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Sachin has not made any sacrifice for nation: Sena

Days after Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray lashed out at Sachin Tendulkar, an article in its mouthpiece, Saamna, has again targeted the master blaster.

The article said: "Sachin is a great cricketer, but doesn't match Lokmanya Tilak. He does not measure up to any Marathi revolutionary."

Underlining that Sachin has not made any sacrifices for the country, the article said: "Sachin's exploits are restricted to BCCI and record books and has not won Mumbai for Maharashtra."

Sachin has never supported Marathi cause in sports; he could not even help Vinod Kambli stay in the team.

Sachin's focus made him more successful: Imran Khan

In 1989, there was a void in India's public imagination after the departure of Sunil Gavaskar two years before that. It was only fitting that

another youngster from his own city Mumbai, should fill that void.

My first memories of the debut-making Sachin Tendulkar are of him taking a blow early in his innings, and saw glimpses of his talent in the Tests but more in a charity game where he took on Abdul Qadir in a benefit game.

Today, at a time when Twenty20 creates stars in a matter of three hours, it is very difficult to gauge a cricketer's true merit. I have always said that Test cricket is the best test of a cricketer's mettle, and Sachin has been a very major figure in the last two decades of Test cricket.

There are many who rue the fact that Sachin stopped playing his uninhibited strokeful knocks about a decade ago. I personally felt that the later, more mature Sachin had more to offer. It is also notable that he became a little more watchful and less impetuous because he saw there were younger players like Virender Sehwag to don the mantle of aggressor.

Today, Sachin seems to be completely in charge of his game and can switch gears almost at will. He can be explosive at times, and he can construct an innings if he has the time. It is this intelligence and thought that has helped Sachin stay focused on his batting.

It is not a case of talent alone, because mere ability no matter how prodigious does not sustain itself long if temperament and hunger is lacking. I have seen far too many talented cricketers not achieve what they could because they lacked the temperament.

If there is one area in which Sachin is ahead of his contemporaries, it is focus. Inzamam-ul Haq was possibly even more gifted, but Sachin was more successful due to his commitment and focus.

I would imagine that he will be around for the World Cup in 2011, and the Indians would hope that they see one last flourish from him.

When Sachin appealed for Lagaan’s Bhura: Aamir Khan

You will be surprised to know that I have seen Sachin bat against the best bowlers at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) even before he played for India. I clearly remember, Dilip Vengsarkar had come to the Indian team nets with a 14-year-old. After the nets he asked the boy to pad up and handed over a brand new ball to Kapil Dev.

Kapil thought Dilip was trying to play a prank and he bowled some dollies to the kid who looked visibly upset. Dilip went to Kapil and insisted that he should bowl at his normal speed. Kapil, reluctantly, bowled some quick balls but the boy faced all of them with great confidence. Now he was happy.

Kapil’s ego had been hurt. After all, how can a 14-year-old handle him so easily? He marked his run-up and bowled some nasty balls. But the lad faced them with supreme confidence. We were stunned.

After the session, Dilip told Kapil, “This is the wonder boy I was talking about. His name is Sachin Tendulkar.” “Goodness me,” said a startled Kapil. “At this age he seems so matured. You are right; he is special.” All of us were tracking his progress, primarily through newspapers. Less than two years since that amazing net session, Sachin was awarded the India cap. Our career started almost at the same time.

Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak was released in 1988; Sachin made his international debut in 1989.

I first met him when he was invited to give the muhurat-shot clap for our new film Avval Number. He was very shy and far too polite. Since then we have nurtured a special friendship. I would like to narrate two stories which are close to my heart. We were in the final stages of Lagaan and were in need of some sound bytes. You usually hear two kinds of noises in a packed cricket stadium. One is a giant roar when something spectacular happens. The second is a deafening silence when something goes unexpectedly wrong.

An India-Australia match was played at the Wankhede Stadium. I called Sachin so that he could get us approval from the right authorities to record sound bytes when the match was on. Sachin promptly got us the consent. The stadium was full and we got the bytes we dearly wanted. When we listened to the track, we had to cut almost 80 per cent of the footage. The reason? When Sachin is on the field spectators will continuously chant: Saaaachin, Saaaachin.

It was not possible to use those sound bytes given that Sachin was not playing any role in Lagaan. Before its release I invited him for a private screening. It was an amazing scene: Sachin watching Lagan and I watching him. I was dying to see his reactions. The film rolled on and when Bhura took his first wicket in the film, Sachin unwittingly lifted his left hand and appealed: “How’s that.”

I was relieved. That was it; I knew we were on the right track. I felt confident that the cricketing part in the film was just fine and the chances of success bright. I was invited for the Indian Premier League final (of its first edition) at the DY Patil Stadium. I was damn lucky since I got a seat next to Sachin. During the course of the match I asked him about the possible bowling changes. He explained the situation and predicted who would be bowling next. The change was made and the same bowler, who he had foreseen, came in to bowl next. For the next half an hour he was reading the game like an open book. He was only making an accurate prediction of the bowling changes; he was spot on with his views on field placement. He could even sense what shots the batsmen would play. It was unbelievable. I was stunned by his observations, his knowledge of the game, and the way he read the minds of the opposition. Completing 20 years in international cricket is a great achievement. I think his single-mindedness, dedication, passion for the game and his values have made this possible. His enthusiasm remains undimmed. Even after reaching this stage, he is so simple and humble. He is still fighting fit and motivated too. Let us enjoy watching the legend for a couple of more years at least.

From loneliness to legspinners, injuries to influences, Sachin Tendulkar opened up as he rarely does on cricket and life while talking to a select group of journalists in Mumbai on Friday.

Sachin Tendulkar plays a shot, Pakistan v India, 3rd Test, Lahore, December 1989
Sachin Tendulkar on his first international tour, to Pakistan in 1989 © AllSport UK Ltd

Twenty years, can you recount some of the poignant moments, or highlights?

