Nov 15, 2009

I am living a dream !

India is a cricket-crazy nation. It really surprises me how Hockey still exists as the National game. Come on! How many Indians watch Cricket & Hockey ?
There will be no surprise if Hockey is ousted by Cricket as the national game. People play in streets & lanes, parks & grounds, farms... everywhere we see cricket... But very few, play the game with an intention to represent the Country at the international stage. After that, very few stay in the "playing eleven" for a long time. If we ask anyone to name the best of them, the answer is evident. Touching 20 years at the international stage, the Little master & blaster, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is living a dream. From a kid, till this moment, playing for India has always been his dream. He is still fresh, energetic, active & innovative. I don't know how many have noted it, but Sachin invents new shots even now.
A flick of a bouncer that goes beyond the keeper and slips to the 3rd man boundary is a fine example of how well he is focusing on the game and improving himself everyday. They call it "The upper cut" or "Limbo Cut". I will be surprised to see any other batsmen in the world would try to PLAY such a deadly bouncer. Whatever it is, just see it !

As a human being, he has always been an inspiration to me. I like the way he dominates the game. His passion and dedication, it's just mind-blowing. This is my takeaway.
Wherever you are, Whatever you do, Be the Best !
This is what sachin has taught me. I like him very much and wish him the very best. I wish India wins the 2011 World Cup as sachin leaves the centre stage after that. For a man of his kind, he definitely deserves lifting the World Cup atleast once.
Below is an Interview from the master after completing 20 years in international cricket.

Twenty years at the top, how do you look back on your career?

It has been a beautiful journey. Wearing the India cap has always meant a lot to me. That's what I dreamt of as a child. Cricket has been my passion, my life. And I have enjoyed every moment of it.
On a personal level, which achievement really makes you proud?

I felt extremely proud the day I was selected to play for India. Since then, each day has been full of surprises, happy surprises on most occasions. If India does well when I play well and that gives joy to millions, I am grateful to God.
What sacrifices have you, and people around you, made to survive the hard grind?

I would like to stress that my brother, Ajit, was actively involved with my game since I was a kid. Later on, my wife, Anjali, has been a huge pillar of strength and support. Besides, my mother and other family members have always been there for me. Even my kids have learnt to live with the fact that their father has to be away playing cricket for a number of days.

What kind of role have the people of the country played in your success?

Without the support of a billion people, it wouldn't have been possible. I value their love, their wishes, their prayers, their kindness. I thank each one of them from the bottom of my heart.

How do you prepare yourself for a match? Do you still get butterflies in the stomach before every game?

I like to keep things normal. I take enough rest before a game to ensure that the body and mind are fresh. I still get butterflies in my stomach. When they play the national anthem before a match, I even get goosepimples. That is the way the body prepares.

What is the key to your amazing run-making ability? Tell us about your thought process when you are at the batting crease...

I just concentrate hard on each and every ball and try to play it on its merit. The key is to stay still and look closely at what the bowler wants to do. Mentally too, you should be focused because you have just a fraction of a second to play the ball. How you think is extremely important because there's always something going on in your mind. So I need to focus, apply myself and concentrate hard. When I am in the zone, I see only the bowler and the ball and nothing else. That's also the time when I am batting at my best.

Is temperament really more important than technique?

Yes, I think temperament is extremely important. One has to be mentally tough. If you are not tough, you are not going to make runs. The guys who have scored runs in the past, they've all not been technically correct. So technique is not the only thing. In the end, everything boils down to putting bat to ball. The adjustment is very crucial too, and the hand-eye coordination.

Only good batsmen make ugly hundreds. Did you?

There are times when the conditions are tough. The bowlers are on top and you haven't got used to the pace of the wicket. A good batsman must go through the grind when he is not happy about the movement of his feet or is having problems in coming to terms with the pitch. Even if he is not in good nick, he will stay at the wicket, do the hard work and gradually overcome all obstacles.

In the 1999 World Cup you rushed back home from England and then returned to score a hundred. How difficult was that?

That was the toughest part of my career. It is hard to explain what I went through. My father passed away in the middle of the tournament and I took the first flight home to attend the funeral. When my mother saw me, she said, ‘Why have you come home, you should be playing (for the country). That is what your father would have liked'. So I attended the funeral and went back. I was very emotional and wasn't thinking about the match because my mind was preoccupied. I remember we were playing Kenya and on the morning of the match, I had tears in my eyes. Somehow I gathered myself and as luck would have it, I hit a hundred. When I reached there, I looked up and raised my bat to the heavens in the belief that my father would be watching. Again, I had tears in my eyes. It was a very difficult phase.

A year earlier in 1998, you had single-handedly almost won a Test match against Pakistan in Chennai. How tough was that?

One of the worst moments of my career. Actually, we were cruising to victory. I was playing in pain and after I went past my hundred, it started to get worse. I was finding it extremely difficult to stay on my feet. So I decided to go for my shots and even hit four boundaries before falling to Saqlain Mushtaq's doosra. Then the tail crumbled and we lost a Test which we ought to have won. After the match, there was deafening silence in the dressing room. Everyone had tears in their eyes.

But you eventually made up by playing that memorable 98 against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup...

