(This interview was done on 25 March, 2012 after Sachin achieved the milestone of becoming the first person to score a hundred centuries in Tests and ODIs)
There are few occasions when Sachin Tendulkar literally lets his guard down. It doesn't ever happen on the cricket field but then there are a few times when he invites the media in and let's them ask him all they want to. When he got the 100th ton, it represented a huge landmark for him and all those associated with him. To mark that special moment, he gave the media a free-wheeling interview that spoke about everything one might have ever wanted him to say.
What do personal records mean in a team game?
When you contribute towards the team, trying to achieve the team’s cause, that is when the records are created. No one first looks to create records and then looks to achieve the team’s cause. Before any game, the team has a goal and while chasing that goal if certain records are set, it becomes a landmark and big news, but in our team meetings we never discuss records. We discuss how to win the match and what’s the best way to do it. Along the way if somebody is able to break records and do something special then we always feel good about it.
This is your 23rd year in international cricket. What has the last year taught you that your first 22 years didn’t?
To stay patient on 99 hundreds. (smiles). Yes, this year was a difficult one. When I was on 99 hundreds during the World Cup, no body spoke about it. The focus was on the World cup. We won the world cup and then everybody started thinking what’s next and started questioning where can we focus. The focus was on the 100th hundred. My focus wasn’t on it. My focus was as always to score a big hundred whenever I went out and contribute and that is what I have done in the past. As the time went by there was so much hype created that naturally the focus, even though I didn’t want it, I felt it was somewhere there in the subconscious. Though I kept telling myself that above all I just need to enjoy playing cricket and be myself. But when you get atleast 100 reminders daily it becomes difficult not to think about it. You are forcibly made to think about it.
That was getting tougher and tougher as days wore on. I felt like telling everyone, let’s just talk cricket and not talk about the hundreth hundred. I went through the same pre-match preparations, but sometimes there are no reasons for failure and disappointment. I felt in Australia I was batting the best I have in the last 22 years. I was really pleased with the way I was moving and timing the ball and the bat-swing. But somehow at the crunch moment you need luck to be at your side and I felt luck wasn’t on my side on those occasions. I got close to scoring hundreds, but when the time came, things just didn’t happen. Sometimes things happen in your life which you can’t explain.
You look at solutions and put question marks and ask why is this happening, but you just don’t find answers. Then eventually you look at scernarios when you haven’t batted well and still ended up scoring big runs. What could be the reason? Luck. Sometimes you just get beaten by that much (gestures). How do you describe that? It has to be luck. In Mumbai, had I been beaten by Ravi Rampul, instead of edging it to Sammy at slip, I would have still been batting on 94. The next ball if it’s a two-paced pitch, I would leave alone. Sometimes, it’s important to get that wake-up call. Last season, that wake-up call didn’t happen much and it just taught me to have patience and focus on my job and the results will take care of themselves. I just focused on my pre-match preparation and not think too much. When you start a building, you don’t think of the tenth floor. You start at the ground floor first. My preparations weren’t affected. I didn’t use any shortcuts so that again was a reminder that I had not relaxed. In fact, if anything, I just kept pushing harder and harder. Sometimes there are disappointments and I always use disappointments and setbacks to work harder and try and take whatever positive out of that. That is something that I have learnt and may be it was a reminder after 22 years.
Sometimes do you also think that a sportsperson’s life is cruel as people can easily forget what you have done over 22 years and focus on just the landmark?
I remember my coach (Ramakant Achrekar) telling me that this game can be cruel at times and not to worry as everyone goes through rough patches. When you are doing well, you don’t worry and you don’t question whay are these things happening to my game. Even a bad phase will pass by and nothing will be permanent. You will overcome all these obstacles. In my school days I learnt a lot and those things help. Above all, the most important things is to respect the game.
Can you talk us through the experiences of your first hundred and the 100th ton?
I remember during my first hundred, I went in to bat when the team was 118 for 4 and I went into bat when the senior players had all got out and the only thing that I had in my mind was I should stay not out. I managed to string a good partnership with Manoj Prabhakar and I had to be careful in my shot selection that day. At the same time I was prepared to put the bad balls away. I was there with an open mind. I remember when I was batting on 87 or 88, I ducked into a bouncer from Angus Fraser and the ball hit the back of the bat and flew to fine leg. I was glad it didn’t go to the keeper or lob to nay other fielder. The hundred that I missed in New Zealand was on my mind and I didn’t want to miss my first hundred. After the hundred, Madhav Mantri, who was our manager at that time came and told me I had to address a press conference. I was confused as I hadn’t attended a press conference and was very scared. He told me not to worry and he would be there with me. I didn’t look back after that and it’s been a fantastic journey.
The 100th hundred of course I started off really well and then I felt the ball was coming off the track a bit slower than I would have liked. And during my partnership with Virat we both kept discussing what would be a good target and we both thought 275-280 would be a good total as that wicket wasn’t like the one on which the earlier game had been played. We were constantly keeping an eye on the run rate that we were maintaining and it became critical to have wickets in hand. I was patient and just focused on building partnerships. At the same time there were spells during which they really bowled well. I remember Mashrafe mortaza bowled a maiden to me in the powerplay. I had connected three good shots in that over and all three went to the fielder. And I told Virat and thought to myself, on a good day, those are three boundaries. That is what this game teaches you. Sometimes you can edge between slips for a four and when you are batting well, three potential boundaries could get stopped. It’s an unbelievable game. You just have to remain a student and learn so many things. When I go to my hundred, the reaction was when I looked at the bat and looked upwards toward God and said, “It’s been a tough time for me”. Why? Where did I lack in my commitment? Finally it had happened and I was really thrilled and I looked at the dressing room and I pointed my bat to the players and also to the Indian flag that I have on my helmet. This is what I have done for the nation and everyone has been part of it.