Mumbai: Sachin Tendulkar answered to a volley of question in his first interaction with the media after retirement. Sporting an Indian blazer with a smile on his face, a relaxed looking Tendulkar answered patiently to every question without ducking to anyone.
Though the scene at the Trident Hotel in Nariman Point where the interaction with the media was held with many crowding to have a glimpse of the legend, he answered question for nearly an hour.
Answering to a query from Gulf News on his Desert Storm knock in Sharjah, after which his mother is said to have cried, had he been appreciated by his parents on return from a match winning knock? Tendulkar said: “The beauty of my family is that they never lost balance.
Whether I scored a 100 or 15 or 20 it did not matter. My father and mother always had encouraging words for me. I was able to perform well since my school days because the balance was maintained at home. Nobody got carried away with my good performances and celebrated those occasions endlessly. Like any other Indian family we used to buy a packet of sweets, offer it to the almighty and give thanks. That process continues. Even yesterday, my mother said she had kept sweets in front of God. That will never stop. It’s something I have learnt over the years from my parents. When you grow up you understand more of what your parents have done for you. This is one of those things. Their reaction to me, when I got back from any tour was never related to how I performed. It was more about parents and their child. It has always stayed that way.”
Did it all feel like a dream, the cricketing journey?
For 24 years to play for the country, that is the biggest thing for me. During those 24 years, there were different challenges but the desire to play for the country was so strong that I had to find solutions to those challenges. During that journey, I had the support of the family, coaches, friends, players – a lot of people were with me. That was a dream journey of 24 years but last night, when I sat back and thought about it, till now it has not sunk in that I won’t play cricket again. I think if I have to talk about those 24 years, in short all I will say it was a dream journey and I have no regrets at leaving cricket. I felt it was the right time to stop playing cricket and all I can say is it was an enjoyable journey.
Fans want you to keep playing, how will you be associated with cricket?
Cricket has been my life. I have said in an interview that cricket is my oxygen. Out of 40 years, I have played 30 years of proper cricket. Seventy percent of my life has been cricket. So at different levels, I will be associated with cricket, maybe not in the immediate future. I played for 24 years, it has been 24 hours since my retirement, I think I should get at least 24 days to relax. Let’s see what happens after that.
You had said you will stop playing when you will stop enjoying. How did you reach this decision to stop playing?
I was enjoying it but honestly speaking, I have always maintained the day I get the feeling that I should stop playing cricket, I will definitely tell you. I remember there have been questions about my retirement for a few years and I have always said when I get the feeling, I will let you know. I got that feeling because I felt after playing 24 years, you have to appreciate that I had many injuires in the past and to overcome those injuries was not easy. I think somewhere down the line, a stage comes in life when your body gives you the message ‘Énough’. Enough of this physical load. I think the body requires rest now. So I thought the body is not able to take that load consistently. If I had training sessions, it was becoming an effort. Earlier when I trained, everything used to happen automatically. Sometimes I used to feel of late that let me sit back and watch some TV. So there were some question marks. And when I tried to find answers, I felt that this is the perfect time to leave the game. I requested the BCCI to have the last match in Bombay because before this match, my mother had never seen me play a ball in my life. She never told me that she wanted to come to a match. I wanted it to be a surprise for her that I was making this arrangement for her but through your help, she came to know throught channels that this match was in Mumbai and especially for my mother. This match obviously became really really special to me. But the answer to your question is that when I got the feeling that it is time to stop, I took that decision.
Do still maintain the feeling you will play for India?
Even though physically I will not be playing for India, in my heart I will always be playing for India and praying for India’s victory. Whether I am a part of the team really doesn’t matter. What I think as an Indian that whenever India participates in any field, not just cricket, India comes first and then the rest.
Is Bharat Ratna the best award you have got from the nation?
This award is for my mother and it is for my mother for all the sacrifices she has made right from my birth. When you are a child, it is difficult to understand life. You don’t know what your parents have to go through to make you happy. They have sacrificed everything and the beauty about it is till this date, I was never told we did this for you. When you grow up, you realise all those things. That’s the reason I feel this award is for my mother. I would like to go a step further. It is not just for my mother but like my mother, there are millions and millions of mothers in India who sacrifice thousands of things for their children. So I would like to share this award with all the mothers for all the sacrifices they have made. I am humbled and honoured that this award is bestowed upon me. This is for my contribution to cricket over the last 24 years which you know when you are growing up, all you want to do is go out and give your best, score hundreds, take wickets, take catches, run outs and win matches. And keep bettering your performances. And I have just tried to do that. And while doing that, people have appreciated my performance and way they have responded has given me the strength to go out and repeat that performance. So the award belongs to the entire nation.
