At the launch of his autobiography Playing It My Way, Sachin Tendulkar gave a detailed interview to the media where he spoke about Greg Chappell, his failure as captain and other issues.
Why did you fail as captain?
I have never believed in criticising players I have played with. It's wrong. If you go back and look at the scoreboard that itself would explain. Basically, we were not able to pick 20 wickets, neither were we able to put up big totals.
When we played in India, we beat South Africa and Australia but I thought in South Africa, Australia and West Indies, on occasions, there were matches which I thought we should have won. It was a big disappointment we were not able to turn them in our favour.I always believe that you are going to have good games and you are going to have bad games but the good games, you got to make sure you finish well; the good games should not be 80% or 90% and then in the last 10% someone comes and takes the game away from you. That happened on a few occasions which sort of either builds good momentum or takes the momentum away from you. So that is what happened.
Sachin Tendulkar speaks after launching his autobiography Playing It My Way in Mumbai. (AFP Photo)
Were you harsh on yourself as captain?
I wanted to give my best and I always did it, and if results about which I earlier spoke about, then these matches we should have won. There were disappointments in those games and it really hurt me, it really disturbed me that the games which were in our pockets were taken away from us. Those are huge disappointments and I felt really bad at that time, but in any sportsman's career it is a mixed package deal.
Sometimes there are fantastic moments like at Lord's when I was not the captain and we were chasing 323 runs and we were some 120-odd for five and unfortunately it didn't happen under my captaincy.
Now, here a couple of guys are batting and the captain has got nothing to do with winning the game, and also in Bangladesh when we tried (Robin Singh at No. 3). The same move which I tried in Sharjah with Robin didn't click, but here against a better attack it worked, so sometimes you don't have any explanation when things work and when things don't work.
Did you ever think while you were playing some players under-performed?
No, I mean guys fail, and who doesn't fail in life, everyone fails. It would be unfair to just pinpoint someone and say he was under- performing, didn't try his best, I can't. I have played the sport for 24 years and failures do happen.
Why did you quit captaincy?
It had started affecting me as a person. And every defeat that I faced it really hurt me. And off the field also, when I was back with my family, I couldn't switch off. I would be constantly thinking about it.
It started disturbing me. So I felt if I could contribute as a player and give all the suggestions to the next captain, as far as I am concerned if I am not the captain it does not mean cricket is taken away from me.
Still someone else is going to come and captain the side. If I still score runs and I win matches, I would still be happy and it would give me as much satisfaction. Yes, things didn't go according to plan when I was captain and it was a disappointment, but I thought if I could move on to the next chapter and contribute significantly to something which people would remember in time to come, then it has lot of value.
Was not getting your team the main reason?
I wouldn't say all the time, it happened only on certain occasions, but not always.
Did losing the Barbados Test while chasing 120 in 1997 hurt?
It hurts. It is possibly one of those matches right at the top. I remember having sleepless nights. I cried, I didn't cry in front of everyone. I did cry, it was just that outburst, and I let it go. It was really, really bad. I was shocked.
Was it difficult to stay quiet?
Staying quiet was difficult because there were times when I felt like talking. (But) I still felt I should focus on my game because one article would be followed by another and I don't want to get into that tangle. It was always wiser I felt that I followed it up with bigger scores than better articles.
On batting at No. 4 in ODIs...
Batting at No. 4, Greg (Chappell) told me (in 2007). I don't know the logic behind it because before that I was opening. Just before the World Cup, we came back from South Africa. It was less than two months before the World Cup when we played three ODIs against West Indies in India, I was told I would bat at No. 4.
If I am not mistaken, all the teams had started preparing for the World Cup around 10-12 months before that or longer and all those months I was opening the innings. My logic was I have been able to contribute as an opener and that is where I have played the maximum matches in my career so I should continue doing that.
We tried this experiment earlier also in South Africa but it didn't bring any success and we lost even to Natal B in a couple of games.
That is when John (Wright) came to my room and said 'in my personal capacity, as a friend, I am asking you where would you like to bat' and I said 'if it is from the team's point of view I am willing to bat wherever you want me to bat, but in my personal opinion, I should open because I believe I can go out and control the innings. I can bring much more to the table as an opener, with all the experience I have I think I can do a better job.' And that was also my conversation in 2007.
