I am nowhere near final stop: Sachin
Sachin Tendulkar says his opting out of the inaugural Twenty20 World Championships does not signal a possible imminent retirement from other forms of the game as well, at least for the time being.
Ever since India's disastrous World Cup campaign in the Caribbean earlier this year, there has been calls for Tendulkar to hang up his boots.
With captain Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble and VVS Laxman also in the mid-30s, critics and former captains have stressed on the urgent need for blooding youngsters.
And when Tendulkar, 34, along with Dravid and Ganguly, told the selectors that they should not be considered for the Twenty-20 Championships in South Africa in September, it prompted the media to debate about the end of an era. But the record breaking batsman himself says retirement is the last thing in his mind at the moment.
"I have kept things very open. I don't want to divide my energies in various directions. I just want to focus on playing cricket," Tendulkar told The Sunday Times here.
"I have not thought about where I might stop. I don't think it is the right time to think about that." Tendulkar dismissed the oft-repeated question about his slowing reflexes and difficulties against fast, short-pitched bowling, saying he was "more or less the same" batsman he was five years ago.
"Obviously ... Playing close to 400 one-dayers and 140 Test matches has taken its toll," he was quoted as saying. "After playing for 18 years, there are a few niggles, but you learn to deal with them. I am sure most players are not 100 per cent (fit)." He also defended his record in recent years, which his detractors feel has been meagre without the big scores against Bangladesh.
"It is probably the way people have looked at things. I think I have done reasonably well. Maybe the expectations are too high and unrealistic," he said.
Tendulkar, leading the side in the absence of injured Rahul Dravid in the three-day match against England 'A', came to the rescue of his side with a majestic 171 at Chelmsford on Saturday.
His 63rd first-class ton helped the team recover from 65 for 4 and reach 383 in reply to the hosts' first innings total of 413 for 8 declared.
Tendulkar, probably on his last tour of the Old Blighty, predicted a tough contest in the three-Test series and the seven ODIs that were to follow.
He had high regards for Monty Panesar, the first Sikh to play Test cricket for England. "I have been watching Monty Panesar on TV, he is terrific," Tendulkar said.
"He has done a fabulous job for England but it is going to take time for him to graduate to the next level and be regarded as one of the best of all time. But he surely has it in him."
The Indian maestro recalled the left-arm spinner's dismissal of him in Nagpur last year. It was Panesar's debut Test and Tendulkar became his maiden scalp.
"I signed a ball for him and wrote, 'Once in a blue moon'. I had to write something funny on the ball," he said.
"We caught up in the West Indies when he joined us at lunch. He is a nice bloke."