Nearly two decades of cricket may have taken a toll on Sachin Tendulkar's body, but the master batsman hopes to play in the 2011 World Cup and wants to realise his "unfulfilled dream" of winning the coveted trophy for the country.
Tendulkar, who has been rested from the second and third Test against South Africa due to a groin injury, said he would not commit himself to play in the 2011 mega event to be held in the subcontinent, but would want to call it quits with a World Cup triumph.
"Winning the World Cup is certainly still an unfulfilled dream and I would love to play in it. But 2011 is still some way to go, and I don't want to look that far and commit myself to anything," said Tendulkar who will appear for a record sixth time if he plays in the mega event to be co-hosted by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Tendulkar, who began his international career in 1989 as a 16-year-old, said he will weigh his career options series by series without setting a timeline for retirement.
"I am enjoying my cricket at the moment and don't want to think too much into the future. I have been playing almost non-stop for 20 years and want to focus only on present. I prefer to take series by series," the master batsman who turns 35 on April 24 told CNN-Lokmat.
He said he had defended Harbhajan Singh in the Sydney racial row as the off-spinner did not say what he was accused of and it involved protecting the national pride.
"I defended Harbhajan Singh because he had never said what he was accused of and I felt if we don't defend him this time, then when will we stand by him. I felt that Harbhajan was a teammate who needed support and I should take the lead," Tendulkar said.
"It was not just important for us as cricketers, but it was important for all Indians staying abroad, not just in Australia," said the maestro.
Responding to a query on on-field sledging which BCCI and ICC want to curb, Tendulkar said any international player should be prepared for it if it was within limits.
"There are limits to everything which no cricketer should cross. Some things will happen on the field of play. Everyone wants to win, and we should be prepared for it as long as it is within limits."
Tendulkar, who has most centuries in Tests and one-day cricket and just 171 runs away from becoming Test cricket's highest run getter, said the West Indian legend Brian Lara was the finest batsman he had played with or against.
"Ricky Ponting is good especially when he is playing South Africa or West Indies, but not against India. Lara is a great player, a once in a lifetime player. He had amazing ability," the Indian icon said of Lara whose most Test runs he is expected to erase from record books.
The master batsman, who does not have a leadership record to match his batting prowess, picked Nasser Hussain as the most inspiring captain.
"A good captain is someone who is always two steps ahead of the game. Nasser Hussain is the one captain who had that quality," Tendulkar said of the India-born Englishman.
Tendulkar also sought to puncture the theory of senior-junior divide in Team India, saying it was a media creation. "These reports of senior-junior rift are totally false. In the team, seniors and juniors respect each other, and we realise the importance of playing for the country.
"The media is damaging its credibility by giving stories without authentic information." He also felt that IPL and Twenty20 cricket will be huge boost to spreading the game to more audiences in other parts of the world.
"There have been many changes in the game in the last 18-20 years. Twenty20 cricket is making the game like baseball and football. Crowds know the game will be over in three hours. This will help globalise cricket.
"The one complaint I get from foreigners is that not just five days, but even the one-day game is too long. They would prefer a game that doesn't go beyond three hours," said the captain of Mumbai Indians in the IPL starting April 18.
Tendulkar would not buy the argument by some cricketing greats that auctioning of the players in the lucrative Indian Premier League has destroyed the soul of the game.
"No, I don't think so at all. I never played the game thinking about the money I would make out of it, and neither do the youngsters (think like that) today," he said.
"This game has given me sleepless nights, just thinking of how I will play the next day. That excitement can never be measured in terms of money. Right from the start, all I wanted was to play well and score as many runs as possible. That has been my motivation, not money," Tendulkar said.
About post-retirement plans, Tendulkar said he would want to be associated with the game and continue charity works. "I would like to spend more time with my family, but will in some way be connected with cricket. The only thing I have known in all these years is to play cricket and I would have to be always associated with the game.
"I am associated with a number of charities, only I prefer not to talk about it. I hope to stay involved in some way with the work," he said. Tendulkar said he imbibed his calm and composure under pressure from his father who expired nine years ago.
"As a child whenever I looked at him, he would always seem to so calm and composed, never under any pressure. That has stayed with me always and whatever I am today is because of his guidance and love. I cannot express that in words."