SPORT

We have to be aggressive and believe in ourselves: Tendulkar

Hyderabad Nov. 13. He takes flight so often in the field of dreams that soaring in the skies is nothing new to Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. It was thus quite appropriate that Tendulkar shared his views in an exclusive interview with The Hindu on the flight from Bangalore to Hyderabad on Thursday afternoon.

The pressure is clearly on India as it meets New Zealand in the last league game of the TVS ODI tri-series here on Saturday, but Tendulkar remains optimistic. "It has reached a point where it is do-or-die for us. I am hopeful that we will do rather than die."

If the Indians surmount the Kiwi hurdle, the awesome Aussies again await them at the Eden Gardens. While conceding that Ricky Ponting's men have played good cricket, Tendulkar points out that every game is different. "Everyone starts from zero again. Let's hope that we contain them to a reasonable total, or if we bat first we put up a good score."

The man who relishes battles then dwelled on India's forthcoming tour of Australia. "It is going to be very challenging for me as well as the whole team. The youngsters will get a taste of what cricket is all about at the highest level. It will make them better and much tougher cricketers for sure."

Here, the maestro stresses on the need for the Indian batsmen to be positive. "The ball is going to bounce a lot at a decent pace there. One has to be prepared to play shots and be aggressive. If you get a loose ball, it has to be put away for runs."

Regarding shot selection on the pitches down under, he says, "You got to be strong square of the wicket. Basically, be an opportunist. If there is a chance to score runs, you cannot use that time to just stay there. I mean there should not be a breather in your innings."

The marauding Aussie pace attack — both relentless and ruthless — is bound to pose a distinct threat. "They are world class. It is going to be tough. We have to believe in our own ability and go out and play hard," Tendulkar says.

He lays emphasis on courage and guts. "You got to be bold enough to face challenges over there. Take them head on. If you shy away, it is not going to help."

Glenn McGrath, the mean machine, would be back head hunting (if he regains complete fitness) and a famous duel would commence again. Tendulkar does not believe in such match-ups, though.

"It's not just between me and McGrath. When we played against Pakistan, it was me and Wasim Akram. When it was against England during the World Cup, it was Andrew Caddick. When we played South Africa, it was Allan Donald.

"I mean, it keeps changing. At one point, it was me and Shane Warne. This is something which people like to hype. Basically, I look at it differently. I think I am playing against Australia the team and not only against McGrath."

He rates the morale-boosting century in Perth during the 1991-92 series as his finest innings down under. "That pitch had life and the conditions were demanding. It was a helpful track for the seamers."

Tendulkar was just 18 then as he stood up to the pace and fury of the Australian fast bowlers on a juicy WACA surface. The great cricketer does not consider age as a factor when it comes to judging performances. "It doesn't matter whether you are young or old. When you play for your country, you are not young anymore."

The master batsman feels gamesmanship, up to a certain point, is fine. "A comment or two is all right but one shouldn't cross the borderline. I haven't experienced anything which has crossed that point."

The Mumbai genius affirms that talk of him being out of form, which invariably surface after every two failures of his, do not bother him much. "There were a few guys who wrote a few articles, after I got a hundred that was followed by two failures in the West Indies, that there was something wrong with my technique. That was followed by a few more articles when I was in England. I don't think I need to worry about all that. As long as I am scoring runs and doing my job, it is fine.

"I know my responsibilities. I know what I have to do. You cannot go wrong overnight. Sometimes you get good balls... it is one of those things which all sportsmen have to go through. Everyone has had two or three failures in a row. That doesn't mean I have distractions.

"My foremost worry all the time is how I am going to keep scoring runs and how I am going to keep improving. My job is to think only about cricket and concentrate."

`Terrific guy'

He has rich words of praise for Javagal Srinath who announced his retirement from the game on Tuesday. "Sri was a terrific cricketer and he bowled his heart out at all times. We are surely going to miss him. Pacemen like him do not come every Saturday. I am sure the rest of the team will also miss him on the field. Not only on the field but also in the dressing room. He was a terrific guy who kept the dressing room alive with good humour."

Tendukar makes it clear that India's current bunch of pacemen have to be prepared to work hard and be consistent. "I am sure they are all trying their best, but they have to deliver more consistently. Sometimes the conditions are really difficult for them but that's part of international cricket. The ups and downs are going to be there. I would only say that we should not criticise them too much when they are not doing well. It is when they are not doing well that they expect some support. It is very easy to write a couple of lines when they are having a rough time."

On the explosive Aussie openers, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden, he says, "Gilchrist and Hayden are always dangerous. All I can hope for is that our bowlers will put the ball in the right areas and get them out early."

Records have fallen by the wayside as he marches on, but Tendulkar maintains that numbers do not occupy his mind. "I just go out and enjoy my game rather that set targets. I do set some goals here and there, but the basic idea is to enjoy the game."