Tendulkar delighted with comeback

In terms of landmarks, it was yet another special occasion for an exceptional performer, but the end result wasn't quite what he would have liked

'I am delighted that everything fell in place today' - Tendulkar © AFP
In terms of landmarks, it was yet another special occasion for an exceptional performer, but the end result wasn't quite what he would have liked. Sachin Tendulkar called his 40th a "special hundred", but also expressed his disappointment at the manner in which the game panned out. Brian Lara, whose side picked up five points for the win, couldn't hide his relief at the result, and was fulsome in his praise for Tendulkar's glorious unbeaten 141.
"We suffered out there as a team," said Lara. "It was difficult for us. But for a guy coming back after six months, it showed how much of a genius he is. We just had to watch it and appreciate it, and it was a very special innings for India."
Tendulkar didn't dispute that assessment. "It was a difficult surface to bat on and I was playing after six months, so I'm quite happy with the fact that I got a hundred," he said. "The depression in the track meant you had to play differently to try to execute those plans, and I am delighted that everything fell in place today."
Everything except the result. "I am obviously disappointed that the game was interrupted," he said. "It's always more satisfying if you have contributed and the team has won. West Indies still had 170 runs to get, which is quite a lot. They had a couple of extremely experienced players at the crease, but on a surface like that, anything was possible. The field restrictions were off, so runs wouldn't have come so easily either."
Though he reckoned that his team were handily placed, Lara also agreed that the rain had favoured West Indies. "India had the runs on the board and any team would love that," he said. "But the way Chris [Gayle] and [Rammaresh] Sarwan set up the game, we had to continue in the same vein. Having said that, the job still had to be done. I'm sure India would have loved the game to finish, but in our position we didn't mind what happened.
"We knew we were in front at that point in time but unfortunately the weather played a part. We had our eyes on that. I think it was well-poised even though we were batting very well. There were still 30 overs to go, and 170 runs to get. It was a very good match, spoilt by rain."
Both men spoke at length about the surface, surprising in itself given that so many runs were scored for the loss of so few wickets. "The depression was evident even before the first ball, you could not miss that," observed Tendulkar, when asked about the ridge that flummoxed several Indian batsmen. "In a situation like that, you try and keep it out of your minds and watch the ball closely, play it late. We planned accordingly."
I'm living a dream, and every time I step on to the field, it's with a lot of enthusiam and excitement
Lara wasn't overly critical either, saying: "I thought it was a very good pitch other than the ridge. Taking that into consideration, Tendulkar played a magnificent innings. Generally, 90% of the pitch was really good. The ridge wasn't a problem for left-handers. We had quite a few, especially up in the top four, and India didn't. The wickets that fell on their side, the likes of Dravid, Sehwag and Dhoni, you could say it was because of the state of the pitch."
Tendulkar also shed some light on his time away from the game, and how he had steeled himself for the time when he next faced a ball in international cricket. While expressing his disappointment at having missed out on a tour of the Caribbean, he said: "I'd planned a programme and was following that. I played a few practice games in London [for Lashings and for a World XI], and when I came back to Mumbai, it was raining so I had to practise with a rubber ball. I had five or six sessions in Bangalore and Chennai, and played a couple of practice games. That was a bonus."
The last time he had such a long lay-off, following surgery on a tennis-elbow problem, he announced his comeback with a dazzling 93 against Sri Lanka at Nagpur in October 2005. Tendulkar made it clear that such statements of intent were important, even for a bonafide legend. "On both occasions, I was coming off serious injuries, after surgeries which were huge setbacks," he said. "You need to keep fighting back and be mentally strong."
There was also a quiet sense of satisfaction at the fact that he batted through the innings, for only the second time in 364 matches. "I'm quite happy I lasted 50 overs," he said. "Even till the end, I was running hard between the wickets, and that is a reflection of what I have been doing in the last few months. It's the first time I have batted the distance since [doing it against] New Zealand in Hyderabad [1999], and I will be happy if it becomes a habit."
Having been booed by his home crowd and subjected to "Endulkar" headlines over the past year, Tendulkar also spoke of how easy it was to motivate himself for each new challenge. "Cricket has been my life, to be honest," he said with the same earnestness that was his hallmark as a teenager. "I'm living a dream, and every time I step on to the field, it's with a lot of enthusiam and excitement. If I find it a burden, I will know when to step back and step aside."
That time clearly hasn't arrived.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo