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April 16, 2001
Nobody can become like God, says Sachin Tendulkar, laughing away with palpable embarrassment an Australian player's comment that he was like God in India.
"I am a normal person who plays cricket," he remonstrates when asked to comment on the tribute by Matthew Hayden, Australia's new batting sensation, in a Sydney newspaper article few days ago.
Having affirmed that he was a mere mortal, the Indian batting maestro points at his own weaknesses - he is tense virtually before every game, he takes defeat badly and he tries to over-attack bowlers.
Only days ago, 27-year-old Tendulkar became the first batsman to score 10,000 runs in one-day cricket. He thinks he might play for another decade or so but will not disclose if he has set any goals for himself.
All he would like to be remembered as is "someone who was a good trier for the country and did a decent job of it." "I will be very happy if people miss me after I stop," he said in an interview to PTI. Following is the text of the interview:
Q: How do you react to comments such as the recent one by Australian batsman Matthew Hayden who wrote that Tendulkar is like God in India and people believe good luck shines in his hand?
A: Well I just feel that it is nice of him to have given that compliment. All I want to say right now is that I am very happy with the way things have gone. You know it is all because people have always supported me, encouraged me all the time. But I do not think anyone can become God or even come close to it. I have played cricket and I have enjoyed cricket. I just feel happy that I have done something for the country.
Q: You also think that God's blessings are with you?
A: Absolutely. Without that it cannot happen. It is also the family support and right guidance from the family members. Otherwise, it is always difficult.
Q: So you are not a God. You are a mere mortal like anyone else?
A: Yes, I am a normal person who plays cricket and you know people watch me play and they get pleasure out of it. So I am nothing more than that.
Q: Does this kind of adulation - not just a comment like this by an Australian player - but the adulation you get from this huge country - does it put enormous pressure on you?
A: It does not put pressure because I feel I have to live upto my own expectations. People are going to expect little more than what is required and there is no (no) end to it. If I score 150 today, tomorrow they would expect me to score 200, and 250 the third day. So if I can be little more realistic and live up to my own expectations, I think I will do a decent job. And that is what I always try and do.
Q: You do it wonderfully well. When you go out to bat particularly before the Indian crowds what goes through your mind? You have nearly 100,000 people in a stadium like Eden Gardens in Calcutta. What goes through your mind at that time?
A: I do get tensed and worked up. That is only till I go to the crease and once I have reached the crease, I am pretty okay after that. I sort of like that feeling because it always keeps you on your toes.
Q: Are you tensed up before any particular match?
A: I am tensed virtually before every game. I feel that pressure all the time. Once I have gone in the middle then I am pretty okay.
Q: A doctor who examined you for your back problem during the Delhi Test against Pakistan (in 1999) said later that you are very tense which is not good for the long term. Have you learnt to relax now?
A: Sometimes little more and sometimes not as much. But this is always going to happen that way. But looking at the opposition I think it varies a lot, and I will have to cope with that and try and find a solution. And try a little bit to calm myself so that it does not put any pressure.
Q: Do you take defeat badly?
A: I don't like losing. I feel one should not get used to losing because that is the most terrible thing to happen. Because everybody is out there to perform well for the country and the habit of losing is contagious. You know if one guy is not affected then the other one also feels okay, it is fine. There is always the next game and that next game never comes. I feel one should not take it lightly. When it comes to playing for India we should be looking at winning all the games. But that is not going to happen always. Still, we should be looking at winning all the games.
Q: 10,000 runs, 28 centuries and 100 wickets in one-day cricket, 25 Test centuries, an average of around 57. What other goals have you set for yourself?
A: Basically I am enjoying this moment right now and I think the most important thing for me to do right now is to concentrate on what I am doing right now and keep enjoying. That probably might be the secret for playing for another seven, eight or nine years, or whatever years I have got.
Q: At least ten I guess...
A: I will try. But you know the idea is to enjoy the game and those years will fly by I am sure.
Q: Do you have any specific goals now in your mind?
