I had thought of quitting cricket in 2007: Tendulkar
New Delhi: In an exclusive interview to Headlines Today, one of India's greatest batsmen, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar relives the sweet memories of April 2011, when India won the World Cup against Sri Lanka. Tendulkar, who has featured in six ICC World Cups, reveals the fact that he had come close to retiring from cricket in 2007 but was persuaded by his brother Ajit to continue to live and practice his dream of winning the 2011 World Cup on Indian soil.
In a candid and carefree interview to Rajdeep Sardesai, Consulting Editor, Headlines Today, Tendulkar reveals how he had come close to quitting all forms of cricket after their loss in 2007 and what motivated him to go for the 2011 World Cup. “I still remember 2007 when I came back home, I was so depressed and so upset with the way we had performed. I actually thought of retiring then… called my brother over, Ajit, and told him that I do not want to continue. The game has been cruel to us and I want to stop. That was when he said, ‘can you imagine in 2011 you are here at Wankhede stadium holding that beautiful trophy. That is when you should think of retiring’. That conversation really helped and it motivated me to go out and work for a purpose … there was a goal which was four years down the line,” says Tendulkar
Sachin was 37 years when the Indian cricket team lifted the cup after a gap of 28 years. Speaking to Headlines Today from Wankhede Stadium, from that very spot and the chair in the dressing room, Tendulkar narrates the final moments of the glorious game when India outplayed Sri Lanka. Tendulkar admits that he acted in a superstitious manner on the day of the finals and also throughout the series as he neither stepped out of the dressing room nor did he let Virendra Sehwag go out lest they caused a jinx. Tendulkar says he did not even watch television as, “one can make out what is happening in the stadium by the crowds’ response.” Accompanied by Virendra Sehwag and his kit bag, Tendulkar spent his time sitting in a chair and fervently praying to God for victory.
India's top and one of the most respected cricketers globally, Tendulkar said that during the quarter-finals against Australia in Ahmedabad, he kept praying and also ensured that Viru did not leave the room that day also. "I carried a book which was given to me by Shree Satya Sai Baba throughout the World Cup. I would keep it in my room, where I would keep all the Gods.” He says that even though the team was confident, one cannot feel overconfident. “Anything is possible in sports and I was hoping that we continue that form as we were playing good cricket… I knew that we had the firepower to finish the game easily,” Tendulkar tells Headlines Today.
Once the Indian team won the finals, the ace cricketer said a namaskar to all the Gods, thanked them, screamed and ran out. Revealing an unknown emotional side to his personality, Tendulkar says: “I did cry when I went out in the middle... I did cry. This was the only time I had happy tears... because that moment was just a priceless moment. That moment was something that you can only dream off. Playing in India, on the home ground...” The Indian team celebrated with lots of champagne as their families, friends and fans also joined in the dressing room that night.
Sudhir, one of Sachin’s greatest fans who had been travelling and cheering the team, especially for Sachin across the country all through the tournament, was specially invited by Tendulkar to join the victorious team in the dressing room. “I thought it was a perfect moment to invite him inside the dressing room and make him hold the World Cup,” says Tendulkar.
Tendulkar takes a walk in the Wankhede stadium, his theatre of dreams, and points out all the important spots of the big day when India won the World Cup. The ace batsman says initially “we didn’t start off as well. we were either not bowling well or battling well. Put together as a package we were not clicking. If we batted well, we did not bowl well and if we bowled well, batting was not up to the mark.” He adds that as the team started reaching towards the finals, “we started peaking at the right time and both started becoming a formidable package. Obviously we fielded well also.”
He talks about the individual players and also how the individual players performed as a team. He says that Sehwag is one of the gifted players that he has played with. “Viru is a very unpredictable batsman. The opposition would not know what he was going to do. Standing at the non-strikers end, I had started to figure out what he was going to do”, Tendulkar tells Headlines Today. Giving credit to the entire team for a solid performance in the World Cup 2011, the ace cricketer says that all the players performed very well and were very aggressive. He adds that Gautam Gambhir played brilliantly, was extremely positive and capitalised on the conditions of the pitch. Tendulkar adds that all the players were young and aggressive. “Ashish Nehra, Munaf, Zaheer, Harbhajan… they were all aggressive and you got to hold these guys back. It matters how you show your aggression,” says Tendulkar.
Talking about Yuvraj’s performance in the World Cup, Tendulkar says that something happened right from the first game and that continued till the last game. “He told me a number of times that we would like to do something special for you and this is our last opportunity,” says Tendulkar. About the then captain MS Dhoni, Tendulkar says that Dhoni was calm and controlled through the game. He got used to the conditions and then he built a beautiful innings. He rates Dhoni right at the top, along with Michael Bevan as he has been a most consistent finisher in the one-day game. On Gary Kirsten, the Manager of the Indian cricket team, Tendulkar says that Kirsten was amazing and always knew what needed to be done at that particular hour. Tendulkar recalls how the Indian team had progressed since the 2007 World Cup and had become world Number one in Test cricket. “We had started playing really good cricket and wanted to take that momentum into the World Cup and we finished really well,” says Tendulkar.
Reminiscing about the time when India had won its first World Cup in 1983, Tendulkar says he was just 10 years old and was too small to understand the significance of the World Cup. He understood the significance and the “grandness” of the tournament when he played his first World Cup in Australia. Tendulkar says that even though he had started playing the game with tennis balls when he was just five or six years and had joined the celebrations of India winning its World Cup he did not really understand its significance. Highlighting another superstition around cricket, Tendulkar said that people had started circulating SMSes that whichever tournament Dhoni has tied, India has won. “It was IPL, it was Champion’s League, it was the T-20 World Cup and now it was this… so when time people started circulating these SMSes, I thought it may be possible…”
Talking about, playing matches with Pakistan, Tendulkar admits that it builds tremendous pressure on the team. “The Pakistan game was by far a high pressured game compared to the finals. It is a different atmosphere altogether. A game with Pakistan is not about pressure only on that day. In 2003 when we had to play Pakistan at Centurion, my friends had started talking about it a good 10 months ago… and they wanted us to win that match,” Tendulkar says. “… of course, we do not think that way.” Recalling his feelings of the moment, Tendulkar says that nothing comes close to that moment when he lifted the World Cup in his hands. “It was not my trophy, it was our trophy, it was the nation's trophy,” he says.