Disappointed with how things turned out under Chappell?
I remember precisely the first two tours I missed and there was controversy in Sri Lanka and in Zimbabwe and I wasn't there on both those tours. We played the Challenger Trophy and were driving back from Mohali with Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar and maybe Harbhajan Singh and a couple of guys were there.
We were all travelling together and that is when the players said we don't feel comfortable under Greg. I clearly told them he has joined us and we should accommodate him and give him a chance. I said we should let him settle down. For any coach to settle down, it does take time, so allow him that. I said 'I feel you guys are rushing and it is unfair' and I had sided with him. But over time, I felt in hindsight the players were right.
On Greg's tenure...
Greg's tenure as coach was the worst of my career. There is no doubt we failed as a collective in 2007, but his high-handed manner added to our disappointment and, in the immediate aftermath of defeat, had a harmful impact on Indian cricket.
Why do you think Greg behaved that way?
I wish I could understand what he was trying to do.
Didn't you tell Dravid when Chappell told you to take over captaincy?
I didn't want to do all that. As far as I was concerned, the matter was over right there because I didn't accept it, so I felt the battle was over. And I didn't want to create that atmosphere in the team because it was just the beginning of my stint with Greg. I hadn't played a single game with Greg till then, I had undergone surgery and it was a few months before the World Cup and that is when he came to talk to me.
Are you surprised that Greg said you are lying?
Anjali was with me then, so I need not say more.
On unwelcome opinions...
The outrage in India after the 2007 World Cup was not helped by armchair experts who were sitting thousands of miles away but still passing judgement on Indian cricket and suggesting I should 'have a good long look into the mirror' and think about retiring.
Such opinions, which were published in Indian newspapers, provoked fans across the country.
I have never quite understood why Ian Chappell, who was merely reporting on the game, should have got a headline in the Indian press. Would any of our former players commenting on Ricky Ponting or Michael Clarke have had a headline in the Melbourne Age or the Sydney Morning Herald? Chappell would have done better to stick to Australian cricket.
I remember meeting Ian Chappell in Durban in 2010 during the CLT20... I bumped into him as I was coming out of a health club after a session in the gym with my physio, Nitin Patel, who was party to the entire exchange. Ian started the conversation by saying that now he knew the secret behind my scoring big runs. I reminded him that he was conveniently changing his stand, considering what he'd written in 2007. I said to him that I had not done what he suggested back then because I was well aware of what I needed to do and how much cricket I had left in me.
I also said that critics like him change with the wind. When the going is good, they write positive things and when the going gets tough, they start making a lot of negative comments without ever trying to find out what actually is going through a player's body or mind. He then asked me if I had changed the weight of my bat. I told him that I hadn't changed a thing and was doing exactly what I had been doing for twenty long years. He was the one who had conveniently changed his opinion because I had been scoring heavily between 2008 and 2010.
Finally, the conversation moved to Greg. I told Ian bluntly that Greg had not been popular and I would not want to share a dressing room with him again. Ian attempted to argue that Greg had always had a problem trying to understand failure... I said that that was not my concern and all that mattered to me was that he had failed to take Indian cricket forward. Ian was most surprised to hear all this. In fact, Nitin Patel told me soon after that I was the last person he had expected to lash out like this.
What was the toughest part of the book to reveal?
To recall everything took some time, to gather my thoughts. I think the most difficult part to reveal was the relationship between Anjali and me. I have always kept that close to my heart and very few know about it, including my family and her family. In a few months they got to know.
On controversies in the book
All I have said is spoken the truth. Before this I had an important job in hand, to play well for India and focus on what I was supposed to do. I felt that by engaging in other things which were not going to contribute to my playing better cricket… All my energy should be focused in that direction, and that was playing cricket and getting better at that. It was a conscious effort not just by me but also my family… And I said once my cricket was done then maybe I would speak my mind and if I disagreed with something I could give my opinion.
Have you covered everything in the book?
I have addressed everything. There are some funny incidents. There are some so called controversial things also. There are also a number of areas where I have expressed what was going through my mind, what was my preparation, the idea behind doing that. So, I have sort of covered everything, including my personal life which I thought was the difficult thing for me to write.
