The Covid-19 pandemic has locked up everyone in their homes, and it is no different for Sachin Tendulkar. While cricket fans are killing time by watching old clips of Sachin’s batting artistry, the Master Blaster divides his time between bonding with his children - Sara and Arjun - over board games, and donning the chef’s hat whipping up his favourite dishes for everyone at home. As India prepares to end the third phase of the nationwide lockdown, cricket.com in an exclusive interview caught up with cricket’s favourite son for an exclusive chat. Here are the excerpts.
100 hundreds and 164 fifties, all of them would have been memorable innings one way or another. But what is your favourite non-fifty, non-hundred innings and why?
An innings I will remember is the first ODI between India and Australia in 2001, right after we won the historic Test series. I was batting well with VVS Laxman and together we got India off to a flying start. I had decided to be more aggressive against Glenn McGrath. There was an over where I attacked McGrath and managed to hit three boundaries and a six. The idea was to not let him settle, and the plan had largely worked. I eventually got run out for 35 runs in that match but I was in good form to continue otherwise.
Another innings I cherish is the first one-day international between West Indies and India at Trinidad in 1997. We batted first, and the weather was overcast, with the wicket damp in the morning. Not only was the wicket challenging to bat on, their bowling attack was extremely good as well. Their pace battery consisted of Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Ian Bishop and Franklin Rose. I was able to counterattack and score quick 44 runs, before getting out to Ambrose caught behind on what was an umpiring error. It was a rain-curtailed match and we lost the match, but purely for the tough conditions in which one had to bat on, I rank that innings as one of my favourites.
I cannot forget the match against Australia in the ICC Champions Knockout Trophy in Nairobi in 2000 as well. The wicket was once again damp and not a very easy one to bat on. There was plenty of life on the surface. The way McGrath bowled the first over, I spoke to Sourav Ganguly and suggested that I go after McGrath. I realised we have to do something out of the box (play mind games) I exchanged few words with him which took him by surprise. I also started playing shots against him, though some of them were risky. The plan was to get him angry and make him attack my body instead of looking to get me out. We were beaten on occasions but also were able to make McGrath bowl where we wanted. I made a quick-fire 38 and this came in a winning cause so I was very happy.
You share a warm rapport with many greats of the game. Is there any opponent against whom you have played very rarely (or just missed overlapping their career with yours - for example, Sir Viv Richards) but wished you could have played more against him?
I have two regrets. The first is that I have never played with Sunil Gavaskar. Mr Gavaskar was my batting hero when I grew up and not playing with him as part of a team remains a regret. Mr Gavaskar retired a couple of years before I made my debut.
My other regret is not having played against my childhood hero Sir Vivian Richards. I was fortunate to have played against him in county cricket, but I still rue not being able to play against him in an international match. Even though Sir Richards retired in 1991 and we have a couple of years overlapping in our careers, we did not get to play against each other.
How difficult do you think will it be for cricketers to get back into rhythm post-Covid? You yourself have had experiences with layoffs - especially the tennis elbow injury. Any advice that you would like to give the young cricketers during these difficult times?
To start with, I would say that coming out of an injury and coming out of a break are two very different things. I have had multiple injuries in my career. Quite a few upper body injuries. When I had my finger injury, I had to work again on my grip afresh. Then I had tennis elbow injury, shoulder injury, wrist injury and so on. When a player gets injured, the muscles are weak and the brain has to make adjustments accordingly, knowing the limitations after the injury. It is almost like starting from scratch. It is very challenging.
However, having a break is like having an off-season. I remember between 1994 and 1995, the Indian team had not played more than 7 Test matches or so in two years if I remember right. Earlier, we did not have the IPL either, so we had long breaks of two to three months. Sometimes it used to rain as well, and there were no indoor training facilities those days. But given all these constraints, it would take about a couple of weeks to get back into rhythm.
Therefore, I feel, if the players are maintaining the basics in terms of fitness, they should be able to get ready to play cricket in around 2 weeks or so. It is a question of hitting the nets and getting a feel of the ball, getting into that groove and rhythm.
How do you think the cricket world may be different after the pandemic is over and regular services resume? For example, the use of saliva to keep the ball shining may have to stop.
The ICC needs to have a closer look at how the balls are being manufactured. They may have to speak to the top manufacturers like SG, Kookaburra and Dukes, to understand what can be done differently, given the circumstances and concerns.
If one cannot use saliva from a hygiene standpoint, then sweat should not be allowed as well. Maybe there can be a special type of lacquer coating which will keep the shine on the ball. But at the same time, the spinners should not be taken out of the equation.
Probably the ICC then needs to look at legally allowing application of a wax coat or other similar substances on a ball, to enable swing movement as bowlers desire. We need to think innovatively to ensure we come up with a solution that takes into account safety and hygiene, but at the same time does not take away from the bowlers or causes imbalances in the game.
What have you been up to during the lockdown? Any newfound skills or interests? Do you play cricket with Arjun at home?
I have generally been able to spend more time with everyone in the family. I spend a lot of time with my mother and she tells me about stories from my childhood. With our busy lives, sometimes we tend to forget these stories, but this time period has served as a good memory refresh. Anjali and I watch a lot of movies and serials. We both along with kids bond by playing board games and have a lot of fun. Whenever possible I do some cooking and that’s something I enjoy doing a lot.
Through laptop and phone, I am part of everyday work and meetings. I keep myself fit by gymming – sometimes alone and sometimes with either Arjun or Sara. And yes, I do play cricket with Arjun and that’s something we used to do even before lockdown.