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I retired when even training became an effort: Sachin Tendulkar

The buzz around the biggest retirement in Indian sport was still very alive yesterday, but Sachin Tendulkar was calm and composed as ever amongst the chaos as photographers jostled for space and journalists clamoured to get their hands on the microphone to ask their questions.

Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar responds to questions during his press conference at a city hotel yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble

In his first media interaction just 24 hours after he bid adieu at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday, the batting maestro spoke at length about the tearful farewell, guru Ramakant Achrekar, brother Ajit Tendulkar, life post-retirement, the highs and lows in his 24 years of international cricket and being the first sportperson to receive the Bharat Ratna.

Excerpts:

On the feeling after retiring…
I woke up at 6.50 a.m. I generally get up according to my body clock. But then I realised that I don’t need to take an early shower and rush for a match. So I made some tea for myself and had a lovely breakfast with my wife (Anjali). Since yesterday (Saturday), I have been getting lots of messages from my friends, so I also responded to them. It hasn’t struck me that I won’t play cricket again. It has been a dream journey… no regrets that I am leaving cricket. This was the right time to stop playing cricket.

On the emotional farewell…
The first moment when I went on the wicket and stood between the 22 yards, I realised this was the last time I was in front of a packed stadium as part of the Indian team. That made me quite emotional, that I wouldn’t have a bat in my hand, playing for India. While I walked back to the dressing room, I didn’t look up when shaking hands with many of the West Indies team members. I didn’t want to be rude, but I did not want anyone to see my face that way because I was in tears. The way my retirement happened and the way people showed their love, you can never plan it. God only decides it. I pray to God that You have shown me this day and I cannot ask you for anything more.

On touching the pitch one last time…
I have never done that (touching the pitch) in my international career. I knew never ever in my life I would get to do it again. And that is where my life started and those 22 yards gave me everything. It’s like a temple for me. I wanted to say thank you to cricket. I just thanked cricket for everything that I got in my
life. It was an emotional moment for me. I was talking to the wicket. The thought that I won’t be able to get back to that place again in a competitive match made me emotional.

On his decision to retire…
I was still enjoying cricket. I have always said the day I felt I should stop playing, I would inform you. I got that feeling because after 24 years you have to appreciate I had many injuries (which was) not easy to overcome. You reach a stage when your body gives you a message, enough of this physical load. The body requires rest. The body is not able to take more load consistently. It was becoming an effort to continue training. Earlier, it used to be automatic.

On being bestowed with the Bharat Ratna…
I am receiving this award on behalf of all the Indians. I respect this award. Because after getting this award, what next? This is the ultimate. The door is open now as a sportsman has got the Bharat Ratna. In future also I pray that the contribution of all our great sportsmen and women for their country is appreciated. This award is a special award and if it is given to a special person then we feel extremely happy.

On brother Ajit…
Sir (Achrekar) and my brother Ajit were a solid team. One used to tell me on-the-field and one (my brother) used to tell me off-the-field. These discussions are on for the last 30 years. Like I said in my speech, the night (of my dismissal) also we discussed on how I should have played that shot (that dismissed me). This is the beauty of our relationship. I can’t express it in words on what kind of relationship we share. This was a dream that we lived together. I was representing the nation and along with that even Ajitda. Yesterday, when I met him, I felt he was a little emotional, but was not showing it. But at the same time he appeared to be relieved and relaxed.

On coach Ramakant Achrekar…
Sir till now had never told me ‘well played’. The reason was that sir didn’t want me to get complacent. Sir told me that this game is bigger than any cricketer and always respect it. I always respected it. Whenever we scored a lot of runs, we used to hope that now sir will tell us ‘well played’. But it never happened. That is why yesterday in my speech I said jokingly that you can say it now. After this I am not going to play any competitive match, so you can take the chance now and tell me ‘well played’. I got his call yesterday after receiving the Bharat Ratna. Sir told me ‘well done’. Sir was very happy and on hearing this I was also very happy. When such things happen, you can share it with special people so that happiness increases.

On the most thrilling and disappointing moments…
The 2011 World Cup was special. It was a long wait of 22 years. But finally God showed me the day. Yesterday was also important for me. The way people responded. I don’t know how to react, just want to say a big thank you to all of you. The most disappointing moment was the 2003 World Cup where we reached the final. We were playing so well, but we couldn’t cross the final hurdle.

On having a foreign or Indian coach…
I don’t think it is about whether it is a foreign coach or an Indian coach. It’s more about how consistently one can bring about results. A proper coach is one who understands the players and is more like a friend. We all know how to play the cover drive but when you have a technical problem, one should be able to sit and sort out with the coach. It’s what you put between those two ears. A coach is a coach. It doesn’t matter as to where he comes from. A coach should be one in whom a player can confide his feelings. Confidence is so important in a coach-player relationship. To know that there is nothing that is leaked out.

On life post-retirement…
Cricket has been my life, it is oxygen to me. In 40 years, at least 30 years I have played proper cricket. 75 per cent of my life has been cricket, so there will be some association with the game, maybe not in the immediate future. Still, it has been only 24 hours since my retirement, give me at least 24 days to relax. Then I will see what to do. Even though physically I am not playing for India, in my heart I will always play and pray for India. Whether I am part of the team, it really doesn’t matter. 

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