Will the book accurately reveal your thoughts?
The support I have received from the media right from my schooldays to even after I was playing for India. I remember an article when I scored my first hundred.
I also remember the first time my name appeared in a newspaper, my score was 24. One of the guys who delivered the scoresheets to all newspapers told me, 'if you add six more runs and take your score to 30 your name will appear in newspapers.' It was my first game and I didn't know what I was. So I told him 'if you think that is fine then do it' and he did that. But my Sir (Achrekar) caught me, which was a big lesson in life. Sir told me 'if you wish to see your name in the newspaper then you better score runs'.
Overall, the media has been fair. But it is impossible to agree with whatever the media has said. On occasions I have completely disagreed but then I didn't want to retaliate and wanted to stay focused and let my bat do the talking. After the bat has been taken away, I can speak a little bit.
People say you haven't taken a stance on major issues…
If you see in my book, whatever people believe I should stand up for, only things (about) which I am 100% sure of, I stood up for in my book.
If you have read some of the articles, I have expressed myself whole-heartedly but the things which were not first-hand information, it is unwise to do that, it is a loose statement and I didn't want to fire loose statements. I should have some evidence, I should know something in detail to talk about it because then it makes sense and it will be appreciated by people. If I just start talking then it will not have any value.
How tough was it writing about teammates?
I don't think there should be any problem because I am not hurting anyone. Whatever I have stated in my book, I have been transparent with my teammates. So I don't think there is any animosity in the team. Whatever I have written, everyone knows about it except a couple of things like the Greg comment. Whatever is related to the players, I have always clarified with them face to face.
What were your expectations from teammates?
I expected certainly quite a bit from my teammates and that is how it should be. When I was scoring runs people were expecting more from me and it is a healthy sign. And when people didn't expect from me, I would be worried. It is not a place where I wanted to be and I believe that my teammates should also be in the same place.
It helps to bring the best out of me and it is a never ending process of getting better in life. Whatever you want to do in life, you want to continue getting better, and if that stopped then it would hurt me.
In 2007, you did speak about (Greg) Chappell…
I didn't speak much, to be honest. During my career, I don't think I made such statements because it was a sort of unwritten rule in the family that you just focus on the game and don't think about all these things. My family has been my strength in good times as well as in bad times and they have stood by me. In testing times, the family was with me and that is what you call your core strength.
Bhajji had gone past 50 when it all started. For a number of overs he had been telling me that Andrew Symonds was trying to get him riled. Bhajji had playfully tapped Lee on the back after completing a run and Symonds at mid-off took exception to this. He apparently did not want an opposition player meddling with Lee and once again hurled abuse at Bhajji.
Bhajji is an impulsive and passionate individual and it was only a matter of time before he would retaliate, which he soon did. That was the start of the controversy that almost caused the tour to be called off.
I want to state very clearly that the incident arose because Andrew Symonds had been continually trying to provoke Bhajji and it was inevitable that the two would have an altercation at some point.
While walking up to Bhajji to try to calm things down, I heard him say 'Teri maa ki' (Your mother…) to Symonds. It is an expression we often use in north India to vent our anger and to me it was all part of the game.
In fact, I was surprised to see umpire Mark Benson go up to Bhajji and speak to him. While the umpire was talking to Bhajji, some of the Australian players started to warn him of the dire consequences of his words, presumably to rattle him and disturb his concentration. The ploy paid off when a few overs later Bhajji was out for 63.
I thought the matter had ended with Bhajji's dismissal and later I was surprised when I was told that the Australians had lodged a formal complaint at the end of that day's play, apparently alleging that Bhajji had called Symonds a 'monkey', which was being treated as a racial insult.
What surprised me most was the haste with which the Australians had lodged their complaint. I was later informed that it had apparently been agreed between the Australian and Indian boards during their tour of India in October 2007, following an incident in Mumbai, that the respective captains were to report to the match referee any incident with a racial element.
Even so, I still believe that the matter would not have been blown so out of proportion if Ponting had discussed it with the captain Anil Kumble, Harbhajan and the Indian team management before reporting the incident to Mike Procter, the match referee. In turn, Mike Procter could also have handled the matter with a little more sensitivity.
On the Multan declaration...