The first and most important moment I'd like to remember right now would be the day I wore my India cap first. It was a dream which had come true, so I was on cloud nine. It was an absolutely fabulous feeling. After that there have been many but the most important one was that. Because growing up as a child the dream was to play for India and nothing was bigger than that for me, and it continues the same way for me today. I think I'm very fortunate to be living that dream, and 20 years is a long time so there have been many special moments. To actually start counting them would be tough but I'd definitely say the first day, walking with the playing eleven, playing a Test in Pakistan was probably the greatest feeling. The journey began there and whatever I did after that was a mere reflection of my contribution towards the nation's cause.

What do you remember of the first tour apart from the cricket?

A couple of times we went out shopping, and then obviously interacting with the media because we were not going out much, hardly once or twice in 40-45 days, it's a long time to be in the hotel. We used to have this 'Sunday Club' and the media also joined the entire team and we were dressed differently. I was with a moustache and it was a bit hard to believe for a 16-year-old to have a thick moustache and lipstick and that kind of thing, so it was party time and that's something which I remember because there were so many pictures taken and every now and then you see them. Other than that I felt the tour was tough and we played some terrific cricket. Over the four Tests it was a drawn series and I felt that there was no dull moment in the entire series, Lahore was the flattest track where nothing much happened off the wicket, but otherwise the remaining three surfaces we played on they had a bit of life, bounce, pace and the cricket was also entertaining.

How have you managed to change with the times? How difficult was it to do that?

Since 1989 plenty of things have changed in the game; that includes the introduction of the third umpire, the hot spot and various things, the introduction of Twenty20. The most noticeable change I feel is because of Twenty20, we've seen plenty of innovative shots, which are occasionally used in Test cricket. In one-day cricket batsmen are backing themselves to try something new, also occasionally in Test cricket. So in a one-day match the average score has definitely gone from 210 to now 265-270 as a par score. To make 265 on a decent surface is not a great score as such.

Also, in Tests you see more results now. There was a phase where you used to hear that Test matches are getting boring because there are no results, but I don't think that is the case now; there are results in virtually every match and that is probably because it is played more aggressively and batsmen are willing to take more chances. With time I have also changed, and everyone sitting in this room, we've all changed for the better and I've tried to make myself a better cricketer. There is always room for improvement, and I've always believed that whenever I go out and practise there has to be a purpose. The process continues, it's never-ending because every day there is a fresh challenge and you need to be on your toes. You've got to be moving forward and that is what I've tried to do.

Tendulkar on match-fixing

  • It was a dark phase, I don't want to reiterate that on this occasion. But I heard something that was fascinating, the series we played against Australia immediately after that (in 2001) it was the three Test match series and five ODIs and both series were decided in the final half hour of their duration. Both these series were instrumental in bringing back the crowds to the stadiums and I thought we as a team really performed well in that series and that started a new chapter, something I was looking for, to close the previous chapter and it's better that we keep it closed.

How do you stay on your toes for 20 years?

It was definitely a lot of hard work and there are certain things that all sportsmen have to follow: dedication, discipline, your focus on the game, your priorities in life. All those factors are extremely important and for me I felt I was very lucky to have a family like (I do), my brother always guided me, my father always supported me, my mother always fed me well. There's this combination of inner forces contributing in different directions. Mother doesn't understand much about cricket, but she prays for my success and India's success, so all these things are important. Long discussions with my brother on cricket and then support from the other brother and my sister - I represent all of them when I go out to the middle, but then there are those difficult moments which I feel are challenging, and [I wonder] what should I be doing in these moments, and that is what I share with my wife, my entire family, and that is one reason I've been able to last for such a long time. I cannot fail to thank the people of India for all the affection and love, the support. Whatever I do, whatever level I perform, you need people around you to share your happiness with them and I've got more than a billion people to share that with, so that means a lot to me. Because of all these things you are inspired to go out and do something special for all the people.

Has it been hard to stay humble over the years?

Well I've not made any effort to stay humble, it's just my upbringing. In the early stage of my career when I hadn't played for India, I was just playing school cricket, I was still scoring a lot of runs but nobody got carried away in my family over success. It's quite easy for a 12- or 13-year-old boy to get carried away when he sees his picture printed in the newspaper, because it's something special, but that is where I felt my family made sure my feet were on the ground.. We always celebrated by distributing sweets, it wasn't very fancy, and that was where it stopped. Everyone was happy and enjoyed that moment but the next day was what happens in the next game, and how do you get better in the next game, and that process has continued. That's something which has kept me grounded, and needless to say just watching my father - my father didn't teach me - but just looking at him and watching him closely I picked up a lot of things, and the most important thing he told me was: "it's your nature which is going to stay permanently with you, the rest will come and go."

David Boon tells a story about you asking him for advice on facing West Indies. Can you elaborate on that?

David Boon… When I was in Australia in 1991, I hadn't played many West Indian fast bowlers, the only time I had played a West Indian was when we played county cricket against Derbyshire (in 1990) when Ian Bishop was there, and I played one exhibition game in Canada against West Indies. But other than that in an international match I hadn't played a West Indian. In Australia we were playing a triangular series where West Indies joined us and they had some terrific players, world-class fast bowlers. I'd watched Boon quite closely, and I thought I should be picking up things from the top players in the world and I wanted to get as much information as possible and become a better cricketer. I thought it was a good chance to speak to him, and get to know how to face certain bowlers on Australian tracks.

Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar on India's tour of South Africa, November 1992
Sunil Gavaskar has been one of the people Tendulkar has looked to for advice © Getty Images

Who has been the biggest influence on you as a player?

