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Q&A Sachin Tendulkar

I wanted to be a mixture of Sunil Gavaskar and Viv Richards. I thought being a package of those two would be the ultimate thing

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Sam Pilger was privileged to talk with Sachin Tendulkar, who talked of beginnings, all things batting and being the best since Bradman
of feeling, a high, like living on a different planet, it felt as though I was flying. He had waited 22 years for this moment. For all his personal records, and he boasts the complete set of the most Test runs and Test centuries, and the most ODI runs and ODI centuries, he wanted something tangible, a trophy to lift, a medal to wear around his neck, and to win something as part of an Indian team. Tendulkar had played in the previous five World Cups, but fallen short each time. He had got close in 2003 before losing the final to Australia, but the last time in 2007 India had been bundled out early at the first stage, leaving him shattered beyond words. Eighteen months before Indias World Cup triumph, Tendulkar had told me he couldnt bear the thought of retiring from international cricket without having won the tournament. Yet having finally achieved his ambition, he is showing no interest in winding down his career, and is relishing touring Australia this summer and attempting to win a Test series here for the first time.

> photography GETTY IMAGES

HEN THE defining moment of his career arrived earlier this year, Sachin Tendulkar wasnt in the middle of the field wielding his bat, nor was he even on the balcony watching his team-mates. Instead he was on his own inside the dressing room, his hands clasped together and his eyes closed as he prayed in silence. He only knew India had won the World Cup when he heard that cathartic roar reverberate around the Wankhede Stadium as his captain MS Dhoni hit the winning runs against Sri Lanka. Tendulkar made his way to the balcony where he was immediately lost in the embrace of his team-mates. He was the focus of the national outpouring of joy, they had won it for him, and his face was wet with tears, as each member of the side hugged him. Tendulkar describes the experience as a different kind

Tendulkar with Sunil Gavaskar, a batsman he idolised as a youngster and passed as Indias leading run scorer and Test century maker

When one gets compared to The Don, its a big thing. All players from that era have to be respected for what they achieved. He told us that on the morning of a Test he would go into work, then play in the Test and then sometimes in the evening, go back to work
This will be Tendulkars fifth tour here, and overall his 11th series against Australia. Throughout the last two decades, the Little Master has always saved his best for Australia, from the raw 18-year-old talent who took on Merv Hughes and Craig McDermott to score two Test centuries on his first tour way back in 199192, to the peerless veteran who scored 214 and an unbeaten 53 in his most recent Test against Australia in Bangalore as India successfully retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Tendulkar has scored more international runs against Australia than any other batsman in the history of the game, a staggering 6,209, including 20 centuries. It is worth noting he amassed the vast majority of these runs taking on the might of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath when Australia were the best side in the world, possibly the best side ever. His averages in both Tests (60.59) and ODIs (46.33) versus Australia are superior to his overall career averages.
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At the time of writing, ahead of the ODI series against West Indies that he was not expected to play in, Tendulkar was still stranded on 99 international centuries, needing just one more to create cricketing history, having also become the first player to pass 15,000 Test runs. To place this in perspective, the nearest batsman to him is Ricky Ponting with 69 international centuries. Tendulkars great rival Muttiah Muralitharan has said he believes his current total, whether he reaches a century or not, will not be beaten for 100 years. He might be the greatest batsman of modern times, feted as a God in India by over a billion people, but when you meet him in person he is bereft of any ego or even the smallest hint of arrogance. This year I have been helping Tendulkar produce his Official Opus, and in conversation he remains an unerringly polite and humble character, who always speaks quietly and thoughtfully.

