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Home > Sunday Mid Day News > It feels nice to be loved says Sachin on the eve of his 50th birthday

It feels nice to be loved, says Sachin on the eve of his 50th birthday

Updated on: 23 April,2023 10:18 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Clayton Murzello , Ashwin Ferro |

India cricket legend Tendulkar opens up on his early life, family and the other personalities who have made his life special

It feels nice to be loved, says Sachin on the eve of his 50th birthday

Pic/Atul Kamble

Did you find birthdays exciting in your youth?
Not really. There were no big celebrations. Normal cake cutting would happen; no big parties, only limited friends were called. And when I started playing cricket, hardly anything [happened] actually. I didn’t miss it because it never happened. I don’t remember having a proper party in my school days. 

Your birthday comes in the year when school is shut for the summer. So, we guess, you had no chance to mingle with friends …
Yes, I didn’t get to do that. I did not have that privilege.

Sachin Tendulkar

What about celebrations at the cricket nets?
Just a vada pav and a soft drink or burger if someone wanted to have it.

What’s the one snack you couldn’t resist even as a fit player?
I would eat [snacks]. My theory was that you can have whatever you want, but not whenever you want. So, if I felt I was not in good shape, then I couldn’t eat whatever I wanted. Simple. I’ll give you an example. Before the 2011 World Cup, we were in South Africa. We had completed the Test series and before the ODI series, we had a meeting in the dressing room. This was to be the last series before we got into the big tournament. So, how did we plan to start preparing ourselves? We cannot wake up on February 10 and start. We have to start now. What is it that we are prepared to do? I gave a brief lecture and said that we had to sacrifice something. I said, I know we are in good shape and we are training, but can we get fitter? Can we lose three kgs? We have about six weeks, so can we train hard? The idea was to switch on our subconscious minds to something that had to be done.

But then, I damaged my hamstring. The first thing the doctors told me was you cannot run; you have to just take it easy and do certain exercises to activate muscles around the hamstring and then slowly build it [strength] up. The next three weeks were going to be challenging. I had given this big lecture [to the team] so I came back and for four weeks, my diet included boiled food, nothing else. Whether it was steamed fish or boiled chicken, I would put a little chilly sauce and have it. Lettuce was my chapati. I was able to lose 3.8 kilos. So, when it was needed, I could stay away from any food. 

Sachin Tendulkar with late friend and agent Mark Mascarenhas in 1998 Sachin Tendulkar with late friend and agent Mark Mascarenhas in 1998 

The most special birthday would be the 1998 one where you scored a hundred against Australia in Sharjah?
I think that was the only time I celebrated my birthday. I didn’t organise it; CBFS [Cricketers Benefit Fund Series] did and yes, Mark Mascarenhas [late agent and friend] was there doing the broadcasting. So, they had arranged it one day before my birthday. All three teams from the tri-series [India, Australia and New Zealand] were present because coincidentally there was an event. That evening [April 23]  they brought in my birthday and I cut a cake.

You are a family man now, so do your children’s birthdays take precedence over yours?
Yes. But now they are at an age where they have their friends [to celebrate with]. That takes precedence over anything else. My daughter [Sara] was in England for six-seven years. Arjun also has started travelling. But if at all they are here, we find a reason to get together.

Sachin with his family at Mumbai airport in 2004. Pic/Ashish RajeSachin with his family at Mumbai airport in 2004. Pic/Ashish Raje

Has social media changed the concept of birthdays?
Yes. Earlier, it was limited to publications and [television] channels. Now, every person, every fan has a platform to wish me directly. It feels nice to be loved.

Any birthday gifts you have treasured over the years? 
This was not a birthday gift, but my sister [Savita] had gone to Kashmir and brought back a Kashmir willow bat for me. That was the first proper bat I had. It was one of the important gifts I received in my life. The second one, was a cycle. Quite a few friends in my colony had one. I said [to my parents] I’m not going down to play unless I get one. It was shocking for them because I was just six or seven and wouldn’t stay put at home. My father said he’d organise one, but I didn’t go down to play for a few days till I got it (laughs). 

Sachin Tendulkar with his mother Rajni during his  farewell Test match against the West Indies at Wankhede Stadium in 2013. Pic/Prakash ParsekarSachin Tendulkar with his mother Rajni during his  farewell Test match against the West Indies at Wankhede Stadium in 2013. Pic/Prakash Parsekar

Perhaps you didn’t realise back then how difficult it was for them to get you a cycle…
One hundred per cent! There wasn’t a single thing [that I asked for] and my father turned down. I didn’t understand then the challenges that my parents had to face, and that their pockets were not deep.

My father always found ways to make it happen. I was really, really lucky. Only when you grow up, do you realise it. Again, this [the cycle] was not a birthday gift.

