Dressed in a formal India trouser suit and tie Sachin Tendulkar fielded questions at his first press conference post-retirement with poise and clarity of thought that would have fitted well with some of his front foot strokes. A good a number of press corps on regular cricket beat got an opportunity to get some more insight into how the champion cricketing brain worked for almost quarter of a century. Responding to a much-debated topic of Indian and foreign coach he played it safe by saying there should always be a proper coach.
Excerpts from the media interaction:
Indian v foreign coach debate: I don’t think it is about Indian or a foreign coach. It is about who is coaching, how best he can bring the best and consistent results for India. That’s what matters. To me there should be a proper coach who understands the players and is more like a friend.
At this level we all know how to play a cover drive. But when something goes wrong, it is not (strictly) technical, but what is between the ears is important. So, it’s all about who can sit with you and sort out matters. I feel a coach is a coach. It really doesn’t matter where he comes from.
As long as the relation between the coach and the player is a healthy one, more like friends, one who can sort out problems and to whom a player can confide and also know for a fact that it would not be leaked. This aspect is also important.
On his cricketing journey: To have played for 24 years for the country has been the biggest thing for me. During those 24 years there were different challenges, but the desire to play for the country was so strong that I had to find solutions to those challenges.
It was dream journey of 24 years I had the support of the family members, coaches, friends, players and a lot of people. But last night when I sat back and thought about it and until now, it has not sunk in that I won’t play cricket again.
I will go somewhere and play some cricket. But I think if I have to talk about those 24 years, all I will say is that it was a dream journey and I have no regrets at leaving cricket. I felt it was the right time to stop playing cricket and it was an enjoyable journey.
Future association with cricket: Cricket has been my life. I have said in an interview that cricket is my oxygen. Out of 40 years of my life, I have played 30 years of proper cricket, which is 75 per cent of my life. I will be associated with cricket, not in the immediate future though. I have played for 24 years, and it has been 24 hours since I retired. I think I should get at least 24 days to relax. Let’s see what happens after that.
The decision to retire: I have always maintained that the day I get the feeling that I should stop playing cricket I will make it public. I remember there have been questions about my retirement for a few years. You have to appreciate that I had many injuries and to overcome those was not easy.
I think somewhere down the line a stage comes in life when your body gives you the message ‘Enough’ enough of the physical load. So I thought my body was not able to take that load consistently. Training sessions needed some effort from me.
Earlier when I trained, everything used to happen automatically. Sometimes I used to feel that let me sit back and watch some TV. So there were some question marks. And when I tried to find the answers, I felt that this was the perfect time to leave the game.
Farewell match in Mumbai: I requested the BCCI to have the last match in Mumbai because before this match, my mother had never seen me play. She never told me that she wanted to come to a match. I wanted it to be a surprise for her, but through your (media) help, she came to know that this match was in Mumbai and especially for her.
Starting an academy: It’s a nice thought that I should be involved with cricket. I would definitely be. It is not just because I have retired, even earlier, I have spent time with youngsters from U-19 teams to Ranji Trophy teams.
I like interacting with players. It’s nice to share your knowledge, understand the other players’ problems which in return teaches you more about the game.
I have thoroughly enjoyed those interactions and I will continue to do so. It may not be done publicly, but done quietly and at a very low profile.
The walk to the pitch after the lap of honour: I never did this during an international match. It was here (Wankhede) that my life started as a first class cricketer.
And those 22 yards have given me everything in life. Whatever I have today is because I have spent time between those 22 yards. It’s like a temple for me. So I just wanted to say a big thank you to cricket.
Every time I go to bat, I always touch the wicket and take blessings and that’s what I did yesterday. I just thanked cricket for everything I have got in life.
It was a very emotional moment. My family, everyone was emotional but I wasn’t. I became emotional after I got the kind of send-off from the players. I got emotional when I was walking to the wicket.
Whenever I see those images on TV, that particular moment, I still get emotional. Otherwise I was not that emotional because I knew I had taken the right decision.
About coach Ramakant Achrekar: I must say that I could come this far only because of the blessings of Achrekar sir. There were others with him to guide me. Achrekar sir and my brother Ajit were a solid team. One taught me on the field and the other guided me at home. Even the other night, he (Ajit) told me how I could have played this shot (after his dismissal). This is the beauty of our relationship.
Sir has never said “well played” — the reason was that he did not want the compliment to go to my head. He always reminded me that the game is bigger than any player and you have to respect it. And that is what I have always done.
Every time I made runs, I expected him to compliment me. But it never happened. And that is why I said jokingly that since there is not going to be any competitive match for me hereafter he would do so. He called me after the Bharat Ratna award announcement and said well done. He was very happy and I was very delighted.
The joy of such awards enhances when you share it with some special people and that is what happened with me last night.
How did Sunday start: I woke up this morning at 6.50 according to my body clock. I woke up at 6.50 yesterday and again at the same time today. I suddenly realised that I didn’t need to have a quick shower and get ready for a match. I made myself a cup of tea and enjoyed a nice breakfast with my wife. It was a relaxed morning. A lot of people had sent me their wishes, so I spent some time responding to those text messages, thanking them for their support and good wishes over the last 24 years. And now I am here in front of you.
Special moments at the venue: There were many wonderful moments. You guys might have noticed that I could not look up while shaking hands with my teammates and the West Indian players. I didn’t want to be rude, but I didn’t want anyone to see my face in tears.
His last innings of 74: My mother was extremely happy. I was worried that she might not be able to sit there for long. But she watched each and every ball. When I went to meet her in the president’s box I could see it all in her eyes; her feelings having seen me play. It was a very controlled and balanced reaction. She spoke to me more through her eyes than words.
Best and disappointing moments: The World Cup win here two years ago. It was my dream to win the World Cup. I had to wait for 22 years. But God helped me to see that day. I will also say that yesterday was also a very special day for me. The way the people responded and I would like to say a big thanks to everyone. The disappointing moment was losing the final of the 2003 world cup. We played very well in that tournament.
About his critics: I observe it (comments) up to a certain stage; about who is writing and what subject he is writing. A stage comes when you are convinced as to which person’s advice you should follow, the ones who offer constructive criticism and what is the motive behind it. I don’t think I have paid much attention to it because those who were guiding me were by my side and they didn’t hold a pen for a long time. They had either a cricket bat in their hand or cricket thoughts in their mind to encourage me to perform better. I was normally interacting with such people. Beyond that I didn’t think much about the critics.