Rahul Dravid recently said the reason you have played so long is that you have retained a child-like love of cricket? Would you agree with that? Yes, and I think it is really important to keep that. This love is what drives me every morning to go out and do it. I love the game as much as I did when I started. I still get just as excited from practising as when I was a kid. As long as that fire is still there, it makes sense to continue. There are times when I end up batting for a long time, but I never feel like I have had enough and need to stop. What is it about cricket that you love so much? Obviously it has to be batting, and the satisfaction you get from just a practice session. These practice sessions are where your cricket starts, and from there everything else comes. You have to enjoy them, otherwise it is hard to progress. It is here that I have a lot of fun, trying
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Losing his wicket to the unlikely source of Michael Vaughan, who details the experience in this feature

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Bowling to Sachin
JAson Gillespie
The Australian camp always had a pretty simple game plan for pArt dealing with Sachin: bowl a line just outside off stump, which we felt was our best opportunity to get him caught behind. The thing you had to avoid is bowling too straight, because he is so good down the leg side, thats where he could cause real damage. He loved playing straight with a short back lift, and just punching it right back down the ground. However, if you bowled it too wide on the off-stump he could really put the ball away, especially with the fast outfields in India. You had to be patient, but above all, you had to be accurate. He really tested your ability to put the ball where you wanted it. When he got going he was pretty hard to stop. Your margin for error was very, very small. It was hard work, because you knew if you werent on your game, you were going to get punished. Sometimes when you were bowling to him it honestly felt as though his bat was about three feet bloody wide. His great strength was that he had a simple game plan and stuck to it. He knew what he wanted to do, and knew every part of his game so well, all his strengths and weaknesses. Even when he wasnt in the best form, scoring runs freely and seeing the ball well, he found a way to survive and stay there. No matter how frustrated you got, you never sledged Sachin. Quite simply, you just ran the risk of annoying him, and giving him greater motivation, and that would be plain stupid, because it was hard enough bowling to him to begin with. There were guys you could rile, but Sachin had this mask of coolness you simply couldnt get past. I never saw him rattled; anything bowlers said to him was just shrugged off, he didnt react to anything, he just stayed in his bubble, his own zone, and blocked everything else out.

No matter how frustrated you got, you never sledged Sachin. You ran the risk of annoying him and that would be plain stupid

to correct things in my game. When you have got it right, there is great satisfaction there, it speaks to your heart. Have you ever fallen out of love with cricket? No, but there are tough times along the way. There have been many tough periods, probably the toughest was when I had my tennis elbow injury [2004]. I was worried, I thought my career was over, because I couldnt pick up a cricket bat. When I did manage to bat, and I thought I was hitting the ball hard, 12-year-old boys could stop the ball after 10 metres. I just couldnt hit the ball. That was scary, I thought I would never be able to bat again. Over your career, have you noticed that Indias work ethic and professionalism has significantly improved? The game and the demands were different when I started, and with time everything has changed. There is more planning, and it is more precise, there is nothing random about it. The work-out sessions are tailored to how you feel. I am a batsman, so my sessions are different to a bowler, but when I joined the team in 1989 that wasnt there. Even the clothing was different, each player wore what they liked, but now with the sponsors and the BCCI logo on our clothes the entire set-up has changed. Do the players have a harder mental approach now? I wouldnt say the players are tougher now than when I started. It is exactly the same. But I definitely feel that in the recent past we have produced more match winners.

Top, above and right: Tendulkar says a love of practice is a key to his success

It is often said you are completely selfsufficient in your game, but do you seek advice from others as well? I speak a lot with my brother and in my school days Id speak a lot with my coach. After that time, whenever senior cricketers Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri travelled with us Id discuss my game with them. Over the last 22 years, weve had many coaches with India and Ive discussed my game with them, too. Generally I like to do that. Im not someone who is chasing to be 100 per cent technically correct. There are certain basics that are extremely important, but beyond that its up to an individual how to adjust to
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Bowling to Sachin
WAQAr Younis
There were several things that struck me through Sachins career. The first was a basic thing. As a bowler, you watch where the batsman moves, especially when youre quick and you pArt bounce him. Is the batsman willing to stay in line and take a hit? If he is ready to be hit, then other technical issues resolve themselves. If youre not willing to be hit then everything else becomes a problem. Sachin never flinched, on any track, against any bowler. Obviously he is excellent technically, the best technician in the world. But it is his hunger that is frightening. Over 20 years and he still wants to score runs. Most cricketers go after 13 or 14 years, batsmen a little longer and these days that might not happen anymore. But over 20? And still scoring runs? It is incredible. Over the last four years alone, since so many wrote him off, hes scored more runs and hundreds than some do in their entire career. Off the field I know what others know, his humility, and his shyness in public. Once, during a Test in India I saw him head back to the hotel after play with his bat. Most players leave their kit overnight in the dressing room during a Test, but he went back with his bats. I asked him why and he just said he wanted to keep them with him. Maybe it was superstition, maybe devotion. Hes obviously one of the best batsmen I bowled to. Hes very different to a Brian Lara for example, another great, who would be at you from the start and be flashy. Once he got going it was difficult to stop him but with Lara, you always felt there might be a chance. Sachin takes time to settle in, is less risky and early on, more balanced at the crease. Once he gets in, though, you know he is there to stay.

