Public memory is short and unforgiving and none – not even Sachin Tendulkar – are rendered immunity to its demands. The most idolised cricketer in the history of the sport spent a cruel 12 months searching for the slippery hundreth international century, which finally materialised in the Asia Cup – ending what the maestro admitted had been a trying period for him, given that the expected acquisition of the monumental ton was blown into a “national obsession”.
Speaking to ‘Open’ magazine following the realisation of the record - against Bangladesh at Mirpur this past week - Tendulkar confessed to the latest hundred being the toughest to gain.
Y! Special - Sachin Tendulkar: 100 not out
Tendulkar - Before and after his 100th century
“There is no doubt it was (the most difficult). I really don’t know why, but it was. Maybe because it turned into a national obsession. There wasn’t a day in my life when I wasn’t reminded of the 100. It appeared on occasion that everything I had achieved in the past had turned irrelevant and I’d only be judged by my ability to get the 100th 100.Maybe I wasn’t able to escape the talk, and it was affecting me at a subcoscious level. Maybe God was trying me harder.”
As Tendulkar’s quest continued all this past season, the usual charges on him playing for records and personal gain, bobbed up like corks in turbid water. Now that the record is done and dusted, the invective has assumed a different tone: critics want Tendulkar to call it a day, atleast from ODIs, to allow the blooding in of youngsters. The great man, however, maintained that he would continue to appear in Indian colours for as long as he felt passionate about the game, and that his use-by date was still somewhere in the unforseen future.
“My critics haven’t taught me cricket. I’d never take those people seriously. I have played the game because I love to play it and there’s nothing better than playing for India. I still get goose bumps when I stand with my teammates when the national anthem is on. I still feel the same passion when I pick up my bat and go out to bat.
“Critics don’t know what my body and mind are up to. They can ask questions but none of them have answers to their own questions. None of them have been in my predicament and it is impossible for them to understand what I have been thinking or feeling,” he added.
Speculation was rife about Tendulkar calling it a day after India won the 2011 ICC World Cup and remedied the purported vaccum in his resume. But the man who turns 39 this April said doing that would have taken the focus off what was essentially a huge team moment.
“The World Cup was about India and I had no right to make it an event of my own. My retirement was a non-issue really. Had I made an announcement soon after winning the trophy, the focus would have shifted from the Cup triumph to my retirement. Frankly, retirement isn’t of any significance when pitched against a World Cup victory.”
So when would the decisive day finally arrive?
“All I can say is I’m enjoying my cricket, and as long as I do, I will play the game. There is no need for me to hide my retirement from the media. Of course I will tell them, they have been with me for the past 24 years.”