I would say. I am truly honoured. Also at this stage, I would like to congratulate Professor CNR Rao for being given the Bharat Ratna. I think it is a great honour for me to be named alongside Dr Rao because his contribution in the field of science is immense. It’s just that cricket is always played in front of thousands and thousands of people in the stadium and whatever he has done has never happened in front of thousands. But his contribution is immense, so I want to take this opportunity to congratulate him and wish him all the best.
Do you have any plans to set up a cricket academy to bring out more and more Sachins?
It’s a nice thought that I need to be involved with cricket and I would definitely be. It is not just because I have retired. Even before retired, I have spent time with youngsters from U-19 teams to Ranji Trophy teams. It’s just that I have not made those things public. I like interacting with players. It’s just nice to share your knowledge and understand sometimes their problems also which also in return teaches you more about the game. I have thoroughly enjoyed those interactions and I will contribute to do so. It may not be done publicly, it may be done quietly at a very low profile but I would like to help the youngsters, the next generations and jut share my thoughts and be involved with cricket.
The lasting image of you going back to the pitch. Why did you do that yesterday?
I know never ever in my life during an international match, I would get to do that and that is where my life started. And those 22 yards have given me everything in life. Whatever I have today is because I have spent time between those 22 yards. It’s like a temple for me. So I just wanted to say a big thank you to cricket and every time I go to bat, I always touch the wicket and take the blessings and that’s what I did yesterday. I didn’t say publicly but I just thanked cricket for everything I got in life and it was as simple as that, nothing complicated.
What went through you when you touched the pitch?
It was a very emotional moment. I remember when I was thinking about retirement and trying to decide, I don’t think I was as emotional as this because I knew it was the right decision. My family, everyone was emotional but I wasn’t that emotional. I became emotional when I got the kind of sendoff from the players. I got emotional when I went to the wicket and when I was coming back from the wicket. Actually, when I was talking to the wicket, then I got emotional. Whenever I see those images on TV, that particular moment, I still get emotional. Otherwise I was not that emotional because I knew I had taken the right decision. I think the thought I would not be able to go back there again for a competitive match, rather to put it simple and short, to represent India that made me emotional.
Achrekar never said well played in 28 years, yesterday he said well done after Bharat Ratna. You think it took too long for the compliment to come?
At the outset, I must say that I could come this far only because of the blessings of Achrekar sir. There were others along with him who were there to guide me, some coaches also, I could come this far because of their guidance. Achrekar sir and my brother Ajit were a solid team. One taught me on the field, and the other guided me at home. These discussions have been around for 30 years. Even the other night, he (Ajit) told me how I could have played this shot (after his dismissal). This is the beauty of our relationship. I cannot describe this relationship in words. True, sir had never said well played, the reason was very clear, that he did want cricket to go to my head. And he always reminded me that the game is bigger than any player and you have to respect it. And that is what I have done always. Every time I made runs, I expected the compliment will come now. But it never happened. And that is why I had said jokingly yesterday that hereafter, there is not going to be any competitive match for me, so at least now take that chance to say well played because I am not going to get complacent now. He called me after the award announcement last night and said well done. He was very happy, I was very delighted that he was very happy. The joy of receiving such awards enhances when you share it with some special people and that is what happened with me last night.
How did you handle your injuries through your career?
It was very difficult times because the injuries that I had, coincidentally, they were unrelated and uncommon injuries. To overcome injuries and come back to play wasn’t easy. Each time, there were different goals ahead that I had only two months to become fit so let me put as much effort as possible in training during those two months. But it is not as if the recovery time is three months, I can work out extra harder in the gym for one and a half months and start playing. It doesn’t happen that way. When injuries happen, you need the help of nature to recover fully. And it’s really important to respect nature. When I had the tennis elbow, it took four and a half months after surgery for it to become alright and the doctor had told me that I would be able to play competitive cricket after four and a half months. So I tired to come back earlier but it was just not possible.