Sachin never flinched, on any track, against any bowler. Obviously he is excellent technically, but it is his hunger that is frightening

various situations. Its about awareness and if youre aware of what the opposition is trying to do that helps more than just being technically correct. So youre open to advice? Always, because I think you can only learn if youre open to discussion but if you shut all the doors then I dont think things work out. Its up to you how much you want to implement whats been said in the discussion and how much you want to go and practice whats been suggested. Do you watch DVDs of your own batting? I do. If I feel there is a need, I do it. But not all the time. Earlier in my career, when I started playing, I did it all the time. Maybe the first six or seven years of my career. But after that I didnt want to complicate things too much. Do you think you and your generation have changed the Indian style of batting? Yeah. I always wanted to be a mixture of Sunil Gavaskar and Viv Richards. I felt I should be able to defend when I wanted to defend, and attack when I wanted to attack. The opposition should not decide whether I was going to attack or defend. I thought being a package of those two would be the ultimate thing. Have you achieved that? No, I dont think Ive gone to the extreme

of either end! Ive gone a little way in both directions. I can defend when I have to defend . . . but heroes are always heroes and I dont think one can get better than that. I always wanted to get somewhere close. So when it comes to being solid, if you can get anywhere near as solid as Gavaskar then thats good. And if you can get anywhere close to being as destructive as Viv Richards, then you would be a very dangerous player. And now do you feel you have personally influenced todays generation of Indian batsmen? For any cricketer whos played for a reasonable period and then had that impact on the next generation, then that is your contribution to cricket. When [Virender] Sehwag came into the side in 2002 and he said, I used to watch you bat on TV and try and replicate all the movements that felt wonderful to know that Ive had an impact on the next generation and that it would continue. So thats pleasing to me. Since then Sehwag has developed into one of the great batsmen in modern cricket. How would you compare your game to his? I think hes brilliant. His thought process is completely different to any other person. When he made his debut I was batting with him at that stage and when he scored a hundred I was there. So we had a long partnership. Ive enjoyed
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it; I enjoy his skill. Hes really, really talented and he likes to take the opposition on and he backs himself in various conditions. There have been times where hes failed but also times when he destroyed the opposition, but hes not changed his approach much. Hes pretty much in the same gear whenever he goes to play. I think the best Ive seen him bat was in Australia on our last tour. In Adelaide, he scored 150-something [151 off 236 balls] but that was an innings where we had to kill time and one could actually see Sehwags solid defence there: blocking and leaving and basically killing time. It was a magnificent innings.

it was completely different. Now the game has changed. And maybe in 40 years time players will be doing completely different things to what we are doing now. But do you have a sense of pride that you are compared to someone hailed as the greatest batsman ever? The dream was to be one of the top players. And if I got there then I am quite happy. This will be your 11th series against Australia. What are your memories of your first one back in 1991-92? I remember when we landed in Australia I was very excited because I wanted to prove a point and establish myself. I learned in Australia, I required a different approach to anything else I had used before. The cricket here was different, and they had a very strong bowling attack. It was a big, big challenge.

