`My childhood dreams have come true’ : Sachin

Sachin Tendulkar says that he was extremely naughty and very difficult to handle during his childhood, and his only dream was to wear the India colours.

Now 33 and lauded as the best batsman since Sir Donald Bradman, he reveals in his forthcoming book Tendulkar’s Opus how he evolved from being an unmanageable child to India’s youngest-ever Test player.

“Cricket is something very, very special to me. It has never been about owning this or that car, and the other things that come with this life. My parents taught me that it is important to live every day of your life with grace and honour,” the ace batsman says in the book to be published at the end of next year.

“An obsession with money or worldly matters was always thumbed down. My only dream was to wear the India cap and the India colours. In that respect, my childhood dreams have come true.”

A `Mac’ fan

However, Tendulkar says cricket wasn’t his only love. He also played a lot of tennis and believes he was pretty good at it too.

“My big-time hero was John McEnroe. I just loved that guy. All my friends and family would support Bjorn Borg. I was the only one supporting John McEnroe everyone used to call me `Mac’ because I styled myself on him.

“I made my father buy me the same headbands and sweatbands, and even grew my hair long. You wouldn’t believe the pictures of me from that time. I was also extremely naughty and very, very difficult to handle.

“I would climb the trees around the apartment complex and polish off all the guavas and mangoes. The fruit trees were strictly off limits, but I used to time it to perfection by waiting until nobody was around, normally in the evening when everyone was inside watching television.

“I had a nanny who used to run after me virtually 24 hours a day, because I never wanted to go home,” he says.

Guiding light

Tendulkar says he settled down when he started playing a lot of cricket in his early teens “all my calories were being burnt on the cricket pitch and my energy was being focused.

“I have my brother Ajit to thank for that he guided me into the game. He used to watch me play downstairs with my friends, without me realising. He figured out that I could bat by watching my swing, the way I connected with the ball and my consistency.

“He’s almost 10 years older than me and had played at a decent level himself. He told me that professional cricket could be a future for me and convinced my father to let me change schools, to help me play more,” he says.

“My father, who died in 1999, was never a cricket fan, not at all. He was a writer and a poet: he taught Marathi, my mother tongue, at the local university. But he understood exactly how to get the best out of me. He always encouraged me and told my mother that he had full faith in me.

“It was probably reverse psychology, but as I got older I felt like I could not misuse that trust. He warned me against taking short cuts and told me to just keep playing, despite the ups-and-downs. When it came to choosing between cricket and going to university, he said: ‘You can play cricket, I know that is your first love, so go for it’.”

Parents pleased

Tendulkar says his parents were extremely happy when he became the youngest player at 16 to play for India. “At first they were a little worried. In India, cricket is almost a religion and they had some apprehensions over whether I’d be able to cope with the demands and pressure at that age.

“Some of the players were almost twice my age and I was living away from home for most of the year. But it all went smoothly in the end.”

In excerpts of the book published in The Sunday Times magazine, Tendulkar says “I now have my own family, daughter who is eight and a son who is six, so there’s that other half of the coin to look at. I need to strike the right balance between cricket and family.

“I try to follow my father’s lead and give my kids the freedom that I had in my family. Having children brings back all my old childhood memories, wonderful years.

“Now, every minute is measured and calculated. I still dream without dreams life is flat, you stagnate. I don’t go to the temple every morning, but I do pray. I thank God for everything he has given me, because life has been good to me,” he says.

Biggest gift

As a child, Tendulkar says he always knew he would play cricket for India. The batting maestro says he received his first cricket bat when he was seven.

“My big sister gave it to me after returning from a trip to Kashmir, which is known for its high-quality willows. It wasn’t the best bat, but it was like a piece of gold to me. I used to imagine myself batting for India, hitting fours and sixes, the people cheering. I used that bat until it broke when I graduated from playing with a tennis ball to a hard, seasoned ball.” PTI

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