I think it's my brother Ajit, with whom I discuss a lot of cricket and he knows my batting possibly better than any other person in the world, and he understands my mindset as well, so I talk a lot with him. Then there are the other players from India; Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri, they travel with us whenever we're out there playing, it's good to have them there to share an opinion or get their views on how we are playing as a team and an individual. That has helped over the years and there have been so many other senior players who have been coaches, so all those guys have been helpful, and as far as help and guidance is concerned, there hasn't been an instance where a senior player has said I'm not interested or I've not been watching you and don't want to share any opinions. They've always been helpful and shared their ideas, which has played an important role.

Regarding practising with purpose, one of the more celebrated instances was having legspinners bowl at you into the rough from around the wicket before you faced Warne in 1998.

In 1998 I prepared differently, we were practising in Chennai and before that I practised in Mumbai. All my Ranji Trophy colleagues, I used to ask them to bowl around the wicket into the rough, because that was something which I hadn't faced for a long time; in spite of having been around for almost nine years at that stage, I hadn't played any legspinner that would bowl around the wicket in the rough, so I made all the bowlers do that. Then when we went to Chennai, Laxman Sivramakrishnan bowled to me, he gave wonderful practice. So all those sessions really helped and the purpose behind that was just to get used to those angles and the areas, and identify which are the areas from which I can attack and which are the areas I need to defend.

Between Warne and Murali, who did you consider the most dangerous and why?

I'm of the opinion that if someone goes past 500-600 wickets, how do you differentiate? Both guys are special, both are matchwinners and both are world champions. I would not like to pick one, I believe in respecting an individual's strengths and the way they both have motivated youngsters in various parts of the world is just incredible. I would just sit back and applaud them.

I requested both Azhar (the captain) and Ajit Wadekar (coach) to "just give me one opportunity. I'm very confident as in the first 15 overs I can play some big shots. I feel I'll be able to deliver. And if I fail I'll never ever come to you again". How Tendulkar got to open the innings in one-dayers. He blasted a 49-ball 83 in his first chance

If they were both bowling at either end, who would you rather not face?
I think I would probably go and sit in the dressing room (laughs).

Tell us about the time you were hit by Waqar [Younis] ]in 1989.

I still remember that incident. Ajit had come to watch me for the first time. I could see him sitting in front of the dressing room. India were in a fragile position in the second innings at 39 for 4 with a day and half still left when I got hit on the nose. Even before that I had been hit on the nose in school cricket on bad practice wickets, an experience that had got rid of the fear. So when I was hit by Waqar that got me more competitive and I decided not to move from the middle and I would continue to fight.

In 1989, before you played Pakistan, there was speculation you might be picked to face the West Indies, did you think at that time that you were ready?

I remember the late Raj Singh Dungarpur was the chairman of selectors at that time, and we were playing Ranji Trophy semi-finals against Delhi in Mumbai and he walked up to me and said "I know there has been talk and there've been articles in the papers that you may go to West Indies, but I want to tell you that you won't be going because we still feel that it's too early and it's important for you to prepare for your SSC exams." So I did that. Before that also I'd known him for quite some time. So his guidance and encouragement meant a lot to me, and what he said was: "There'll be Irani Trophy, I'm sure you will be a part of it, and go out there and enjoy yourself, give your case, and good things will happen."

What was different about batting at international level or did you just find that this was too easy?

Nothing is easy and you have to work hard for it. I'm a person who hates taking anything for granted, I want to prepare to the best of my ability. I was always confident about my ability. I wanted to go out and express myself to the best of my ability, and if the pre-match preparation was good then I was in a position to go out and deliver, and that is something I focussed on. Even today I do that. There may be inning where you don't do well, that's fine, but as long as you have given 100%, that is what matters to me. That is something which has been happening right from my school days.

I realised early that I could hit every ball, in school cricket and to a certain extent in Ranji Trophy, I would go out and attack, but after going to Pakistan and New Zealand, England, Australia, those first few series and also South Africa, it taught me a lot. It taught me to be more selective, taught me to build an innings, and also taught me to respect bowlers. I think to respect a bowler when he's bowling very well, is a wise thing to do, which I learned, and it's something which happens with age and experience. You need to have that exposure and I felt that the first few tours really helped me.

Sachin Tendulkar grimaces after getting out, India v Australia, 5th ODI, Hyderabad, November 5, 2009
Tendulkar on being asked whether he felt lonely when the team loses after a solo effort from him: "Yes you feel bad because I've done well but the team hasn't well. So you are not excited and you cannot share that wonderful moment with people because you've lost the game" © Getty Images

How have you separated your cricket from everything that happens around you?

I don't know, cricket lives in my heart and whenever I'm on a cricket field I enjoy it, and somewhere there's still a 16-year-old hidden inside who wants to go out and express himself, so I do that and it comes naturally and I don't make any special effort to show enthusiasm. It's been my life and I enjoy every moment, I enjoy challenges, it's a package deal, ups and downs, wonderful moments and there are disappointments, so all that makes you a stronger person and you learn to deal with various things in life.

Do you feeling lonely when you do well and the team still loses?

I have never been asked this question before. But, actually, yes you feel bad because I've done well but the team hasn't well. But I play for the team and it is not about individuals. You got to win as a team. So you are not excited and you cannot share that wonderful moment with people because you've lost the game. It is a difficult thing. But on the brighter side when you have one billion people to share your joy there is no better than that. But when that doesn't happen you look forward to the next game and try and make sure that you perform better as a team and do something special which can make all of us smile.

What would you rank as your most memorable innings?

There are a few innings where I've really done well and where the team has won. In that respect the 2003 World Cup game against Pakistan was the biggest match of my life.