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Once Sir Donald Bradman was deemed to be untouchable, but in recent years it has been argued with your longevity and sheer number of runs you are his equal or have even surpassed him. How do you feel about that? I dont know how to react to that. Ive never liked those comparisons. But when one gets What was it like facing Bruce Reid, Craig compared to The Don, its a big thing. But McDermott, Merv Hughes and Mike I think all players from that era have to be Whitney in that series? respected for what they achieved in their I was confident about taking them on, and about era. The comparisons? I dont know. The way my ability. I didnt want them to go soft on me, he has played his cricket was so different: I was prepared for hard and tough cricket. The when we met, he told us that on the morning experience made me even tougher. It was a of a Test match he would go into work, then tough side, and I remember in Perth I played Pa ge 1 1 1 / 1 0 / 2 0 1 1 , 4 : 5 7 PM go off and play in the Test match and then a backward defensive shot and I leant down to sometimes in the evening, go back to work. So pick up the ball, and Allan Border from gully said

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Bowling to Sachin
MichAel VAuGhAn
I can tell you from experience he is very vulnerable to part-time off-spin! At Trent Bridge in 2002 I claimed Sachin Tendulkars wicket, and will happily dine off it forever. pArt My spell of bowling didnt start well. To be honest, he just took the piss, and was hitting boundaries whenever he wanted. He is smart, because he subtly milks average part-time spinners like me to keep them on, and then attacks good spinners to get them hauled off. He had driven me for four with my previous ball, so I thought with the next one I would toss it a bit higher and wider. He went for it again, but it just caught the edge of the rough and spun right back in to the stumps. Oh, what a wonderful feeling. I seem to recall I embarked on quite a celebration. Come on, it isnt every day you take the wicket of arguably the greatest cricketer ever. I still have the ball and the stump, Sachin kindly signed both for me, which I have proudly on display at home in my snooker room. Later in that series, we had no joy as he made 193 at Headingley. There wasnt much we could do, he got in and then just took the piss, hitting it all over the ground. Nothing we tried worked. But even though we couldnt get him out, I enjoyed the exhibition, watching a master at work doing his thing. In 2007 I captained England in a Test series against India, and over the course of the summer you could tell he wasnt at his absolute best. We felt we bowled well to him in that series. Chris Tremlett bowled really well to him, and used his height to get some steep bounce, which he didnt like. Freddie Flintoff troubled him quite a lot, getting the ball to angle in, and Ryan Sidebottom made him play and miss at a lot of balls. It was hard to draw up plans for him, but my approach was to be aggressive, try to unsettle him with raw pace. We looked to put the ball around off stump early on, tempt him forward and gain a snick. At the time he was struggling a bit with the short ball, but since then, I think he looked at that series, and has once again started to deal with it with his usual composure and calmness.

Tendulkar as a 16-year-old in October 1989

I remember in Perth I played a backward defensive shot and I leant down to pick up the ball, and Allan Border from gully said Dont touch the ball. I thought, OK, fine, I wont touch the ball. They were tough characters. It gave me a different taste of cricket
Dont touch the ball. I thought, OK, fine, I wont touch the ball. They were tough characters. It gave me a different taste of cricket. What do you remember about your two centuries that summer? In the third Test in Sydney I got a hundred, and I felt like I was batting well. It was a wicket for spinners, so I enjoyed making runs. Then again that track in Perth was really fast and had a lot of bounce, and big cracks. I felt because of that the kind of shots I played in that innings has to make it one of my best, in my personal top 10 of innings. At that stage of my career for me to make that century was extremely important, and after it my cricket went to a new level. It boosted me. I played with a great sense of freedom. Later on what do you remember about facing Australia when they were the best team in the world, facing Glenn McGrath from one end and Shane Warne from the other? It was good I mean, they played aggressive cricket; they had aggressive fields. And I was playing attacking cricket, so . . . it worked. There were times when I was able to push them on the back foot. And there were times when I forced them to set defensive fields for me. And there were times when I got out early. But generally I would say that, on the whole, I had the upper hand . . . It was a good challenge. You knew that runs werent going to come easy.

Sam Pilger is the Executive Editor of The Official Sachin Tendulkar Opus, the definitive story of Tendulkars life and career due to be published in 2012. For more information go to tendulkaropus.com
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