Sachin: Aussies made me tough

"It (the 1991-92 tour of Australia) completely changed me as a cricketer… It was a critical moment of my career. Those three-and-half months changed me completely.

"I thought I was ready to play against any attack in the world and I can say that Australia has had some contribution in that to transform me into a tougher cricketer," Tendulkar said after receiving the honour at a function here.

He also said that the Aussies, who are known for their mental toughness, also appreciate quality performance.

"We all know that the Australians are fierce competitors, but when you do well against them, they shower on you all the compliments. They know how to appreciate. And that is what happened to me. I scored reasonably well and scored a couple of hundreds there (in the Test series).

"That (the Test rubber) was followed by the tri-series, also involving the West Indies, another tough opposition", he said.

Tendulkar further said that he dreamt of playing in Australia ever since he was a 12-year-old. "The association with Australia started long time ago and not in 1991… To me, it started way back in 85 when I was 12 years old watching those fantastic day-night matches on television. I started dreaming that one day, I want to go there and play cricket… It turned into a reality in 1991-92," he said.

The 39-year-old batsman got nostalgic while recalling the moment when he met Sir Don Bradman and admitted that he was very nervous.

"The most memorable trip to Australia was when I was asked to come and wish Sir Don on his 90th birthday... I was in the middle of a national camp in Chennai and the BCCI graciously agreed to send me," he said.

Tendulkar recollected that he was tense prior to meeting the late Australian legend.

"I met Sir Don along with (Shane) Warnie... We both were so tense, we didn't know how to react. We were driving to his place thinking about what questions to ask him. I said 'you are an Australian you should know better'. I told him 'you start and I will take over a little bit later'", he said.

"But the moment we went there we were struck by his personality… We just stood beside him and allowed him to talk as much as we could because we wanted to hear him. Sir Don had said that the contemporary standard of cricket was better than it was earlier.

"The natural question was 'what would you have averaged in today's cricket?' He said 'maybe 70...' The natural reaction was why only 70, why not 99.94 and he said 'come on son, it is not bad for a 90-year-old man'. That trip was truly a memorable one," he said.

According to Tendulkar, outside India, he enjoys playing in Australia and Sydney is his favourite ground. "It is a wonderful place to play cricket... I have to say publicly that away from India, it is the best place where I have enjoyed playing cricket. And away from India, Sydney is my favourite ground.

"It has left me with such fond memories, especially the SCG, where I got the opportunity to hold Sir Don's bat… I have met so many Australians who have said Australia is going to thrash you, but we want you to score a century."

He added that the 2007 tour was also a memorable one for him as he received standing ovations at each stadium.

"The 2007 trip was very special because wherever I went, the entire stadium gave me a standing ovation. It was touching, something which will always stay with me for the rest of my life.

"On a lighter note, a friend of mine asked 'how does it feel?'… And I said it feels great… But I laughed in my mind because they all felt that this was my last trip to Australia... I am glad I was there again. After 2007, how couldn't I be there in Australia in 2011?"

Coming back to his maiden tour to Australia, some two decades ago, Tendulkar added: "One had to be there and experience how cricket is played Down Under… We were there for a month because of the '92 World Cup. The kind of atmosphere I saw there was truly fantastic."

In fact, such is his fondness for Australia that Tendulkar said: "Who knows I might be again going to Australia to play cricket again or maybe just as a tourist… Because I love that place." (PTI)

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