‘75 per cent of my life is cricket’

Friday - - Society -

hardly lead the nor­mal life of a teenager. “I used to en­joy gorg­ing on lo­cal del­i­ca­cies such as pani puri from food stalls on Mum­bai’s roads,’’ he says. But once he started play­ing for In­dia, he could not step out in pub­lic with­out cricket fans mob­bing him.

A vi­tal fac­tor in Sachin’s long-last­ing suc­cess was his ap­proach to diet and ex­er­cise. He was a great fan of but­ter chicken, but opted to eat it only spar­ingly to re­main fit.

“I en­joy all cuisines – Ja­panese, Chi­nese, In­dian, Malaysian or Thai. But to be in good shape, I learnt you have to try to stay away from things that are not good for a sports­man.”

The day be­fore his re­tire­ment, Sachin’s wife An­jali joked, “Ten­dulkar can now eat his but­ter chicken with­out hav­ing to think about cricket.”

“I also used to love go­ing to see movies,’’ Sachin says. Once while he was dat­ing An­jali, who was his teenage sweet­heart, he even sported a beard and dark glasses so his fans would not recog­nise him.

“How­ever, dur­ing the break [in the movie] my glasses slipped off and some­one recog­nised me.’’ That trig­gered a near-riot sit­u­a­tion with hun­dreds of peo­ple rush­ing for a glimpse of him and an au­to­graph. “We had to leave the the­atre in a hurry,’’ he says.

As well as tal­ent, Sachin’s hard work and ded­i­ca­tion to train­ing were vi­tal as he rose to the top of the game.

Mayur Kadrekar, Sachin’s first cap­tain in school, says, “Ten­dulkar used to bat at five dif­fer­ent nets. And even af­ter bat­ting for three hours, he was ready for more. The boys who bowled to him used to tire out, but Sachin never got tired.”

Sud­hir Nayak, who played with Sachin in lo­cal leagues and shared a room with him dur­ing the matches, de­scribes Ten­dulkar’s de­sire to give his best. “Even at nights I have seen him prac­tise his bat­ting stances in the room and try out dif­fer­ent shots. I used to find him very fid­gety and quite a rest­less boy.”

Ir­re­spec­tive of the time he came back from a match, he was al­ways at the nets by 11am the next day. He also has a fan­tas­tic mem­ory when it comes to crick­eters. For­mer In­dian open­ing bats­man Navjot Singh Sidhu once re­marked, “Ten­dulkar’s mind is like a com­puter. He stores data on bowlers and knows very well where they would pitch the ball.”

Just like his ap­petite for good food, Ten­dulkar’s hunger for runs was some­thing that could never be ap­peased. His coach once said, “He has an ap­petite for runs more than oth­ers. It’s in­sa­tiable.” So how has life changed for Sachin af­ter re­tir­ing from the game?

“A lot,’’ he says. “The first day of re­tire­ment, I woke up at 6.50am and sud­denly re­alised I didn’t have to quickly shower and get ready for a match. So I made my­self a cup of tea and en­joyed a nice break­fast with my wife.

“Af­ter a re­laxed morn­ing, I spent a lot of time re­spond­ing to all the mes­sages I re­ceived.’’

What are the lessons he has for his 14-yearold-son son, bud­ding crick­eter Ar­jun?

“I was able to per­form be­cause no­body at home was car­ried away in celebration. The re­cep­tion I got at home if I scored 15 was the same as if I scored 100,’’ he says. And that is the kind of legacy he would like to con­tinue.

“As a fa­ther, my re­quest is please leave my son Ar­jun alone,’’ he says. “Don’t pres­surise him to do some­thing be­cause I did it. If that was the case, I would have had a pen in my hand and not a bat – con­sid­er­ing the fact that my fa­ther was a pro­fes­sor.

“Ar­jun is mad about cricket and that is what mat­ters. About per­for­mances – I won’t put pres­sure on him – and you must not too. Leave any player alone and he’ll en­joy cricket.’’

As for the fu­ture, Sachin is keep­ing his cards close to his chest. “Cricket is my oxy­gen – out of the 40 years of my life, I’ve played cricket for 30. So 75 per cent of my life is cricket. There will be some as­so­ci­a­tion with cricket, maybe not in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture though.’’

Af­ter three decades of swing­ing the bat, Sachin finds it dif­fi­cult to come to terms with the fact that he will no longer be don­ning In­dia’s colours.

“It still hasn’t struck me that I’m not go­ing to play any more cricket,’’ he says. “But I’ll find some place to play!’’

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