‘My only dream was to wear the Indian cap’ : Sachin

Sachin Tendulkar has said that support from his family has had a huge role to play in shaping his career. Tendulkar, India’s most prolific batsman in Tests and ODIs, is expected to speak in detail about his childhood in a book, Tendulkar’s Opus, to be published by the end of 2007. In an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, Tendulkar talked at length about how he got started in the game, and how he has handled the success and fame that have come along with it.

“It started when I was seven and I received my first cricket bat. I remember it so clearly. 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. Batting came naturally to me, probably because of my physique. There were bigger guys who chose to bowl, and there were smaller guys like me who had no option but to bat.”

However, Tendulkar clarified that cricket wasn’t his only interest when he was young. As a child he was a keen follower of tennis, especially of John McEnroe. “I also played a lot of tennis — and I was pretty good too,” he recalled. “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.”

Tendulkar also said that cricket helped him channelise all his energy, and made special mention of his elder brother, Ajit Tendulkar, in his development as a cricketer in the early days. “I settled down when I started playing a lot of cricket in my 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 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.”

Tendulkar recalled that the support came not only from his brother, but from his parents as well. “My father, who died in 1999, was never a cricket fan, not at all. 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.'”

Tendulkar also thanked his parents for instilling in him the values which ensured that he remained grounded even after he achieved so much success and fame. “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. An obsession with money or worldly matters was always thumbed down. My only dream was to wear the Indian cap and the Indian colours. In that respect, my childhood dreams have come true.”

Now a father of two, Tendulkar said he was now trying to find the balance between spending time with his family and playing a sport he still has plenty of passion for. “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. 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.”

 

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