A: Not really and I am not focussing my energy in this direction. I feel if I focus my energy on what I am doing, that is going to help me more. I know every person sets a goal and the target one would like to reach. You know right now I have not really thought about it and I feel this is a nice patch where I am enjoying my game.
Q: Perhaps too early to set the goals?
A: I think so. I should not think what I have to achieve. Rather I prefer to go out in the middle and score as many runs as possible. Maybe towards the fag end, I will say okay fine I have achieved this, I can end up here.
Q: When you finally hang up the bat 10 years, 12 years, 15 years from now what would be like to be remembered for most as a cricketer?
A: Somebody who was a good trier for the country and did a decent job for the country.
Q: And brought great joy to the people...
A: I am sure if one plays for maybe for 10, 15 years, that is one aspect where one looks into. I will be very happy if people miss me after I stop.
Q: Up there at the very top which contemporary batsman do you regard as your competitor for being called as world's best batsman?
A: I do not think one should be comparing. But I just admire a lot of good players and a couple of names I can mention, Steve Waugh and the other is Brian Lara.
Q: Among bowlers?
A: I think Glenn McGrath has done a fantastic job. McGrath, Alan Donald and Muralitharan have done a good job.
Q: During this last series lot of people thought you had got under the skin of McGrath, that you got the better of him.
A: I just felt that I should go out and play my natural game.
Q: You did not come out pre-determined and blast like you did in Nairobi?
A: Not at all. Nairobi also was not a pre-determined decision. I just went there and analysed the situation. I felt if I do like this that will set the tempo. The other players will also continue to do so. That was surely going to help, I felt. So, it was a decision taken on the ground.
Q: So there is no such thing like Sachin-McGrath and Sachin- Warne war?
A: Well to a certain extent. I would say last time it was I and Warne, and now this time people at times paired me with Glenn McGrath. But it is after all India playing Australia. It is not a single wicket tournament with the competition between McGrath and me.
Q: Australians make it clear that they are targeting certain players and they make no bones about it. Do you then decide that you must hit back?
A: There are times where you go there and you actually analyse the situation and you feel this is the time to counter-attack or this is the time to stay calm and see through this hour and the next hour I can negotiate. I personally feel that one can plan a lot of things but once you go there in the middle it might be a different situation altogether. You have to analyse the situation once you have gone in the middle.
Q: What do you think about the Australians as competitors? Obviously they are very tough.
A: I think they are very good competitors and that's how it should be for whatever happens it happens on the ground. It only happens because both the sides want to win desperately. So everything is forgotten off the field. There might be few words exchanged here and there but that is only either to unsettle the bowler or to get the batsman out.
Q: We saw the unusual sight of you and Steve Waugh recently getting into a bit of exchange of words...
A: That is only to.... you know one has to do it sometimes to unsettle the batsman, maybe that was the reason.
Q: Are you saying that you tried to unsettle Steve Waugh?
A: Yeah. It works either way. It was not that I was on top of somebody's head. But you know just a comment and try to unsettle him so that he might play a rash shot. We get a crucial wicket and we stand a better chance to win.
Q: Do they try to do it to you?
A: There were a few words exchanged here or there. Sometimes you retaliate, sometimes you don't. That's what competitive cricket is all about. Just because both the sides want to win desperately.
Q: Now in the recent series there were comments that Ganguly gave it back word for word. Steve Waugh went back to Australia and said he does not get along well with him but he thinks Ganguly is the best person to lead India now. Do you share that view?
A: I think it has started and we proved (successful) as a team by beating Australia. That is a good achievement and I would like to congratulate all the team members and not only the captain but also all the players. I think it was because of tremendous efforts put in by all the team members.
Q: What will this Australian series do to Indian cricket in the long run?
A: I think it has given us tremendous confidence and the next goal as far as I feel is to go abroad and win a good series. I think the real test would be against South Africa in South Africa.
Q: The emergence of Laxman as a top order batsman, does that reduce...
A: He has done a tremendous job. All the people have really enjoyed his batting throughout the series and he is a tremendous player. All he requires now is to keep his head down, watch the ball and keep scoring runs.
Q: Does his emergence reduce the pressure on you?
