'This was the right time to stop'
The full transcript of Sachin Tendulkar's press conference, a day after retiring from international cricket following the second Test against West Indies in his hometown of Mumbai
You have played international cricket for 24 years. Does it feel like a dream?
To have played cricket for the country was the most important thing for me. In those 24 years, different challenges presented themselves, but the desire to play for the country was so intense that solutions presented themselves too. In finding those solutions, the family was a big help, coaches, friends, players, they were all with me. This was a dream journey. Last night when I sat alone - until know, I don't know why it has not sunk in that I am not going to play more cricket. Somewhere or the other I will go and play. I think to talk about the 24 years, I can say in short that it has been a dream journey, and I have no regrets leaving. I felt this was the right time. It was a very enjoyable journey.
But the fans don't want you to end this journey. And where does this journey take you from here?
Cricket has been my life. As I said in an interview earlier, cricket is my oxygen. Out of 40 years of my life, almost 30 years have gone playing proper cricket. That's 75% of my life. I will be associated with cricket at some level. Maybe not in the immediate future. I have played cricket for 24 years, it has been only 24 hours since retirement, and I think I should get at least 24 days to relax before deciding these things.
How did you make the decision? We definitely didn't feel you had stopped enjoying the game.
I was enjoying no doubt. Honestly, I have always maintained that the day I get the feeling I should stop, I will tell you. I remember the retirement talk has been going on for years, my answer was the same. You have to appreciate that there were many injuries during the 24 years. It wasn't easy to overcome it. At some point in your life, your body gives you the message, "Enough. Enough of this physical load." The body requires rest. I thought the body is refusing to take that load consistently. If I have to train, it was becoming an effort. Earlier training sessions used to happen by themselves. Nowadays sometimes I even felt that I should just sit and watch TV. That's when question marks arise. So when I tried to look for answers to those questions, I found out this was the perfect time to leave the game.
After that I requested the BCCI that these two matches be my last. And if possible, hold the last match in Mumbai. Because until this Test my mother had never seen me face a single ball. My mother never told me she wanted to come to the match. I wanted it to be a surprise for her, but thanks to you all she came to know. This match became really really special.
You have always said, "I am Sachin. I play for India."
Even though physically I am not 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, it really doesn't matter. India always comes first, and then the rest.
After Bharat Ratna, how does Sir Sachin Tendulkar sound?
Well, sar to abhi jagah pe hai [the head is still in its place]. We'll see the rest later.
Is Bharat Ratna the best award you have got from the nation?
It was really, really important. Yesterday I said this award 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 realise what your parents have to go through to make you happy. They have sacrificed everything. The beauty about it is, till this day I was never told that we did this for you, when you grow up, you realise all things. That's the reason this award is for my mother. I would like to go a step forward. Not just my mother, but like my mother there are millions and millions of other mothers that make sacrifices for their children. I am humbled and honoured that this award has been bestowed upon me.
This is for my contribution to cricket. When you are growing up, all you want to do is, go out and do your best, score hundreds, get wickets, take catches, get run-outs, win matches, and keep getting better. I have tried to do just that. While doing that, people have appreciated my performance. The way the people have responded has given me the strength to go out and repeat the performance. The award belongs to the entire nation, I would say. Truly honoured. Also at this stage, I would like to congratulate Professor CNR Rao for receiving the Bharat Ratna. It's a great honour for me to be named alongside Dr Rao. His contribution to the field of science is immense. It's just that cricket is played in front of thousands and thousands in a stadium, and whatever he has done has not happened in front of thousands. His contribution has been immense.
Was it a dampener that your final series came against a weak team?
Please understand that West Indies have world-class players. This sport is a great leveller. There are ups and downs. There have been a few occasions when we haven't fared well. We have been in that boat to know how it feels. There are certain times when things don't work out. I would say it was just one of those things when things didn't work out for them. They are a terrific side, and play in the right spirit. As long as you turn up to give your best and play cricket in the way it is meant to be played, according to me they scored full marks for them.
Any academy in the pipeline to bring up more Sachins?
It's a nice thought. I will definitely be involved with cricket. Even before I retired, I spent time with youngsters from under-19 teams and Ranji teams. Just that I haven't made those interactions public. I like interacting with players. It's nice to share your knowledge, and understand their problems. It teaches you more about the game. I have thoroughly enjoyed those interactions. I will continue to do so. They may not be done publicly, they may be done quietly and in a low-profile way, but I would like to help the youngsters, the next generations. Just share my thoughts, and be involved with cricket.
You went back to the pitch yesterday. Can you talk about that?
I knew that never ever in my life I would get to do that in an international match. That is where it all started. Those 22 yards have given me everything in my life. Whatever I have today is because I spent time within those 22 yards. It's like a temple for me. I just wanted to say a big thank you to cricket. Every time I go to bat, I touch the wicket and take blessings. That's what I did yesterday. I didn't say publicly. I just thanked cricket for everything I got in my life. It was as simple as that. Nothing complicated.