Going back to the earlier part of my career the second Test, at Faislabad, I scored only 58 or 59. But in the previous Test I had got out early and I had actually questioned myself whether I belonged here (international arena). I felt out of place, tense, and didn't know what was happening and it wasn't a great experience. In the second Test I went out and decided that come what may I'm going to be there: I had already spoken to a lot of players and they had told me: "Just be there for 15-20 minutes things would start getting better." So I decided I was not going to get worried about runs and at what rate I was going to score them. That particular innings was the turning point of my life because after that I felt I do belong here. It is just a matter of tackling the first few minutes, of judging the pace, bounce, spin. I was new to Test cricket and something like that needed to happen to make me feel good and make me believe that I belonged here.

Could you share with us some of your memories from childhood?

My childhood was spent in 'Sahitya Sahwas' colony in Bandra East. Every moment with my friends was special. Cricket started for me there, I broke a lot of glass panes of neighbouring houses but all the seniors appreciated the competition on display. It was a good atmosphere and the passion for cricket started there.

My actual cricket started when I was 11. My brother spotted the spark in me and then he took me to Achrekar sir. Those three to four years under him were really important for my development. He would hide behind trees to see our games and then later he would point out the errors later on. We would have fun but it was guarded.

Tell us about the first century of your life.

I was unbeaten on 96 overnight and couldn't sleep. We [Sharadashram English] were playing against Don Bosco and I was impatient to get to my first ever century. Another reason for my impatience was I had invited Achrekar Sir to dinner at my home but he said the day I score a century he would come. Next morning my father took me to pay obeisance at a Ganpati temple. I scored the century in the very first over. The first thing I told Achrekar Sir on going back to the change room was he now had no way out but to come to my house.

Does the relentless media introspection suffocate you?

This is the way I've known my life from the age of 14. That is when I started playing my first-class cricket when I was part of Mumbai Ranji Trophy team. But I'm comfortable with it. I don't do anything differently, I just do whatever I'm comfortable with. People have appreciated me for what I'm so I don't make any special effort to change. I believe every individual should respect the other in whatever you say or do and you have to think twice. I'm not aggressive off the field because I need to conserve it for the play on the field.

Sachin Tendulkar with the Sahara Cup after beating Pakistan 4-1, India v Pakistan, 5th ODI, Toronto, September 21, 1997
One of the highs of Tendulkar's captaincy, the Sahara Cup in 1997 © AFP

What is the secret behind your success as a cricketer?

Plenty of hours on the field, not as many hours in the gym! It is a combination of long practice sessions, workouts and playing as many matches - practice and live - as possible. One important thing my coach Ramakant Achrekar introduced me to was the concept of match temperament. The reason my brother [Ajit Tendulkar] took me to him [Achrekar] was solely because he made all his students play as many practice matches as possible. I would attend my school in the morning, go to the ground in the afternoon and bat at No. 4 in a practice match. That gave me the confidence to go out in the middle and perform in a match and also taught me how to read various situations in a match. Because every afternoon the conditions were different situation, different theme, and I had to bat differently. So all those factors were extremely important in making me the cricketer that I am today, and however much I thank him [Achrekar] it is not enough.

Was opening for the first time a big step?

In 1994 we were playing in Auckland. I was the vice-captain then and just before the ODI I got to know that [Navjot Singh] Sidhu was not fit as he had woken up with a stiff neck. I requested both Azhar [Mohammad Azharuddin] and Ajit Wadekar (captain and coach) to "just give me one opportunity. I'm very confident as in the first 15 overs I can play some big shots. I feel I'll be able to deliver. And if I fail I'll never ever come to you again". They both agreed graciously and I was able to go out and perform. It helped me as a cricketer because you go out and face the new ball and at the same time you are looking at putting the ball away. Those days the first over one would look to leave as many balls as possible and not lose wickets early on and then gradually accelerate. But things started changing around that time with [Mark] Greatbach in 1992 World Cup and then [Sanath] Jayasuriya in 1996 to play big shots in the first 15 overs and I did the same once I started opening. To do that you had to move in quickly and get in the right position. Overall that decision (to open) helped my game because in ODIs I was facing the new ball and batting No. 4 in Test cricket. Overall I was enjoying the balance.

Are you satisfied with your two captaincy stints?

It was a great honour to captain the country. There were some wonderful moments: The very first Test itself was a memorable in Delhi. Then we won the Titan Cup in India against the two toughest opponents - Australia and South Africa. Then, in Toronto, when we beat Pakistan in the Sahara Cup. There were many occasions where we came close to winning but just couldn't cross the final hurdle. It was an experience full of highs and lows.

India should play more Tests - Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar at an open media sesson, Mumbai, November 13, 2009
"It would be nice if I can go on that that long (till 2015) but I don't want to think that far" © AFP

Sachin Tendulkar has expressed his disappointment at India not playing enough Tests in the near future. Besides the three Tests in the upcoming home series against Sri Lanka, which begins in Ahmedabad on November 16, India play only two more Tests, in Bangladesh in January, in the 2009-10 season. There are no further Test series planned at least till the end of the 2010.

"We should play more Test cricket for sure. It is obviously not great news that we are only playing five Tests this season," Tendulkar said at a media event on Friday to commemorate his completing 20 years in international cricket.

Test cricket, he said, was the true testing ground for any youngster and the best way to fast track his development. "Ideally for any team to progress you need to play more Test cricket as that is where the real cricket is according to me. Test cricket is cricket of the highest level and since it is played across five days at the end of each day it allows you to regroup, re-think, come up with fresh ideas and plan for the next day. Sometimes in Twenty20 and ODIs even before you realise the match is over."

As a 16-year-old Tendulkar cut his teeth in the 1989 Test series against Pakistan and immediately understood it was not going to be easy. In the final Test of that series, Waqar Younis drew blood after striking Tendulkar on the nose. Ajit Tendulkar, his elder brother, the man whom Sachin counts as his biggest influence as a player, was sitting in the stands. Ajit might have winced but his brother didn't: "When I was hit by Waqar that got me more competitive and I decided not to move from the middle and I would continue to fight," Tendulkar animatedly recounted the incident to a 75-odd media contingent.

