- Sachin Tendulkar played 200 Test matches and scored 15,921 runs with a record 51 centuries. His staggering ODI record – 463 matches and 18,426 runs with 49 tons, makes him the ‘god’ of cricket. He was one of our special speakers at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
- The master blaster spoke about the sporting culture in the country, saying that people should be encouraged to take up sports and India must embrace “swasth bharat” with “Swachh Bharat”.
- Sachin Tendulkar also discussed past rivalries and the evolution of the game while suggesting definitive ways to improving support for Test cricket and preparing players for overseas tours.
Sachin Tendulkar does not think Test cricket is dying, but wants the guardians of the game to restore it to health by acknowledging the mindset change sweeping through fans.
Besides caring for the Test cricket’s flagging health, the sporting icon said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Saturday that the country must embrace “swasth bharat” (healthy India) with “Swachh Bharat” (clean India).
“The introduction of T20, and above all technology, has changed mindsets. Earlier, I had to be in the stadium, but now I can be out and still follow the game,” he pointed out.
Cricket officials are fretting over empty stadiums during Tests, with even the series between India and England not filling half the stands.
Tendulkar called for a concerted effort to promote sporting culture in the country, which is absent despite having 1.3 billion people.
Tests were popular in the past because of great rivalries, such as duels between Imran Khan and Sunil Gavaskar, Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards, and Brian Lara and Glenn McGrath, he said.
“Our coach would take us aside, point to Gavaskar playing Imran and say that is how one played back foot defence.
“There were engaging rivalries which generated a lot of interest. West Indies in the 1980s, even in the 1990s, was a magical side. Then came Australia. They played incredible cricket. They had nine world-class players and two very good players. Even if four or five guys clicked, they would win the game.”
Sporting wickets too are needed as the game is increasingly being dominated by batsmen, especially in the limited-over formats, he suggested.
“There is nothing wrong in making big totals. But rivalries took place because the game was engaging; the pitch was more bowler-friendly.”
“The current generation is watching something else. We need to prepare surfaces where seamers bowl 5-6 maiden overs. That is what makes cricket exciting. If you want to bring back crowds, you need surfaces that allow fair competition.”
Tendulkar recalled his partnership with Gautam Gambhir in the 2011 Cape Town Test. He scored 146 and Gambhir 93 as India held on to draw. He narrated how neither batsman could rotate the strike for an hour against speedsters Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
“But the game was by no means slow, we were scoring in boundaries. Fans saw boundaries being hit, also the bowler beating the bat twice an over and they enjoyed it.”
India are 2-0 up in the current series against England as they seek to avenge their 2014 rout. Tendulkar said back-to-back contests were needed for more even contests and for a better context.
Cricket’s most iconic face wants the game to embrace other disciplines if India seeks to rise in the global sporting scenario.
“I was with the Sports Authority of India DG during the Rio Olympics and he gave a good suggestion, why our athletes shouldn’t compete in the interval during IPL matches. Even in the ODIs, we have crowd.”
South Korea’s world-beating archery teams are known to compete in front of noisy crowds before football matches to learn to play against hostile distractions. Tendulkar believes support for athletes is crucial and competing in front of crowds will boost their confidence.
“Above all, in a stadium there could be hidden talent, sprinters, and that identification can happen. Even if a few get addicted to a different sport, it will be good.”
Every Olympics and major multi-sport outing end in criticism of our athletes’ poor performances. Tendulkar criticised the running down of athletes and wanted sporting culture to be developed.
“Swachh bharat and swasth bharat are interlinked. Unfortunately, we are not a fit nation. There are 65 million people affected by diabetes. We don’t want to change our lifestyle.”
India is dubbed the world’s diabetes capital. The World Health Organization says the number could cross 100 million by 2030. “Agar swachh rahoge to swasth rahoge (if you live clean, you will live healthy).”
Tendulkar praised the national Test team under Virat Kohli. “They remind me of what we did from 2000 to 2010.” He was confident the balance in the current squad that made it the No 1 Test team will make it a side that can win anywhere. “It will always be the best, and soon the rest of the world will also rate them the best.
“We need a new direction, and we have an ideal man in (coach) Anil Kumble to guide them. It’s an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the players (to be guided by Kumble).”