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Over 14 years, there will be hiccups: Tendulkar

In 10 days time, Sachin returns to the place where he was born as a star. Get glimpse of the man within: The Man, The Machine?

india Updated: Mar 04, 2004 02:55 IST

In 10 days time, Tendulkar returns to the place where he was born as an international cricketer. Pakistan. In the interim, he has moved from prodigy to prolific, and then onto the altar of greatness. Yet, 2003 was one of his worst years in Tests. Get glimpses of the man within, in this exclusive chat with Mid Day.

What will it take to beat Pakistan in their backyard?

A big heart. You've got to go in and fight to do well. However, it is like any other series. After all, you have to go and play cricket --- no matter what side you play on.

What is your take on the Pakistan team?

It is a good side with plenty of youngsters --- probably a much fitter lot. There's a lot of talk about how they are concentrating on fitness. It is a good pace attack that has done well in New Zealand. It's not absolutely fresh because Shoaib Akhtar has been around for five years; Mohammad Sami for over three and Shabbir for five or six. Their attack seems more experienced than ours.

How do you see Shoaib Akhtar playing the lead role?

He is an attacking bowler. Every time he comes in to bowl he is going to perform --- it does not matter if he goes for runs. He obviously makes the game exciting.

The way you went after him during the World Cup, it looked as if you were on a one-man mission to demolish Shoaib after he said something in the press...

Not really. I am not a person who would want to prove someone wrong after reading something. I was told that he had made a statement and I responded by saying that's his opinion and I don't need to comment on it. I was just going to play my natural game. I know there were things said --- a few psychological games --- but that is all part of the game. Eventually, you have to play cricket.

What makes him so special?

Obviously, his speed.

Is that the hardest part of facing him?

Yes, if somebody can bowl that fast consistently, he is not easy to play.

How would you evaluate your tour to Australia? Was it a mixed bag?

Yes, I would say so. The first Test (in which he got a poor decision from Steve Bucknor) was definitely disappointing and I looked to spend some time at the crease in the second and third

Tests. The fourth Test was very different in the sense that I had to be far more patient and selective. Discipline-wise it was excellent. Earlier, I was trying out things. When plans don't work, it is disappointing but it also motivates you. I was very determined in Sydney. It was a chance to win the series and Steve Waugh's last Test. It was a big occasion.

What saddened you the most? Was it the low scores, the way you batted or the disappointment caused to cricket lovers?

A couple of cases of bad judgment and things changed. But over a long period of 14 years, there are bound to be hiccups. I thought I played an important knock, even though it was only 37, in the second Test at Adelaide. Each run counted in that run chase and the partnership between Rahul and me was crucial. I thought I was unlucky in the third Test because no bowler can plan a dismissal like that --- caught behind down leg side. I was prepared for this.

What went through your mind during your two extended net sessions before the Melbourne Test?

I just wanted to spend time at the crease. I was not batting badly and knew that all along.

There are times when you are not batting well, but I felt I was okay. I was just missing one particular ball. On many occasions when you miss, you are beaten, and it is all forgotten if you get a big score. But that was not the case. I was not missing that many, I was edging and luck was not on my side.

You were playing in Australia where the following for cricket is huge. Did expectationsworry you?

Not really. You cannot keep everyone happy. I thought I contributed with ball and bat in the second innings of the Adelaide Test, which we won. The Steve Waugh-Damien Martyn partnership was the one that we had to break because they were shaping up quite nicely.

Those two wickets were probably the turning point of the second innings and then Ajit Agarkar bowled brilliantly. I ended up pretty well and made myself count in the fourth Test.

You cut off the cover drive during your double hundred in Sydney. Did you play against your grain?

I had to, because I did not get it right on a couple of occasions. There are times you go with your (natural) game and sometimes you have to hold back. That's what I did in Sydney. I decided that I was not going to give any chance at all. I did not score a run in that area (cover) in the entire innings.

You did not have a great 2003 in Tests. What went through your mind before that Sydney New Year Test?

I was not worried. As I said, in 14 years something or the other will happen. If you have a temperature, you do go to a hospital and worry. It is just like that. Machines can go wrong at times and you don't score as many runs as expected. It is part of life. The idea is to hit back as hard as you can. I decided that I would keep trying. It was disappointing, but you cannot sit back and mull over disappointments. You have to turn over a new leaf and carry on.

Then you go and get your highest Test score....

It was a great feeling. I just decided that I was not going to get out. I said, come what may, I would stay there. I had to make up for the disappointments of the first and third Test and saw the fourth Test as a platform to do that. But when we lost the one-day series, people forgot India's good showing in the Tests. That will always be the case. Getting injured halfway through the one-day series was a huge disappointment. When you get injured after gaining momentum, it is a terrible feeling.

What did India prove to the world with their performance in the Test series in Australia?

I am sure we proved everyone wrong. There were all sorts of predictions. It's a great and funny old game. It is all about putting runs on the board, which we did consistently.

This allowed the bowlers to play around with their fields and put pressure. There were good spells --- Agarkar's in Adelaide, Zaheer Khan's in Brisbane and Irfan Pathan's in Sydney. Anil Kumble bowled well throughout.

All in all, I felt it was a good combined effort, something that was missing on the last tour. I mean, how many times do you see numbers one, three, four, five and six scoring hundreds in four Tests? It was superb.

What was the change in mindset?

There is a lot of self-belief and that only happens when you start performing consistently. You could see a lot of hunger. Everyone went out there and showed the world that we are here to play good cricket.

How would you describe the way VVS Laxman batted?

His mental balance was just amazing. He played some aggressive shots at the right time. He did not go bang, bang, bang. The timing was perfect in whatever he tried to do. At times it looked a bit risky for the spectators probably because no one has seen anyone play those kind of shots --- for example a good-length ball outside the off-stump being flayed past mid-wicket.

The talk about you faltering in one-day finals continues...

I don't think about that. Finals are not the only important matches. It is also important to get to the finals, and I have contributed a lot.

It is just a matter of time, and I just need to keep trying. It (success in finals) has happened earlier but not of late. There was a time in 1997-98 when I scored hundreds in all the finals I figured in. It is just a matter of time.

The interviewer is Sports Editor of Mid Day (Mumbai)

First Published: Feb 29, 2004 03:29 IST