Though the event was by invitation only for a select group of journalists, a lot of media personnel - aware of the unique opportunity it presented - gatecrashed the event. Tendulkar remained unruffled and for the next five hours remained seated in the middle of the room, answering hundreds of questions, even if most were repeated. Displaying the same proficiency he has shown against various forms of bowling, Tendulkar moved seamlessly from English to Hindi to Marathi in his responses, paying detailed attention to the questioner's every word.

While his zeal for the game continues to amaze, he is not at all surprised by it. He says it is because he is passionate about what he does and is confident and clear about what he wants to do.

It's not his fans alone who wonder how Tendulkar has been strong in various situations and stayed competitive over the last two decades; MS Dhoni, the India captain, recently said he did not rule out Tendulkar being in contention to play the 2015 World Cup.

Tendulkar, though, said he wanted to live in the moment and plan for the near future instead of dwelling on what could happen five years down the line.

"It would be nice if I can go on that that long (till 2015) but I don't want to think that far and concentrate on the next phase," he said. "My focus is on the near future. I've enjoyed every bit so far and I feel there is cricket left in me and everything is going really well."

Sachin India's proudest possession- Peter Roebuck

Sachin Tendulkar has been playing top-class cricket for 20 years and he's still producing blistering innings, still looking hungry, still demolishing attacks, still a prized wicket, still a proud competitor. He has not merely been around for two decades. From his first outing to his most recent effort, a stunning 175 in Hyderabad, he has been a great batsman. Longevity counts amongst his strengths. Twenty years! It's a heck of a long time, and it's gone in the blink of an eye.

The Berlin Wall was taken down a week before Sachin Tendulka first wore the colours of his country, Nelson Mandela was behind bars, Allan Border was captaining Australia, and India was a patronised country known for its dust, poverty, timid batsmen and not much else. In those days Tendulkar was a tousle-haired cherub prepared to stand his ground against all comers, including Wasim Akram and the most menacing of the Australians, Merv Hughes. Now he is a tousle-haired elder still standing firm, still driving and cutting, still retaining some of the impudence of youth, but nowadays bearing also the sagacity of age.

It has been an incredible journey, a trip that figures alone cannot define. Not that the statistics lack weight. To the contrary they are astonishing, almost mind-boggling. Tendulkar has a scored an avalanche of runs, thousands upon thousands of them in every form of the game. He has reached three figures 87 times in the colours of his country, and all the while has somehow retained his freshness, somehow avoided the mechanical, the repetitive and the predictable.

Perhaps that has been part of it, the ability to retain the precious gift of youth. Alongside Shane Warne, the Indian master has been the most satisfying cricketer of his generation.

Tendulkar's feats are prodigious. He has scored as many runs overseas as in his backyard, has flogged Brett Lee at his fastest and Shane Warne at his most obtuse, has flourished against swing and cut, prospered in damp and dry. Nor can his record be taken for granted. Batsmen exist primarily to score runs. It is a damnably difficult task made to look easy by a handful of expert practitioners. Others have promised and fallen back, undone by the demands, unable to meet the moment. Tendulkar has kept going, on his toes, seeking runs in his twinkling way.

In part he has lasted so long because there has been so little inner strain. It's hard to think of a player remotely comparable who has spent so little energy conquering himself. Throughout, Tendulkar has been able to concentrate on overcoming his opponents.

But it has not only been about runs. Along the way Tendulkar has provided an unsurpassed blend of the sublime and the precise. In him the technical and the natural sit side by side, friends not enemies, allies deep in conversation. Romantics talk about those early morning trips to Shivaji Park, and the child eager to erect the nets and anxious to bat till someone took his wicket. They want to believe that toil alone can produce that straight drive and a bat so broad that periodically it is measured. But it was not like that.

From the start the lad had an uncanny way of executing his strokes perfectly. His boyhood coaches insist that their role was to ensure that he remained unspoilt. There was no apprenticeship. Tendulkar was born to bat.

Over the decades it has been Tendulkar's rare combination of mastery and boldness that has delighted connoisseurs and crowds alike. More than any other batsman, even Brian Lara, Tendulkar's batting has provoked gasps of admiration. A single withering drive dispatched along the ground, eluding the bowler, placed unerringly between fieldsmen, can provoke wonder even amongst the oldest hands. A solitary square cut is enough to make a spectator's day.

Tendulkar might lose his wicket cheaply but he is incapable of playing an ugly stroke. His defence might have been designed by Christopher Wren. And alongside these muscular orthodoxies could be found ornate flicks through the on-side, glides off his bulky pads that sent tight deliveries dashing on unexpected journeys into the back and beyond. Viv Richards could terrorise an attack with pitiless brutality, Lara could dissect bowlers with surgical and magical strokes, Tendulkar can take an attack apart with towering simplicity.

Nor has Tendulkar ever stooped to dullness or cynicism. Throughout, his wits have remained sharp and originality has been given its due. He has, too, been remarkably constant. In those early appearances, he relished the little improvisations calculated to send bowlers to the madhouse: cheeky strokes that told of ability and nerve. For a time thereafter he put them into the cupboard, not because respectability beckoned or responsibility weighed him down but because they were not required. Shot selection, his very sense of the game, counts amongst his qualities.

On his most recent trip to Australia, though, he decided to restore audacity, cheekily undercutting lifters, directing the ball between fieldsmen, shots the bowlers regarded as beyond the pale. Even in middle age he remains unbroken. Hyderabad confirmed his durability.

