Way back in 1989, when Twitter was just a sound associated with birds, a 16-year-old tackled Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in Pakistan and emerged with his nascent reputation further enhanced.
Cut to the present, nothing has changed for Indian cricket’s seemingly eternal man. The hunger to succeed remains undiminished and this trait was reiterated by Sachin Tendulkar in a chat here with The Hindu ahead of Wednesday’s Castrol Cricketing Excellence awards function.
The maestro looked back at last season’s mixed results, stressed that he is one with the young lads, had words of wisdom for Unmukt Chand and also hoped that the young crop would step into the huge shoes of Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman.
Part I: The Tendulkar files
That significant hundred: After I scored my 99th hundred against South Africa at Nagpur, nobody spoke about my 100th hundred because the focus was on the World Cup. After the World Cup, everyone thought ‘what next’ and that’s how the focus shifted to my 100. I came close to scoring it in England, scored a 94 against the West Indies and I was moving well in Australia. If I have to look at the 2011 season, it started well with a hundred at Cape Town and ended well (at Dhaka), though there were unlucky patches.
Staying fit all these years: Without the help of doctors, physios, trainers, friends, teammates and family members, things would not have been the same because when you get injured you feel deflated.
My tennis elbow kept me out for four months and I could not even hit a plastic ball with a plastic bat. I was really worried. For any sportsman, the toughest task is being patient and waiting for your injury to heal. Luckily, my wife is a doctor and that helped.
Serious senior? Not always…: I am an easy-going person. I am not serious all the time. I play pranks and it is not one-way traffic, they (the youngsters in the team) can do the same to me.
A team is a family and only if you are like that can it help make them feel at ease when they are playing.”
The journey will continue: As long as I am enjoying myself, as long as I can contribute, I will play.
I have always cared about my cricket, have always valued whatever has come my way and I have not taken anything for granted.
It’s about how you prepare yourself before a series, a tournament or any match.
Part II: The team
Transition blues: No one can become a Dravid or a Laxman overnight. It is going to require a number of hours of training.
Forget the hours they spent playing Tests or ODI cricket, also factor in the number of hours they spent training. Whatever the records or statistics you get to see did not happen just like that.
They worked hard for that. If the younger generation gets to play for India and if it is your passion, then you got to push your body and mind to any extent.
Last season’s vagaries: It started off well and in the Cape Town Test (against South Africa), we were on top throughout the match except in the last few overs and then we knew that we had to play for a draw. After that, the World Cup was a fabulous journey. England though was a tough series and we were badly hit by injuries. Then, we had a good home series against the West Indies.
And in Australia, I thought we were in the driver’s seat (in the first Test at Melbourne) and it slipped away for us.
On the second day, I had a wonderful partnership with Rahul and we were 200 plus for two and then, I got out in the last over and Rahul got out in the first over on the third morning. That was the turning point.
Dravid’s high in England: He was in the zone. His concentration was spot on. There were some tough times and he overcame those obstacles brilliantly.
Ashwin’s growth: He has consistently done well, not just in bowling but also in batting. He has scored a Test hundred and has had some key partnerships and it is wonderful.
Yuvraj and swirling emotions: I met Yuvraj in England in June. It was tough for me to not get emotional. I had sort of decided that I would not get that emotional in front of him because he was the one who had gone through terrible times. We went out for dinner and it was fun.
He had done everything possible that his doctors advised him to do and there is a clear cut message to all cancer patients that they can be cured.
Unmukt and the road ahead: Unmukt has proved himself right now, but this is the beginning of a journey. Before the under-19 team left to Australia, I spent an hour with them in Mumbai.
Without collective effort, success can’t be gained and there were many moments when others contributed and at the big moment, Unmukt batted brilliantly.
I told them that they should spend as much time as they can with each other because it is going to be a tough journey.
Keywords: Sachin Tendulkar