Mumbai, Mar 26: Sachin Tendulkar, who completed a historic 100th international hundred recently, spoke to the media in Mumbai on Sunday. In this exhaustive question and answer session between the iconic batsman and the media, Tendulkar spoke on various issues.
We present the question and answer interaction in four Parts. Here is Part I.
Question: What do personal records mean in a team game?
Sachin Tendulkar: 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.
Q: This is your 23rd year in international cricket. What has the last year taught you that your first 22 years did not?
Tendulkar: To stay patient on 99 hundreds (smiles). Yes, this year was a difficult one. When I was on 99 hundreds during the World Cup, nobody 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 (now)'. The focus was then on the hundredth hundred. My focus was not on it. My focus was as always to score a big hundred whenever I went out and contribute (to the team's cause), and that is what I have done in the past. As time went by there was so much hype created that naturally the focus (shifted), even though I did not want it (that way). I felt it (the milestone) was there somewhere in my subconscious, though I kept telling myself that above all I just need to enjoy playing cricket and be myself. But when you get at least 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 the days wore on. I felt like telling everyone 'let's just talk cricket and not talk about the 100th 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 on your side and I felt luck was not 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 raise questions, and ask why is this happening. But you just don't find the answers. Then, eventually, you look at scenarios 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 to indicate a little bit). How do you describe that? It has to be luck. In Mumbai, had I not been beaten by Ravi Rampul and edged to (Darren) Sammy in the slips, I would have still been batting on 94. The next ball, if it's a two-paced pitch, I would leave it 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 focussed on my pre-match preparation and did 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 were not affected. I did not use any shortcuts - 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 (I can) out of it. That is something that I have learnt and, maybe, it (the wait for the landmark ton) was a reminder (of these things) after 22 years.
Q: Sometimes, do you think that a sportsperson's life is cruel - people can easily forget what you have done over 22 years and focus on just the landmark?
Tendulkar: 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 'why 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. During my school days I learnt a lot, and those things help. Above all, the most important thing is to respect the game.
You spoke about the pressure of the 100 hundreds and how, subconsciously, it got to you. Do worry about the younger players in the team, about how they would cope with, maybe not something similar, but an achievement?
I think that is an important factor to focus and not think about the external factors, which sometimes weigh you down. There will be phases in their careers where the going gets tough, but that is a time that whatever you had practised over the years, and I am not taking about practising in the nets but off the field, helps. My advice would be to keep your eye on the ball and not what XYZ is talking. Sometimes it feels good when people are talking good things about you, but when you get into it, it does feel bad when people do criticise you.
So there has to be a balance between reading good things and reading bad things, and you've got to maintain that balance and balance your emotions in the way you celebrate and the way you respond to disappointments. If the balance is there, then in those tough phases you will be able to deal with it, but if there is imbalance that is when the problem starts. It is up to an individual, and there is no particular formula to it: that if you do this or that, it is going to work. There are guys who get motivated by certain things and it is important to know yourself, as to what works for you and follow that.
Q: Can you talk us through the experiences of your first hundred and the 100th ton?
Tendulkar: I remember during my first hundred, I went in to bat when the team was 118 for 4 (109 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 together 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 did not go to the wicketkeeper or lob to any fielder.
The hundred that I missed in New Zealand was on my mind and I did not 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 had not attended a press conference and was very scared. He told me not to worry, that he would be there with me. I did not look back after that and it's been a fantastic journey.
The 100th hundred, 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 (Kohli), we both kept discussing what would be a good target and we both thought 275 to 280 would be a good total, as that wicket was not like the one on which the earlier game (India-Sri Lanka) 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 focussed 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 (batting) 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 is an unbelievable game. You just have to remain a student and learn so many things. When I got to my hundred, the reaction was I looked at the bat and looked upwards towards 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.
The interview continues in Part II, III and IV.