And yet, even this, the runs, the majesty, the thrills, does not capture his achievement. Reflect upon his circumstances and then marvel at his feat. Here is a man obliged to put on disguises so that he can move around the streets, a fellow able to drive his cars only in the dead of night for fear or creating a commotion, a father forced to take his family to Iceland on holiday, a person whose entire adult life has been lived in the eye of a storm. Throughout he has been public property, India's proudest possession, a young man and yet also a source of joy for millions, a sportsman and yet, too, an expression of a vast and ever-changing nation. Somehow he has managed to keep the world in its rightful place. Somehow he has raised children who relish his company and tease him about his batting. Whenever he loses his wicket in the 90s, a not uncommon occurrence, his boy asks why he does not "hit a sixer".

Somehow he has emerged with an almost untarnished reputation. Inevitably mistakes have been made. Something about a car, something else about a cricket ball, and suggestions that he had stretched the facts to assist his pal Harbhajan Singh. But then he is no secular saint. It's enough that he is expected to bat better than anyone else. It's hardly fair to ask him to match Mother Teresa as well.

At times India has sprung too quickly to his defence, as if a point made against him was an insult to the nation, as if he were beyond censure. A poor lbw decision- and he has had his allocation- can all too easily be turned into a cause celebre. Happily Tendulkar has always retained his equanimity. He is a sportsman as well as a cricketer. By no means has it been the least of his contributions, and it explains his widespread popularity. Not even Placido Domingo has been given more standing ovations.

And there has been another quality that has sustained him, a trait whose importance cannot be overstated. Not long ago Keith Richards, lead guitarist with the Rolling Stones, was asked how the band had kept going for so long, spent so many decades on the road, made so many records, put up with so much attention. His reply was as simple as it as telling. "We love it," he explained, "we just love playing." And so it has always has been with Tendulkar. It's never been hard for him to play cricket. The hard part will be stopping. But he will take into retirement a mighty record and the knowledge that he has given enormous pleasure to followers of the game wherever it is played.

I don't even move when Sachin is batting: Anjali

TOI: How easy or difficult is it to be Mrs Sachin Tendulkar? How do you cope with the pressures?

ANJALI: For me, it's very easy because I've known Sachin for 19 years now. I understand him so well. So whether I am his girlfriend or his wife, it's the same thing, just an extension of that bond. I don't find it very difficult and I'm used to it. Maybe, it's also because I've not known any other person in my life except Sachin. Of course, there are many challenges and difficulties to being his wife but the whole family, including my children, has learnt to deal with it.

TOI: Any regrets at all on the home front?

ANJALI: The only regret, even though we've learnt to cope with it, is that he's not at home most of the time. I think even Sachin has realised this, now that the kids are growing up fast. Sara is 12 and Arjun is 10. We sometimes wonder where all the years have gone. Since he used to be away most of the time when they were growing up, now he tries to come home as much as possible. If a match gets over early, he'll come home, stay overnight and then leave again in the morning. Though he's trying his best to spend more time with the family, sometimes he's not at home for birthdays, special occasions or even for the kids' annual day at school. It matters a lot to the kids.

TOI: Is it true you can't bear to watch Sachin live, and only see the recordings?

ANJALI: I don't know where this came from. The fact is I watch every game, that too right from the start. Yes, I never go to the stadium but I watch it on TV. Actually, I have one particular spot in the house from where I can watch TV and also keep an eye on my Ganpati (Ganesha). I don't eat. I don't answer phones. I don't drink. I don't even move. I don't reply to any sms until he's out.

TOI: What is it about his batting that you admire the most?

ANJALI: I'm not a cricket connoisseur. I can't talk about particular shots. What I like about him is that no matter how tense he is, or how much pressure there is on him, when he goes out to bat you don't see any of it. I've often asked him how it's possible not to get distracted while playing in front of thousands of screaming people. I do have friends whose husbands are also in highly stressful jobs, but they are not being scrutinised by the whole world every minute. So the way Sachin deals with the burden of expectations and doesn't seem to get affected is what I admire the most.

TOI: Do you enjoy watching him bat? Is there any knock of his that you rate as the best, or is etched in your memory?

ANJALI: My problem is, unlike Sachin, who remembers each of his innings, each ball and how he got out, I don't. Because when I am watching him bat, I'm so stressed and so focused that I just want him to do well, I cannot enjoy or remember much. For example, his 175 at Hyderabad has come in for huge praise, but I cannot say I enjoyed it. I was stressed out. But yes, I do remember that his Sharjah centuries were special. Then again, it is faint memory. I had had my first baby then and my attention was divided.

TOI: Do you lose sleep when he does well and the team does not, or vice-versa?

ANJALI: It's much worse when he does well and the team doesn't. I know how much it affects him because, for him, the country always comes first. To me it doesn't matter whether he scores one run or 10 runs or even a 100. I'll still be happy because I know he's really trying hard. But I know how much it affects him when he does well and the team loses, like it happened in Hyderabad. It's very upsetting. It was a terrible feeling for me when I got up the next morning. In fact, it was devastating. Had he not done so well and had the team still won, it would've made us all feel much, much better.

TOI: Does Sachin ever talk about the game with you? Or does he just shut himself out of all things cricket when he is with his family?

ANJALI: I think what he liked about me was that I knew nothing about cricket when I first met him. But then, me being me, I read everything about the game. I came to know all the fielding positions but he doesn't like me discussing cricket at home. But at times when he is low or upset, I do talk to him about cricket. Again, it's not the game but things related to it that we discuss.

TOI: Have you ever grown tired of waiting for Sachin to return from a tour?

ANJALI: It's always been like that. These days, whenever he goes on a long tour, we usually try and plan a short holiday with the kids. Maybe during the school vacation or something. There's no other option for us.

TOI: Don't you regret the fact that Sachin's fame prevents him from being a normal father?

