Sachin Tendulkar's longevity and longing to play cricket for over two decades has made him one of the country's biggest sports heroes.
Other than cricket, Sachin is known to be a mean player with a paddle in his hand and a table to play ping pong on. But he has more on his mind than just cricket and table tennis. Recently retired from the limited-overs format and T20 league, Tendulkar appears to have turned his attention to other sports.
Speaking to HT on the sidelines of the national under-15 sub-junior football tournament here on Tuesday, he touched upon his displeasure at the ban on the Indian Olympic Association, his love for Lionel Messi's footwork and the joy of finally winning the T20 league.
Seeing you next to a football field is a new experience, do you get time to follow the sport?
I follow every sport to the point that is possible. I am not a big watcher, but I do like to play it. As many would know, football is an important part of the training process nowadays in cricket. Games can get very competitive there. I might not stay up till 2am to watch a match, but it is a great sport.
Who is your favourite football player?
Right now, I would say Lionel Messi. Simply for the feats he has achieved, I would say he is one of the best around the world.
We see a lot of fanfare during a cricket tournament; however other sports don't command the same popularity. What needs to be done to improve the sporting culture in the country?
A platform at the grassroots level is an aspect where improvement is necessary. Nothing happens overnight. If you have the will to pursue something, one has to be patient. A process has to start with a step. More tournaments at the junior level could be the way forward.
Is a franchise model, like the one in the T20 league, the key to success in other sports?
One has to see how people respond to it. It is a terrific concept and I don't see any reason why it should not be successful. However, corporate bodies need to come forward and support more. In any sport, backing by corporates or sponsors is required.
India's performance in other sports, especially in Olympic disciplines, has gone up rapidly. However, a lot of work is required to bring India's performance at par with the world.
We need to give athletes a platform and space to train and perform. If one is looking at an athlete and expecting him/her to bring us a medal, that's not possible. So many athletes have won us medals in the last decade, I am sure years of effort and time must have been put in.
Olympic sports in the country have hit a roadblock due to the tussle between IOA and IOC. Do you feel athletes are getting a raw deal because of the fracas?
To know that one cannot participate is one of the most disheartening things for a player; that he cannot compete after all the sacrifice and effort.
You have achieved a prize after toiling for a long time. How does it feel to finally grasp the T20 league trophy?
We had quite a celebration. The victory is an important achievement, especially when you know the amount of effort you have put in. To get the win after six years makes me feel proud to have been a part of a great team like Mumbai Indians.