‘75 per cent of my life is cricket’
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!’’