What major changes have you seen in cricket over a period of time? Which of these are good for the game and which, bad?
Test cricket has definitely become faster, there are more shots played, more runs scored, batsmen innovate more and are prepared to take more chances both because of the introduction of Twenty20 cricket and the fact that there’s plenty of one-day cricket played. That is one positive change.
Isn’t the amount of T20s played a worry?
At this stage I feel T20s are fine, something one would like to see, the game getting globalised that is. With the introduction of T20, more non cricket-playing countries are coming to the game.
Don’t you think T20s are more a game of hit and miss and take away the skills of the game?
This is (the opinion) for the connoisseurs of the game. But if you have to show cricket to a Japanese, Chinese or Korean guy and explain what is going on for five days, it would obviously require mega effort.
You obviously take pride in your Test achievements?
Absolutely, for me Test cricket is Number One.
Doesn’t the perception that T20 might dislodge Test cricket bother you?
No, it will not. Tests are in no danger at all. I think, just to introduce someone to cricket, Twenty20 is a good format. Once they start understanding the game, then Test cricket obviously has a lot more in it to study.
Aren’t you worried that the game’s administrators will ignore Tests, seeing how much money comes in from the shorter versions?
I don’t think so. Ideally, I would say that we all regard Test cricket as No. 1 compared to one-day and T20 cricket, so the match fees and income from playing Test cricket have to be significantly more than from T20s. Then people would want to play more Tests than other formats. And, it is not all about the money. When I started, playing Test cricket was my dream.
But that might not be the case for today’s kids?
Yeah, it is different era. Who knows what is going to happen 10-20 years from now? At this moment though, I feel Test cricket is by far Number One, for me.
Will you feel sad, if a day comes when Tendulkar’s Test record may not be important but his one-day or T20 record will be considered a bigger achievement?
I am pretty sure it won’t happen.
You still play with child-like passion. What motivates you now?
Honestly, it is within me. I don’t think any external factor is needed to motivate me. Playing for India is in itself a huge motivation and I take a lot of pride in playing for India. I care about cricket. This is all I ever wanted to do.
Have you ever thought that someday, you will have to give up cricket? Does that thought frighten you?
Not at this stage, I am enjoying my game and there is cricket left in me.
We all hope you carry on till 2011 and beyond, but does the thought that there could be a day when you won’t be playing scare you?
At this stage I am not thinking of it at all. At some stage one will have to, but I don’t need to think about that right now. What I’m saying is that it will be appropriate to think about it when the situation arises. Right now, it is not something I want to do.
Is playing the next World Cup your next big dream?
There is a lot of cricket before that. You want to take one step at a time. Right now I am not thinking about that.
But would you want to be part of a winning World Cup team in 2011?
Oh, yeah, yeah, that will be something special.
On a different tack, how does it feel when people say that Sachin does not help India win matches?
I don’t know. How can I answer that, it is for the people to look at a broader picture. How can I answer that? If I were not contributing for India, then I would not have scored as many runs.
Who would you call the best Indian cricketer of your time?
Definitely (Anil) Kumble.
And the best batsman in the present lot?
There are two guys I have enjoyed watching, Viru and Yuvraj… and Dhoni.
The best captain you have played under?
I think two, Sourav and Dhoni.
Why these two, what were their special skills?
I liked the way Sourav handled the team. I liked the way he would mix around with the team. As for Dhoni, his thought processes and mine are the same. Whatever I would have done, he is pretty close to my thinking.
Finally, is there any crisis you faced or something you now feel you could have avoided?
No, I don’t think so. There are absolutely no regrets. I might have made mistakes while playing — like had I known I would get out while playing a certain shot, I would not have not done it. But no, I have no regrets as such.
( This is the concluding part of the interview. On Friday, we take a peek into how Sachin spends his time when not playing cricket )