ANJALI: It's been like this from the beginning, so you accept it. It's part of life even for our children. They know their father cannot do certain things. So we take the trouble once every year and go somewhere where he can be a normal father. Like in London, he takes Arjun to the park to play. Even there people recognise him, but they don't mob him and give him his space.

TOI: Please go back in time to when you met Sachin for the first time...

ANJALI: (Laughs) We've not really told many people this. I first met him at the Mumbai airport when he returned from his first tour of England in 1990, after scoring his maiden Test ton. In fact, when I first saw him at the airport, I didn't even know who he was. It was purely by accident! I was there to pick up my mother and Sachin was arriving with the Indian team. That's where we saw each other for the first time... we had a courtship of five years and got married in 1995. We had got engaged a year before that in 1994 and that was in New Zealand.

TOI: Do you believe in destiny?

ANJALI: Yes, it is destiny and I believe in that.

TOI: Sachin has been known to go out in disguise sometimes. Did he ever use a disguise to meet you?

ANJALI: Yes he did, just once. We had gone to see the movie Roja. I was studying medicine then and a couple of my friends planned it. Sachin did try telling me that that it would be difficult, but I insisted that he come along. To make sure nobody recognised him, we even got him a beard. He wore specs as well and we went in late. We watched the first half of the film, but during the interval Sachin dropped his specs and people immediately recognised him! It was a bit of a disaster and we were forced to leave halfway.

TOI: You could have been a very successful doctor...

ANJALI: I loved medicine and a lot of people often ask me if I'm wasting my education. I don't think so. Though I loved every moment of my studying days and my days at the government hospital, it then came to a stage when I realised that I could not be married to Sachin and also have a full-time career. It wasn't possible because he depends on me for almost everything. It was my decision. I thought I should be at home with him and make everything perfect for him.

In his childhood, brother Ajit did everything for Sachin, sacrificing his own interests. I thought I should do the same. Besides, mine would not have been a 9 to 5 job. I'm a paediatrician, so if there's a patient calling me or someone admitted at odd hours, I have to make myself available. With Sachin not around and me with two kids at home, it wouldn't have been possible. I took a decision and I have never, ever regretted it.

TOI: How good is your Hindi?

ANJALI: (Smiles). Not as good as my English. But my Marathi is better as I converse with my mother-in-law in that language. Actually, my mother is English so we spoke the language at home, but I studied Hindi without tuitions till the tenth standard. At St. Xavier's in the XIth and XIIth class, I studied Russian. My children speak Hindi much better than both of us.

TOI: Have you ever dreamt of your son Arjun playing alongside Sachin?

ANJALI: Actually, I have thought about it but, realistically speaking, I don't think it's possible. If it ever happens it will be fantastic.

TOI: Are you aware there are emails being circulated with pictures of your new, under-construction shell house in Bandra? There are pictures of the interiors too...

ANJALI: Yes. They're all fake!

TOI: When will the house be ready for you to move in?

ANJALI: It will take one more year.

TOI: Can you tell us a bit about the new house? Will it look like a huge mansion or just a normal bungalow?

ANJALI: It will be a normal house. If you look at Mumbai and its space constraints, we are lucky to be having a nice home which will have everything Sachin wants. If he wants to go and play cricket with Arjun there is a garden, not a big one but there is one. There is a parking area for our cars down in the basement, room for Sachin's mother and the kids.

Sachin is very clear and sure about what he wants. A lot of things in the house are what he's always wanted. But we are in it together. Also, I'm the more scientific type, the more practical one. I'm only bothered about where the switches are going to be placed, where the TV connections are going to be, what the kitchen and bathroom layout is going to be. He's into the fancy and decorative side.

TOI: No swimming pool?

ANJALI: There is one lap pool on the terrace and a shallow one just for Sachin's fitness. A gymnasium will also be there.

TOI: Have you ever driven the Ferrari?

ANJALI: When Sachin got his Ferrari home I asked him to show me how to change its gears because they are near the steering and move with the fingers. To my surprise, he said, 'You don't need to drive my Ferrari.' In fact, I needed to know because at times we need to move it when he's not around. It actually happened once and we couldn't move it. I've been longing to drive his Ferrari.

TOI: Any idea which is Sachin's favourite Lata Mangeshkar or Kishore Kumar number?

ANJALI: There are so many, I can't name one. He always likes listening to them. Initially, I had no knowledge about Hindi movies and songs, it's only after marriage that I began watching movies and now I really enjoy Hindi songs.

TOI: Do you have a big circle of friends and do you socialise much?

ANJALI: No, we have a close set of friends. They are either Sachin's long-time friends or my friends from the medical field. We don't get much time to socialise but we do go out for family dinners whenever possible.

TOI: What comes first in Sachin's life? Cricket, wife or family?

ANJALI: I think it was cricket first but now things have changed, which I feel is a natural progression. So now, it is both cricket and family.

TOI: Have you and Sachin ever thought about what life is going to be like after cricket, or how long he intends to play?

ANJALI: People often tell us that we ought to start thinking about what he's going to do after cricket. But I feel that when you are playing, you need to focus 100%. You cannot even think of what you'll do after cricket. So I always tell Sachin not to think about it. I tell him, 'It doesn't matter, surely you'll find something to do, you have lots of interests.'

Also, maybe we can just take some time off and travel the world and then look ahead. I always insist that he should not worry about the future. At the same time, he will be at a total loss because his whole life has been cricket.

When Sachin almost made me go blind: Atul Ranade

ATUL RANADE recalls a few special incidents from the past

I and Sachin Tendulkar go back a long way, since kindergarten, in fact. I also opened the innings for our school Shardashram in that famous match in which Sachin and Vinod Kambli notched up the 664-run partnership in 1988.