All I will say is you need to respect time, the challenges that were then weren’t easy, they were difficult. Sometimes I felt that my career was over, that I might not be able to lift a bat again. After the tennis elbow surgery, I could not even lift Arjun’s plastic bat. And when I went to practice for the first time with a season ball, on the ground, there were 10 to 12 year olds fielding, and they were stopping my hardest hit balls within 10 or 15 yards and I felt I don’t think I can play anymore. At that time, the pressure you feel, that is completely different. It was a difficult phase in my life and because of the support of a lot of people, I could come back so I would like to say thank you once again to them.
Your brother Ajit had a dream for you. How will you repay?
We lived the dream together. I represented the country, and along with that I was representing Ajit also. I can’t describe it in words, what he has done for me. When we met yesterday I could sense he was emotional but was trying his best to hide it. At the same time he looked relaxed and relieved. The manner in which I retired and the warm response from the public can never be planned. It is decided by god. And I thank god profusely to have blessed me with this day. I couldn’t have asked for more. Ajit had the same feeling yesterday. We didn’t speak much, but he was relieved that everything went as we had desired.
What did you do this morning? What was your favourite moment playing against England? How will the Ashes go?
I woke up this morning, at 6.50. I go according to my body clock. I woke up at 6.50 yesterday and again at the same time today. I suddenly realised that I didn’t need to quickly have a shower and get ready for a match. I made myself a cup of tea and enjoyed a nice breakfast with my wife. It was a relaxed morning. A lot of people had sent me their wishes, so I spent some time responding to those text messages and thanking them for their support and good wishes over the last 24 years. And now I am here in front of you.
I think the Ashes are something both nations are looking forward. England want to prove a point that they can go Down Under and give Australia a difficult time. Australia would want to bounce back and prove England wrong. It’s going to be exciting. The way I saw Mitchell Johnson bowl here in India, if he is part of the squad, it should be interesting.
I have two memorable moments against England. The first was my maiden hundred, at Old Trafford. And the second was in 2008 when we chased 374 in Chennai. That has to be a special one for me.
First sportsman to be awarded Bharat Ratna. Can this set a trend?
I received this award on behalf of all my countrymen. I respect the award. It’s a special award. This is the ultimate (civilian honour). What more, beyond this? As for other sportsmen, I would say that I have accepted this award on behalf of them also. We have had a history of great sportsmen and sportswomen. I have grown up hearing their names. We have all grown in that culture. Their contribution can never be forgotten. In my opinion, the doors have opened for the future. I pray that in future there is appreciation for all great performances by our sportsmen and sportswomen. This award should go to special sportsmen.
How difficult have the last few hours been? Has it sunk in yet that you will not be playing for the country? Two special moments that will remain closest to your heart?
I said earlier that when I went to the pitch and stood in those 22 yards, I realised that this was the last time I was standing in that place, in front of a packed stadium as a part of the indian team. This will never happen again. That I was emotional about and couldn’t control my tears. Knowing that I would never had a cricket bat in my hand here playing for India was really emotional.
There have been many wonderful moments. You guys might have noticed that I could not look up while shaking hands with my teammates and the West Indian players. I didn’t want to be rude, but I didn’t want anyone to see my face with me in tears. In spite of all this, I know that the decision I took was correct.
Are you happy with your last innings of 74 and what was your mother’s reaction?
My mother was extremely happy. Earlier I was not sure whether she would come or not because it’s a little difficult for her to travel. That was the only reason I requested that this match be played in Mumbai. After the first day itself, I was worried that she might not be able to sit there for long. For safety I had also told MCA to keep a room for my mother at the Garware guest house. But my mother preferred to sit and watch each and every ball. It is special and when I went to meet her in the president’s box, I could see in her eyes what it meant. We are not people who get carried away and respond differently. It was a very controlled and balanced reaction. But she spoke to me more through her eyes than her words.
What would like Arjun Tendulkar to do as a cricketer?
See, as a father I will say leave alone Arjun Tendulkar. I will say let him enjoy the cricket, and don’t burden him with expectations, like his father had performed like this and he should also perform like that. If I had such pressure on me, then I would have pen in my hands because my father was a professor and he was in literature field. That time nobody has questioned my father as why your son has a cricket bat in his hand, and why not a pen? So, Arjun has opted for cricket bat in his hand, and he’s passionate about cricket. I will say that you need to be madly in love with cricket to bring the best, and he’s madly in love with cricket. That’s what matters. I don’t want to put pressure on him whether he performs or not. You shouldn’t also put pressure on him. You need to leave a young player free so that he’s able to perform and enjoy cricket. That’s what I expect, and what lies in future is determined by God, and not by us.