It was a very emotional moment. I remember when I made the decision to retire, I don't think I was this emotional because I knew this was the right decision. I grew emotional when the players gave me the send-off, and when I was talking to the wicket. Whenever I see that particular moment on TV, I become emotional. Otherwise I knew this was the right decision. Just the thought that I would never be able to go there to represent India, I became emotional about that.
Did your coach say well done finally?
I have reached this level because of Sir [Ramakant Achrekar], and he and my brother Ajit have been a team - on and off the field… Off the field at home… Sir has been the reason I got this far, Sir and other coaches. Sir had told me he didn't want it to go to my head and become complacent, and never said, "well played." That was why I jokingly said in the speech that he could take the chance and say "well played" as I didn't have to play anymore competitive cricket. When I got the Bharat Ratna, Sir called me, and finally said, "Well done." That gave me immense joy.
How difficult was it to work with the injuries?
During the injuries, it was very difficult. All the injuries to me were uncommon. To overcome them and play back wasn't that easy. Every time there were different goals. You sometimes had only two months to come back fit in, so do whatever you can do in those two months. But it wasn't like I could work harder and harder and shorten the recovery time from three months to two months. Nature plays a big part in recovery. You have to respect nature.
For example, after the tennis elbow, it took me four-and-a-half months after the surgery. The doctor had told me it would take that much time, but I tried to start earlier, and couldn't do it. The challenges were immense. At times it felt it was all over, and I won't be able to lift a bat again. After the tennis-elbow surgery, I couldn't even lift Arjun's plastic bat. When I went to practice for the first time after that surgery, the kids were fielding my powerful hits at 10-15 yards. I felt then that I won't be able to play anymore. That pressure is entirely different. It was a difficult phase. I want to thank the people who helped me during that time.
You relationship with Ajit Tendulkar was very important.
It was a dream relationship. When I represented the country, at the same time I represented Ajit. I can't express in words what he has done for me. When I met him yesterday, he didn't show the emotions, but I could see he was relieved and relaxed. The response of the people, the love they showed you, you can't plan for that. God decided these things, and I am grateful to God for having given me a day like yesterday. I think Ajit would have felt the same. We didn't say much afterwards, but I got the sense that he too was relieved that the day had gone well and thanked God.
What was the feeling when you woke up this morning?
I woke up at 6.50 in the morning. I go according to my body clock. Yesterday too I woke up at 6.50 in the morning. When I woke up, I suddenly realised that I don't need to have a quick shower and get ready for the match. I made myself a cup of tea, and enjoyed a nice breakfast with my wife. It was a relaxed morning.
I spent a lot of time responding to the wishes that a lot of people had sent. Thanking them for all the support and all the good wishes. The morning was pretty much relaxed. I am here in front of you.
How difficult has it been? Has it sunk in yet?
When I went to the wicket, and I stood there, I realised this is the last time I am standing in front of a packed stadium actually as a part of the Indian team. This would never happen. That was very emotional. I couldn't control my tears. Knowing that I would never have a cricket bat in my hand playing for India was very very emotional. There have been wonderful moments, and I could think of all those things. It happened very fast.
You would have noticed, I didn't want to be rude, but I could not look up when I was shaking hands, including with West Indies players, because I was in tears, and I didn't want anyone to see my face that way. It's hard to express what I felt, but in spite of all these things I knew the decision was correct. I know the decision is right.
How did your parents react to your cricket?
The beauty about my family is, they never lost balance. Whether I lost a hundred or 15-20, it didn't matter. 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 and offer those sweets to the Almighty, thanking the Almighty for everything that had happened in my life. That process continued. Even yesterday my mother told me she had kept sweets in front of God. That continues. It will never stop. It is something I have learnt over the years from my parents. Their reaction to me when I got back from any tour was never related to the way I performed. It was more about parents and their child.
Are you happy with your last innings, 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 guesthouse. 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 you want Arjun Tendulkar to do in cricket?
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 a pen in my hand 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.
What were your best and most disappointing moments in your cricket life?
The best moment. I will say that was when we won the World Cup here two years ago. It was my dream to win the World Cup. I had to wait for 22 years, it is a long period. That God showed me that was very special. I will also say that yesterday was also a very special day for me. The way people responded to me. I don't know how to react. I would like to say big thank you to everyone. It was very very 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 sportsman, I was also disappointed.
How do you enjoy interacting with youngsters whom you have inspired? Any cricketer whose success you have 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 that 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% correct. If you are prepared to understand what they are also telling you, 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 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 squad I would still do that. It was about talking cricket, breathing cricket, it's all about cricket. It doesn't matter at what stage of life you are in, and I enjoyed talking cricket with various players, and it was fun.
Will you lead the 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 to 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 interest was in how I could make more runs and how I could perform better. Beyond that, I didn't think much about the critics.
What do you want to tell others who are working hard in their 40s and who think their childhood has ended because you have retired?
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 has always brought out that child-like 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 should continue have 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 so important. It is as simple as that.