I feel what makes Sachin different is the utmost respect with which he treats all kinds of people. Be it a groundsman or the senior-most cricketer, his behaviour is impeccable and identical. He makes this possible because the respect he shows is immense and straight from the heart.

Many people ask me what makes him go on and on. I think it's the devotion. He sticks to the basics,
does the hard work each day and follows everything with discipline and honesty.

He is mentally very strong. We were training at the Bandra Kurla Complex gymnasium in Mumbai recently, and while I finished in 45 minutes, he went on and on, for hours. He has certain plans in mind and sticks to them faithfully, to the core. He is also very aware that his road is long, and he wants to go the distance. He knows there are no short cuts in life. Sachin feels that he was fortunate to get a chance to get into the Indian team when he was 16 years old and he treasures his place. He doesn't want to let go of that.

His batting has changed over the years, of course, and he has started including new shots in his repertoire, like the upper cut. As a friend, though, he's still the same. He has always been concerned about our families and will do anything to help out. His sincerity and morals come from his father, who always imbibed in him the importance of being humble.

When we were at the Ramakant Achrekar academy, our coach would make us put the nets, roll the pitch and even learn to do things with the outfield. So if the groundsmen were missing, we could still get on with the game. These basics are deeply ingrained in Sachin. He's still the same hungry boy who always wanted to bat and bat.

He's a brat too. Once when we were on the tour to Ahmedabad with the under-15 team, he applied Sloan's balm around my eyes and pretended to be asleep. When I awoke in the middle of the night, I rubbed my eyes and realised they were burning. They seemed to be on fire! I started screaming, ‘‘I can't see anything, I've gone blind!''

Sachin rushed to me and took me to the bathroom and said, ‘‘Apply this cream it will make you feel better.'' The cream was actually a toothpaste and since I couldn't see that too, I rubbed it all over my eyes!

When we catch up these days, we still talk about our schooldays and have a lot of dhamaal!

Atul Ranade has played first-class cricket for Mumbai and Goa

Sachin ton made TRP ratings soar

NEW DELHI: Sachin Tendulkar doesn't merely create batting records. He also does wonder to the TRPs. The Mumbai maestro's sensational 175 off 141 balls last week sent the television ratings soaring to a whopping 7.1, the highest in ODI matches in recent years.

According to Tam Media Research TV ratings, the ratings surpassed the Champions Trophy's highest TRP of 6.2 garnered in the match between India and Pakistan earlier this year. The TRPs increased as the tightly-contested series progressed. The first match had a TRP of 3.6 followed by 4.9 and 5.9 in the second and third games. The Mohali match, which India lost narrowly, had a TRP of 6.1.

The average TRP in the first five matches of the India-Australia series was 5.51, which is higher than the average TRP of 2007 Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa, IPL I in 2008 (4.7), IPL II (4.2) in 2009. Even the average TRPs of the T20 World Cup in England this year was 2.89. This underlines that audience interest in ODIs is far from over.

In 2007, when Australia toured India after the T20 World Cup, the Nagpur match on October 14 had recorded a high TRP of 9.3. It was again a high scoring game and that time India were chasing Australia's 317 and eventually lost by 18 runs.

In that match too Tendulkar had made a run-a-ball 72. The average TRP of the 2007 India-Australia series was higher (6.6) compared to 2009 series. But then, two years ago, T20 was just new to the viewers and the Indians were fresh from a World Cup win in South Africa.

The highest TRP in a single game in the last couple of years has been in the 2007 India-Pakistan T20 final. The game recorded a high of 15.9. Even the IPL final match in 2008 got 9.8. There was a marginal drop to 9.3 in the following year's edition in South Africa.

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi to felicitate Tendulkar

Ahmedabad, Nov 13 (PTI) Batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, who will complete 20 years in international cricket tomorrow, will be felicitated by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi before the start of the first Test match between India and Sri Lanka here, a GCA official said today.

"Sachin will be presented a memento by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is also the GCA president, on Monday before the start of the first day's play at the Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera for completing 20 years in international cricket," Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) secretary, Rajesh Patel told reporters here today.

Sachin, who made his international debut with a Test against Pakistan on November 15, 1989, will be felicitated on behalf of the Gujarat government, Patel added.

The Sardar Patel stadium, built in 1983, has played host to some of the most memorable moments of cricketing history.

I've never seen Tendulkar throw tantrums: Ganguly

What can I say about Sachin Tendulkar that has not already been said or written about? Isn't it enough to say that players of my generation have been lucky to share the dressing room with him?

Having known him from very close quarters right from our days we used to play under- 15 cricket, I have marvelled at the manner in which he has built his career, admired his single-minded approach to batting and the way he has handled fame and fortune.

After I took over the captaincy from him in 2000, I have often benefited from his cricketing wisdom. In my book, there are three aspects to being Sachin Tendulkar: the batsman, the person and the superstar.

The batsman
Simply put, he is the best batsman that I have seen or played with or against. He is head and shoulders above the rest and there is no comparison. Having opened with him in over 200 ODIs and been at the other end of the wicket on hundreds of occasions, I've marvelled at his ability to play shots that lesser mortals would not even think of attempting. With a cricket bat in hand, Sachin is supremely confident. There is no better sight in cricket than Sachin in full flow.

The person
The best thing about Sachin is that despite scaling new peaks of popularity, he has both feet planted firmly on the ground. That's the reason he has not only survived for 20 long years as a top-level athlete but continues to prosper in all walks of life. In life as well as in cricket, Sachin always strikes the right balance. I have no doubt in my mind that he will continue to do the country proud with the bat for as long as he chooses to play.

The superstar
In a cricket-crazy country where everyone wants a piece of him, I have never seen Sachin throw tantrums, on or off the field. He is a role model for the youth and carries himself with dignity. He also has very deep-rooted values and stands by them. He is easily India's biggest sporting icon of his generation.

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