Sachin Tendulkar with his late father Ramesh at a book release functionSachin Tendulkar with his late father Ramesh at a book release function

What have you inherited from your father?
His nature. He was always calm, solution-oriented. Distant relatives and his cousin brothers, who lived in Pune, would call him for any advice. Certain matters required personal attention and he would catch an Asiad bus [from Dadar] to Pune, spend time with them and return.

He would get involved in another individual’s challenges, and he’d treat them as if they were his own. I was little and didn’t understand much, but I did see him running around here and there. When I speak with my mother, I learn all these stories. His helping nature was unbelievable, whether it was with a gardener in our Sahitya Sahawas colony or a cleaner. I remember the postmen coming to deliver letters. We stayed on the fourth floor and there was no lift. My father would always call the postman in, make him sit in our drawing room, put the fan on, serve him water and ask if he’d have tea or coffee. Ours wasn’t the only building he was covering, was my father’s logic. We continue to discuss his way of doing things. If we could emulate 50 per cent of what he did, we would be extraordinary human beings. 

And from your mother?
Grit. My mother is mentally very, very strong and hardworking. She worked for LIC [Life Insurance Corporation] in Santacruz. One evening, while she was returning from work, a man stole her purse and jumped into a bus thinking that my mother wouldn’t chase him. But she followed him all the way and got her purse back. There was a write-up published in a newspaper on this incident—brave lady catches thief.

She has faced a lot of physical challenges—back, knee [problems] and found solutions. She has found her own lifestyle; she never sulks. There is always a smile on her face.

A number of things that I sometimes say, including rehne dete hain isko [let this be], [she would say] no, we never did this. So it’s also a reminder to me, the kids, and everyone at home that this is how it should be [to act on things.]

Mother TeresaMother Teresa

What about people from the non-sporting arena? Who did you look up to?
Mother Teresa. I always thought that in the second innings of my life, this [charity] is what I should be doing. If I could contribute even a fraction, a miniscule of what she has been able to, I would have done a great job. I wonder how she did all that. It requires a person to think differently to achieve that.

Did you prepare a road map for your second innings?
Our foundation [Sachin Tendulkar Foundation] works with children. We focus on three verticals — education, sports and health. We work all over the country. The goal is to be able to contribute more. As of now, I don’t have any partners. In time to come, we’ll see how we can grow and impact more lives. It’s satisfying.

Then India captain Sourav Ganguly with Sachin Tendulkar at the 2003-04 Irani Cup in Chennai. Pic/Ashish RajeThen India captain Sourav Ganguly with Sachin Tendulkar at the 2003-04 Irani Cup in Chennai. Pic/Ashish Raje

Was Nelson Mandela one of the people you admired?
Oh yeah… 100 per cent. But why I mentioned Mother Teresa was because even while I was playing cricket as a kid, we kept seeing something or the other [about her] on the television; that really inspired me. A lady who didn’t belong to this country, came and changed so many lives. How many people do that?

And, it helps to have a doctor at home. Anjali [wife] agrees. It’s all about impacting lives. If God has been kind to us, then this is something that we should do. We have a very good and committed team. We take a lot of pride in making sure that certain things happen. It’s not that you give money and forget about it. We keep track of progress.

Sachin Tendulkar with Ramesh

Is humour something that you promote at home and work?
Yeah. I don’t like being serious. If I know someone [well] then I’m always up to something. When you need to work, you work. But otherwise, you enjoy life. I believe in that. I do take some time to open up to people I don’t know. I can’t just start making friends. But I like enjoying myself. I cannot be serious all the time.

And you liked that in the dressing room too?
Yes. We were constantly cracking jokes and were up to mischief. That is how it should be. But we knew where to draw the line. Everyone was clear about that line. That is the kind of relationship I shared with all my teammates. Being the senior-most in the squad, I was like the elder brother. They would pull my leg too. It was perfect because it kind of made me feel younger.

 Sachin Tendulkar at a promotional event with actor Amitabh Bachchan in 2003; (right) Sachin with actor Shah Rukh Khan during a benefit match at the Wankhede Stadium the same yearSachin Tendulkar at a promotional event with actor Amitabh Bachchan in 2003; (right) Sachin with actor Shah Rukh Khan during a benefit match at the Wankhede Stadium the same year

And how was it when you were part of the younger lot?
In the group on my first tour [Pakistan 1989], it was Salil [Ankola], who was my roommate. Sanjay [Manjrekar] was there too. I can’t say they were in my age group, but they were the closest whom I could feel comfortable with. [Krishnamachari] Srikkanth made me feel comfortable. In New Zealand, my second tour, I spent a lot of time with Sanjay and [Dilip] Vengsarkar. He had quite a few friends [in NZ] so we would go out with him. There were also team dinners which Bishan paaji [cricket manager Bedi] would organise. So, even when I was the youngest member of the squad, I would still have a good time. Venkatapathy Raju, Narendra Hirwani and Pravin Amre were players who I also enjoyed myself with and then Vinod [Kambli] got into the team. Ajay [Jadeja] and [Navjot Singh] Sidhu spent a lot of time with us too.