Best and most disappointing moments in your cricketing life?
The best moment…I will that was when we won the World Cup here in two years ago. It was my dream to win the World Cup. But I had to wait for 22 years, and that was such a long period. But God helped me to see that day, and that was a special moment. I will also say that yesterday was also a very special day for me. The way people responded to me…I would like to say big thank to everyone. It was every special for me to see that reaction from people. So, these two moments have been very special for me. If you ask me about the disappointing moment, then I will say it came in the 2003 World Cup. We were playing very well in that tournament, reached the final. It has been a big disappointment for me that we couldn’t cross the final hurdle despite playing well. Like any other sportsmen, I was also disappointed.
Interacting with youngsters. How do you view your influence on them and whose success have you enjoyed the most?
To answer your last question first, I enjoy everyone’s success. It’s about team sport, and in team sport, it doesn’t matter who performs well. Out eleven players, you will not see all eleven players performing well. There will be two or three exceptional performances, and they will be supported by the rest. As long as those consistency is maintained it doesn’t matter who performs. Talking about the new generation, I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the team. I know that someone like Bhuvneshwar Kumar wasn’t even born when I started playing for India. I have told them jokingly, wish me good morning sir when I come to the dressing room. It has been a joy to work with them and being part of the squad because it’s not about whatever I am saying is 100 per cent correct.
If you understand what they are also telling, then you will become a better student of the cricket. I think that process will continue till the time I stop breathing. If you are prepared to learn you will learn, and that’s what I have maintained all along. I have shared my various experiences with them, and then about my batting and my observations about their batting and what should they do. It is fun to do all that and I have always done that and that’s not only because I am the senior most player in the side. Even when I was the junior most member in the side I would still do that. It’s about talking cricket, breathing cricket, it’s all about cricket. It doesn’t matter at what stage of life you are, and I enjoyed talking cricket with various players, and it was fun.
Do you plan to lead a campaign to include cricket in Olympics?
As I said, it’s been hardly 24 hours since I retired and you are already engaging me into various other things. Give me some time breathe, we will talk about them in time to come.
Where do critics stand in your book?
I observe it to a certain stage about who is writing and about what subject he is writing. Opinions will be available all around the world. A stage comes when you are convinced as to which person’s advice you should follow and who are the ones who offer constructive criticism and what is the motive behind it. I don’t think I have paid much attention to it because those who were guiding me were by my side and they didn’t hold a pen for a long time. They had either a cricket bat in their hand or cricket thoughts in their mind to encourage me to perform better so that I could perform better. I was normally interacting with such people whose interests was in how I could make more runs and how I could perform better. Beyond that, I didn’t think much about the critics.
My childhood has ended that is what many feel when they are in their 40s now that you have retired what do you say?
I have heard that the new saying is that 40s is the new 20s, so don’t think you are 40. Continue to be a 20-year-old, it works better. We are all children when we play cricket and that is how it is meant to be. We need to enjoy cricket to its fullest and cricket ahs always brought out that childlike exuberance whenever I have been on the field and I hope that is the case with all the cricket lovers. As and when you hold a cricket bat or you bowl a few balls, you should have that energy, bubblyness has to be there, it is fun to do that.
Do you think India needs an Indian coach or a foreign coach?
I don’t think it is more about foreign coach. It is about who is coaching and how best can they bring the best results for India and how consistently they can do that is what matters. I don’t think in that direction that there has to be a foreign coach or there has to be an Indian coach. To me, there should be a proper coach who understands the players, he is more like your friend. At this level, we all know how to play a cover drive. But when something goes wrong, it is not technically as such but sometimes, it is between the ears. So who can you sit with and sort that out is what eventually matters. So to me, I feel, a coach is a coach. It really doesn’t matter where he comes from. As long as the relation between the coach and the player is a healthy relationship where they are more friends and any sort of problem which a player has he should be able to confide in this coach and also know for a fact that it would not be leaked out, which is really important because to have that confidence in your coach is so important, it is as simple as that.