in case of a weather disruption, you could have a result on the basis of the two first innings...I've given my views in writing to the ICC and the BCCI.
After a period of some doubt, it appears that the 50-over game is back to its position of strength...
It's there to stay.
Is there a need to balance the mushrooming of T20 with the traditional formats?
Frankly, I haven't looked at the balancing factor...But the people are enjoying what they're getting.
The world too has changed in the past 22 years, from the time you made your Test debut in Karachi...
Arre, let's stick to cricket. What will I say on other things?
To get back to your 100th International hundred...What did your Mother tell you when you spoke to her that night?
She was, expectedly, very happy...Said she'd been praying...Like the rest of the family, my Mother had been stressed for a year, so it was a relief for her too...Unless a common man experiences something similar, he won't be able to appreciate what I and my family went through.
Finally...Are you disappointed that nobody from the family was present in Dhaka?
No...There have been other milestones which the family hasn't watched in person...You know it...My family doesn't keep travelling with me. Nobody was with me physically, but in a sense, they were still there. It's about the emotional bonding...Without the family's support, I wouldn't have got to where I have.