And what about pranks?
Right from my under-15 days, when we started touring, I’d be up to something. That made our tours exciting. Evenings were a lot of fun. There are good moments and disappointing moments on the field. How do you overcome those challenges? If you are in the right space, then you are prepared to go out the next morning. 

What’s the best prank you played on someone?
On Sourav… but which one do you know?

The Indore one, where you and Vinod Kambli filled his room with  water on which his gear was floating…
There was another one. The whole team were involved. We were in Kerala and had finished our practice session. We asked the support staff to leave the dressing room. John [Wright] was our coach. We said we only needed players to be present and told the support staff that there was some serious matter which the team had to discuss. We sat together and started this conversation: “Dada, tumne kya bola hai newspaper mein jaake? [What have you gone and said to a newspaper?]. A few journalists we have spoken to, say that you’ve rubbished us. It’s not fair. You’re a captain and you are the only one who’s allowed to speak to the media but that doesn’t mean that you go and say what  you like. We got a couple of newspapers. This is the front page headline–Dada rubbishes colleagues’. Dada said, “Mai bhagwaan ki kasam khaata hoon, maine kuch nahin kiya hai’ [I swear to God, I’ve not said anything]. We then reminded him it was April 1.
Getting some dummy newspapers printed was amazing (laughs).

And the best prank played on you?
When we won the 2009 ODI series in New Zealand. There was a hot tub outside Harbhajan Singh’s room. One side of the hotel was an open deck balcony... anyone could go and sit in that tub. They all got in the tub but I didn’t want to. I said, mera mood nahin hai [I’m not in the mood for this]. But the rest of the team were determined. I had a club sandwich in my hand and the next thing I know, they had pulled me in and sandwich was floating. They took me by surprise. Zaheer [Khan], Yuvi [Yuvraj Singh], Harbhajan and [Ashish] Nehra made up that combination.

We know you love traveling and we remember you telling us that the first Christmas after you retired, you went to London because you wanted to see a white Christmas, something that you had not done. Were there any other places on your bucket list?
We also went to Iceland. They kept talking about the volcano [Ash] erupting anytime. The whole of Europe was shut for three-four days and it happened the very next year. 

Do you still enjoy driving around Mumbai?
Yeah, I love driving. If there is parking available, I drive. I’m driving 90 per cent of the time. 

Which is your favourite city to drive in India and abroad?
I drive to Tadoba [tiger reserve at Nagpur]. I drive a bit in London. I’m not comfortable with the left-hand drive. You need full focus, one mistake can be catastrophic. I don’t take the chance.

What’s the kind of influence Bollywood has had on you? 
I watch movies. Not just Bollywood. When I’m relaxing at home, I am watching some web series or the other.

When growing up, were movies a part of your life? 
I didn’t watch much when I was playing. There was hardly any time. The only time I saw movies was before my serious cricket career started at age 12. Achrekar Sir did not give me any time to breathe. I would be on the ground, at school or sleeping. I used to be so tired. I had no energy to do anything else.
But I remember watching a few during the under-15 India camp at Indore, where I met Sourav [Ganguly]. There was a common dining room and they had a TV set. Also, when I went to Pune with Abdul Ismail [coach/manager]—my first Mumbai under-15 trip, I did catch a few films.

You have a favourite Amitabh Bachchan movie?
It has to be Sholay. Those one-liners are too good. 

A favourite Shah Rukh Khan movie? 
Shah Rukh’s career and mine started at the same time more or less. So, a new movie in which he had acted was out, I’d watch it. I would listen to the songs of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge on the way to Anjali’s house and Wankhede Stadium. My family is a big fan of this movie as well.

Your first best-loved music group?
Five singers—Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi and Mukesh. This was thanks to my family. There was music on at home all the time and discussions on various songs. I grew up listening to old ’70s songs. Then, I graduated to Michael Jackson, Eagles, Gypsy Kings, Bob Marley, U2, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd. And then in the last couple of decades, Coldplay. Going to music concerts is something that Anjali and I do every summer. Last summer, we caught Elton John and the Eagles live at Hyde Park.

Do you listen to music that your kids like?
I listen to a few songs [of their choice]. Luckily, they have decent taste (laughs). They listen to my music as well. Whenever we are driving together, music has to be on unless I’m having some serious conversation.

We’ve seen some videos of you in the kitchen. What the best thing you cook? 
I can do barbecues. I make prawns, baingan bhartha, fish curry. I can tell instantly if the fish is not fresh. A lot of times it has happened in the dressing room too… I’d smell the fish and say, mat khao. 

Your favourite cuisine?
I would say homemade food is very special but I like Japanese too.

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