Yeah, I did! India-Pakistan matches had an extra edge those days. Even before the start of the World Cup, all my friends were looking forward to the D-day. To be honest, I was a bit tense on the eve of the match. I didn't sleep well in the nights leading up to that game. Pakistan had put up a fighting total of 274 and during the break I shut myself out from everything. I listened to music and tried to focus on the task at hand. My feet were moving well and we had a few big overs early on. That gave us the momentum. I enjoyed playing my shots and taking on Akram, Waqar and Shoaib. It was memorable.

Which loss hurt you more, the 1996 World Cup semifinal or the 2003 World Cup final?

It has to be the loss in 2003, because till the finals we had done exceedingly well. We had got off to a shaky start in the tournament but gradually picked up and were peaking at the right time. Maybe we were over-aggressive or over-excited about going out and winning the big final against Australia.

After the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, you had to play a Test in Chennai. What was going through your mind on the eve of the match, in which you ended up scoring a match-winning century on the final day?

It wasn't the best time to play cricket but then life has to go on. What happened was a terrible thing and we could only sympathize with those who had lost their near and dear ones. The feeling in the camp was, if by doing well we can provide some solace, or even take their minds off what had happened, then it was worth playing.

On the last day, when I was batting well, my mind went back to the Test we lost to Pakistan at the same venue. I was determined to stay till the end. When Yuvraj came out, I told him there was no way we are going to let this slip away. He batted brilliantly and we won by six wickets. That victory gave me a lot of joy and satisfaction because it came at a very important time for the country.

You have played under several captains. Who would you rate as the best ?

They have all been good in their own way. But if I have to pick just one, I would say Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He is aggressive yet calm. He doesn't display much emotion. We have similar thought-processes on the field.

You recently said that your batting was a mix of Sunil Gavaskar and Viv Richards'. Did the great West Indian ever speak to you about your game?

It happened after the 2007 World Cup. We were going through a bad patch and there was criticism from all quarters. Viv called me up and we spoke at length. He said, ‘Don't lose heart. Just keep working hard, enjoy the game and everything will be fine.' Coming from one of my idols, it meant a lot to me.

As a kid, did you sometimes sleep with a bat near the pillow?

Of course, I did. Like other kids, I would also visualize myself waving the bat to the stands. I always believed that I would play for the country. I am living a dream.

When did you actually start believing that you were indeed good enough to survive at the highest level?

After I played my second Test match (Faisalabad) in Pakistan. I scored 59. That's when I thought that I belonged in that league. It gave me confidence that I can play Test cricket for a long time.

Did you ever feel that you were out of form in the course of these two decades?

I don't think there is any cricketer who has never been out of form. There are times when your feet don't move well or your head is not right. After all, it's a body, not a machine. Every cricketer goes through rough patches. I take these things as a challenge.

Did you ever fear being dropped from the playing eleven?

Never. However, I have never taken my place in the team for granted.

How often did you play in excruciating pain?

That happens quite often. One cannot be 100% fit all the time. You know when you can play through the pain and when you can't. As long as you can manage, you do it.

How is it possible for a man of your accomplishments to be so grounded in a cricket-crazy nation like ours?

It hasn't been a big deal (for me). My family has had a huge role to play in my success. They made a lot of sacrifices. My father was a very balanced person and nobody in the family got carried away with my success. It has everything to do with my upbringing. Of course, my family does feel happy and proud every time I do well but nobody goes over the top. We do celebrate in our own way, but we basically keep it simple.

Can you tell us about some of the dressing room pranks you've played on your colleagues?

There have been many. Sometimes, we lock up players when they are in the toilet. Every day I am up to something new. It keeps the dressing room in good humour.

Can other players dare to play pranks on you?

Of course, they do. There's no one-way traffic here. Bhajji, Viru, Yuvi are the usual suspects. But we all enjoy it.

What has cricket taught you as a player and as a person?

Cricket has taught me most of the things in life. I got to travel the world and meet different people and that experience has made me a better person. Most of all, it has taught me to be humble. It has also taught me to deal with various challenges differently and look at life positively.

How much has the game evolved in the last two decades? Has it got any easier?

It hasn't got easier but it has become faster. It has become more competitive. There's also much more media attention; nobody wants to miss out on anything. Everything around cricket has changed in a big way. I think the response to faster cricket (T20, ODIs) has been fantastic. But, I would like to stress that Test cricket remains the ultimate challenge for any cricketer. The true test of skill and character, and also the ability to adapt to various conditions, can only be judged in Test cricket.

Which ones do you rate as your top three Test hundreds and top three ODI innings?

In Tests, it has to be my first Test hundred (119*) at Old Trafford against England (1990), my hundred (114) at Perth against Australia (1992) and my last hundred against England (103*) in Chennai (2008). In the One-dayers, my hundred (138) in Colombo in the final of the Compaq Cup series (2009), then the one against Australia (117*) in the first final of the tri-series (2008) and my hundred (134) in Sharjah in the finals against Australia (1998).

What would Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar like to be remembered for?

As someone who always put the country and team first, as someone who always gave his 100%. Also, as one who played the game with passion and in the right spirit and took great pride in representing India.

Source: TOI
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