(Published on Aug 21, 2005)
The weather outside Sachin Tendulkar’s Bandra house depicts the state of his cricketing life -- gloomy, but not dark. And like we are convinced that the sun will come out, Tendulkar knows that he will take guard soon. Since 1999, he’s not been in the best sporting health.
Yet, there are indications that he has managed to tide over the crisis with characteristic poise.
Ask him a question about how he has coped with back, foot, finger and elbow injuries and he’ll soon add that you forgot the shoulder and hamstring injuries.
Excerpts from an interview:
Since 1999, you have suffered from back, foot, finger and elbow injuries. What is the mindset of a top sportsman in such situations?
I have carried a lot of injuries for the last six years. I had a bad hamstring injury before the last World Cup and a shoulder injury towards the end of the West Indies tour in 2002. If you are going to consistently push yourself hard and to the limit, injuries are going to happen. In any sport, it’s very normal to see players go down with injuries.
Somehow things go wrong. Where I am concerned, it’s part and parcel of sport but I would prefer to carry on with the other parcel which doesn’t have any room for injuries. I have overcome most of the obstacles. This (tennis elbow) has been around for a year now -- since August 18, last year. I have to be mentally tough which I am prepared to be.
How critical was the back injury in 1999?
It happened while I was playing (against Pakistan in Chennai, 1999). I got an attack of cramps. Everything started cramping -- forearms, the area between my index finger and thumb.
I was finding it difficult to stretch my muscles. The situation was such that I had to carry on somehow. It started because of dehydration. Whatever fluids you take, the heat saps you. You saw what happened to Mohammad Kaif when he was batting against Australia there (in 2004).
Kaif is probably the fittest member of the side and it happened to him. He had probably batted half the number of hours of what I did. He scored 64 while I scored 136. It’s all about keeping yourself properly hydrated.
Talking about hydrating, not many people know that I had to set an alarm just to drink water at night. I used to make it a point to stuff myself with water and sleep. It is not what you do that morning, it is what you do 10-12 hours prior to the game which is important.
Have you felt uncertain about your future when you had these injuries?
Honestly, I never thought like that. If you start thinking in that direction then... as they say... the body reacts to how you think. If the thinking is not healthy, then the body will take longer to recover. I make all the effort to think that it’s going to get better at some stage.
Have all these injuries made you a different batsman?
Not the injuries. It’s just my age and probably my maturity. Everything changes with time. I feel people should be wise enough to accept that because everything changes. The greatest example is Amitabh Bachchan. He plays different roles.
Similar is the case with the other sportspersons. Great players like Vivian Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Allan Border -- they all represent varied styles.
When I first got into the team I was very aggressive while others like Vengsarkar and Ravi (Shastri) were naturally at a different level altogether. Then later, there were Azharuddin and Sidhu.
Now, I have reached that level and guys like Viru (Sehwag), Yuvraj and others are playing different roles. It is all about what the team needs. If the team wants me to go out there and go bang, bang, I can do that. You have each guy doing different things.
Eventually when things come together, it clicks. It’s not important what five people sitting 100 metres away think about how you should play. It’s about the team.
Does the fact that you’ve come back each time provide inspiration in these times?
Yes... it does. I know I have overcome so many obstacles. For my back injury, I went to Australia to fix it and it worked. I’ve just got to be patient. Each injury is going to have a different time frame for recovery. I have got to respect that.
What makes you so positive?
I’ve worked hard for this and there are people around me who have worked equally hard. With their support, I feel extremely confident. It’s very tough, but with them showing me the light at the end of the tunnel, I get more determined.
I want to play for sometime. I am not just looking at the next few matches but at a broader perspective. I don’t want to play a couple of games and see things go wrong.
It’s my family... the way we interact at home has helped me to be positive. Also, the desire to play for India makes me think in that direction. To get to the top, you have to have a support staff and for me, that is my family.