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October 17, 2008
It was about 15 minutes into Sachin Tendulkar's press conference. He had answered wide-ranging questions, not all pertaining to the match or his record. Before the next question came his way, the media coordinator asked him if he would like to continue. Tendulkar moved away from the mike, and although he could not be heard, it seemed he said something to the effect of "Why not?" The press conference continued for the next 11 minutes, way longer than the ones at the end of a day's play.
Tendulkar was in that kind of mood. He looked animated, spoke in three languages - English, Hindi and Marathi - and looked relieved and happy, and was subtly funny. He started off by admitting that although the record was not a big distraction, the anticipation around it did mean something. "During all the talk about the record, I concentrated on how to score runs for the team, but everybody I used to meet would talk about only one thing. Now that it is done, I know I wouldn't be asked the same question again and again."
On a personal level, he doesn't have a "what next" now? "I started as a 16-year-old, and there was no targets then," he said. "I just wanted to go enjoy every moment. That is what I like to continue with - not to think of too many things and complicate my game in the process.
"I have not played for records. I can't be running after every record [answering a query about breaking Brian Lara's 400]. I would be looking after what the team needs. The team obviously needs it. If it comes my way, I will take it. If it doesn't come, there will be no regrets."
Despite that attitude there must have been moments when he would have realised he could end up the leading run-getter in both Tests and ODIs. "As the career progresses, there is sub-consciousness mind starts thinking about it," he said. "You know that people start talking about it the records. That is how you are aware of all these things.
"There have been occasions that I didn't know how many runs I needed [to get to the record]. A couple of team-mates did not believe. I was willing to swear on anyone that I don't know. That is when they believed. The beauty is just to go out and play, and while doing that the records were meant to be broken and various milestones achieved."
What was he thinking when it happened? The steer towards the third-man boundary that got him past Brian Lara? "When I looked up, obviously I had two thoughts in my mind," he said. "One was I thanked the almighty and the second, I thanked my father. Today I miss him. He would definitely be a proud man, and I just thought of him."
Sourav Ganguly was a special partner to have when the record happened. He reminded Tendulkar of the fact that he was his partner when Tendulkar got his 35th century. "If you can remember that in the middle of all that ..."
He also dedicated the record to Ramakant Achrekar, his childhood coach, his family who have been by his side "whether or not he did well", and especially "my mother".
Almost in paternal manner, he subtly put his critics in their place. "I don't need to prove anything to anyone," he said. "I have been around for 19 years, and those 19 years I did not play cricket to prove anything to anyone, whether it was first year of my cricket or 10th, or 15th, or 19th.
"I'm not here to answer to what x, y and z is writing or saying about me. It is their opinions, and I don't take all those opinions seriously ... But sometimes I don't know how they can figure out what's going on in my mind when sometimes I myself can't figure that out."
That was the only time he sounded mildly sour, but only mildly. The talk eventually went back to the celebration when he got the record. "The duration [of the fireworks] was bit worrying." When a journalist informed him they had planned 11,954 crackers, he said, "Eventually I figured out it was 11,954 crackers or something like that."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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