A: I have not been really thinking... I have got to hear from a lot of guys that the team heavily depends on me and if I fail the team does not perform well. I do not believe that. I feel there are ten other players who are playing the same game and trying as hard. So sometimes it clicks and sometimes it doesn't click. We just have to make it sure that it clicks more often than it fails.
Q: So if you have some guys like Laxman and Dravid and some others coming good that probably gives you more freedom to...
A: It is a wonderful sight because he is a great player and plays some terrific shots and when you see someone playing those kind of shots from the other end, one would like to stay there because that kind of partnership is so demoralising for the opposition.
Q: By instinct you are a very attacking batsman. But sometimes it seems you over-attack such as in the last one-dayer against Australia. Do you think sometimes you over-attack?
A: It does happen because maybe there are times when I try to completely dominate and I do not think that is the right thing to do. One should not be looking at dominating and one should look at playing positive cricket.
Q: When you dominate you bring thrill to the whole country...
A: There are times when I try and hit very hard and that is where I need to relax a bit and play a long innings.
Q: How do you react to the view attributed to Barry Richards that you are not as good a player on fast tracks like Australia, West Indies and South Africa as you are in the sub-continent?
A: I have not reacted to that because that is his opinion and I do not think I should be reacting to his opinion because some other players might have some other opinion. I have never reacted to anyone's opinion and taken it in my stride and I do not need to talk much about what I have done. It is for the people to see.
Q: In more than 10 years of international cricket which has been your happiest moment?
A: There have been quite a lot of happy moments. I mean whenever we win we really like that feeling and that kind of feeling one would want to get used to.
Q: Some things from which you derived lot of personal satisfaction?
A: When you win and specially when you contribute heavily then that is an added satisfaction. Besides cricket, family gives me a lot of joy. The time I spend at home I think that is something I really look forward to. I cannot compare this with anything in the world.
Q: When did you feel very bad on the cricket field? Say, when we lost to West Indies...
A: Yeah, I felt very bad. In West Indies it was very disappointing. Also when we lost to Pakistan in Madras.
Q: Among the younger batsmen emerging in India would you like to name a few because that is a lot of encouragement for them?
A: There are quite a lot of them. I think... the only thing I do not want to do is I should not miss out on some names as it would demoralise someone. There are promising youngsters coming up and one would have to just wait and see the talent.
Q: And those who have made their debut like Badani ...
A: I think he is a terrific guy and very hard working, very sincere, very honest, which is the most important thing. He is a very talented player. I think he has got a very good future.
Q: And others like S S Das etc...
A: Yes. Even S S Das is very good. I am sure he will serve India for a long time and that is what one is looking at. He is a talented batsman and a quick learner.
Q: Among the bowlers I am sure you would appreciate Harbhajan.
A: Yeah. Harbhajan I always felt was a good bowler. Even in 1999 when we went to Australia I had picked him up because I had lot of confidence in him. I think he is a tremendous bowler and he knows what he is capable of. I just feel very happy for him, he has achieved so much. I hope there is lot more to happen in his life.
Q: Other youngsters like Zaheer Khan, what do you think of them?
A: I think he is also very talented. Zaheer and Ajit (Agarkar) and other youngsters are also very talented. All they have to do is get their acts together and make it happen on the ground.
Q: After this series, do you think we have buried the ghost of match fixing, the damage that had been done to Indian cricket by betting and match fixing? Has that been put behind us?
A: I hope so. People are really enjoying the game and it has come back to what it used to be. And this is where the game belongs. People have really enjoyed the series in both the forms of cricket, Tests and one dayers. Hopefully that chapter is closed by now.
Q: Do you have something to say to the administrators of the game? Use of technology for instance. Lots of people are in favour of using the third umpire more. What are your views on that?
A: I think if the facility is there then there has to be a thorough discussion and a proper decision should be made.
Q: So technology should be used...
A: If it is there, why not?
Q: About the preparation of wickets in India, do you have any suggestions?
A: I think all our domestic cricket should be played on good wickets where there is lot of bounce and lateral movement.
Q: Which is not happening now.
A: Yeah, which is not happening now. I feel so.
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