Disappointed and upset, I made my way back to the dressing room and could sense that the whole team was surprised at the decision (Rahul Dravid declaring with me stranded at 194).
Some of my team-mates perhaps expected me to throw my gear about in the dressing room in disgust and create a scene. However, such things are not in me and I decided not to say a word to anyone about the incident. I calmly put my batting gear away and asked John Wright for a little time before I went out to field because I was feeling a little tight after batting for so long. Inside, I was fuming.
Just as I was washing my face in the bathroom, John walked up to me and apologised. He was sorry about what had happened and said he had not been party to the decision. I was surprised and said to him that as coach he was one of the decision-makers and there was no reason for him to be sorry if he believed in what had been done. I also said that what was done could not be reversed and it was best to leave it alone.
Finally, I couldn't help reminding him that the declaration was contrary to what had been discussed at tea and it was strange that I was not given even one ball to get to my double hundred after a message had been sent out asking me to get there as quickly as possible.
Rahul said that the call was taken with the interests of the team in mind. It was important to demonstrate that we meant business and were keen to win. I wasn't convinced. First, I said to him that I was batting for the team as well. The 194 was meant to help the team and it was my individual contribution to the team's cause...
On playing under various captains...
All of the people I recommended or played under after giving up the captaincy - Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble or MS Dhoni - I had a good relationship with, and when I felt it necessary I would give them my opinion and then leave it to them to take the final call…
Every captain I played under had his respective strengths. Sourav was an excellent strategist and had a very good understanding of the game. He was an aggressive captain and wasn't afraid to experiment in difficult situations. It was under Sourav that we started winning overseas Test matches consistently.
Anil Kumble was an excellent communicator and clearly explained to the players what he wanted from each of them. He was aggressive and trusted his instincts. Sourav and Anil were both great players and equally capable leaders.
Rahul was more conventional. He was more methodical and his mental toughness was an added strength. He was committed to the job but stayed away from experimenting too much.
Dhoni, in contrast, was impulsive and loved to back his instincts. He has a really good grasp of the game and is not afraid to try something different. He is never flustered and handles pressure well... I enjoyed playing with them all.
On World Cup celebrations...
Marine Drive was quite a sight. Although I remember dancing and celebrating as a kid after India's first World Cup win in 1983, the memory is a bit of a blur.
This was our moment. It was liberation. I had finally scaled cricket's Everest and each and every soul on the streets of Mumbai was celebrating. We had brought joy to their faces and that's all we could have asked for as Indian cricketers.
In the confines of my room, Anjali and I poured each other a drink and let our hair down. We plucked flowers out of the bouquets that were piled everywhere and put them behind our ears and started dancing to the music.
This was the night of a World Cup triumph, so why should we restrain ourselves? In an instant, all that time away from my family, missing out on seeing my children grow up, seemed worthwhile. Their father had finally become part of a World Cup-winning team, something he had strived for all his life.
How did you cope with the burden of expectations and the dilemma of quitting after the 2011 World Cup?
I don't think there was any dilemma on whether to continue or not. I just wanted to live that moment and not shift my focus from something I waited for 21 years. I felt I deserved to do more. And I just wanted to live in the present and enjoy being world champions.
I was doing well, I was the highest run-getter for our team and the second highest run-getter in the tournament, so I felt it was something I wanted to do. And retirement also, I wanted that to happen once in my life, play my last game. I discussed at home and said I just want to walk off the field once and not do it every now and then so people get confused, whether it was the ODI or Test retirement.
Your best XI of all time?
No, I haven't picked. I didn't think of it, and to be honest, it is really tough.
Did you remember every delivery you faced?
In the earlier part of my career, I maintained a diary. I lost it somewhere but I did (keep the diary) for the first two years which mentioned my scores, the way I scored, the way I got out and the number of boundaries. When I started playing for India, for almost 10 years or so, I would go back and watch video cassettes, I would take back the recording of all my hundreds, innings and dismissals. I would go home and study it with my brother. I stopped after that and then as and when I felt like, I would.
On batting at No. 4 at the start...
(Ramakant) Achrekar Sir got me into batting at No. 4. When I started maybe in school cricket I batted at No. 6 and then gradually moved to No. 4. But it was mainly at No. 4 I think I started my career.