I haven’t travelled in a Mumbai local since 1988, says Sachin

The Hindu

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Tendulkar opens up on his relationship with Mumbai, its rich cricket legacy and how despite two years of retirement, he still cannot spend as much time with his children as he would have liked to.

Sachin Tendulkar, the cricketer, and Sachin Tendulkar, the human being. In his first interview to a publication after his tour of the United States where he organised the Cricket All-Stars tournament featuring yesteryear greats of the game, Tendulkar opened up like never before to The Hindu: about life after retirement, his children, his love for Mumbai, and how he plans to give back to his country.

What explains the fact that the former India cricket captain continues to occupy India’s collective consciousness even without that heavy willow? Happily retired but just as busy as any other 42-year-old, Tendulkar says he is experiencing the other joys of life, like cooking for his family, catching up with friends, and taking his beloved game to the U.S., a country where cricket is not popular. But he knows there’s no escaping the pressures of fatherhood, especially because his kids are in their teens. “I haven’t travelled in a Mumbai local since 1988,” he said.

As much as he is synonymous with cricket, Tendulkar is tantamount to Mumbai. Yet, thanks to his immense fan following ever since he burst on the city’s cricketing landscape three decades ago, Tendulkar’s movements in his beloved city have been restricted. And he has no qualms about it.

In a freewheeling chat with The Hindu, Tendulkar opens up on his relationship with Mumbai, its rich cricket legacy and how despite two years of his retirement, he still cannot spend as much time with his children as he would have liked to.

It’s been a little over two years since you made that very emotional thanksgiving speech at the Wankhede Stadium on November 16, 2013. Do you still think about that speech/have you kept those pages?

I have kept the page. I had just written the names of all the people I wanted to thank and did not want to miss anyone out.

During that speech you said your father told you there are no short cuts to life and to success…

Yes, my father did tell me that there are no short cuts to success in life, while I have passed on these to my children as a guiding principle I have also endeavoured to not pressure my children much in the same way that my family did not pressure me. Family is key to an individual’s success and we must always be supportive and less judgmental on our children’s achievements. I am happy with any result as long as my children have done their best and know that we support them.

You mother must be obviously thrilled that you spend more time at home…

Yes she is happier as I get to spend more time with her. Although my travel has increased but they are shorter trips, so I get to return sooner and spend time with family.

Do your children still complain that you don’t spend enough time with them? How do you deal with their teenage tantrums?

My children have never complained and have been very understanding of my career’s demands on my time. It is ironic though that when I have time now, my kids have grown and are busy with their schedules. However, whatever time we manage to spend together is really enjoyable and it is wonderful to hear what’s going on in their lives.

Sara and Arjun are now teenagers. How do they cope with being the children of Sachin Tendulkar?

Sara and Arjun were born into it, so I guess for them it’s normal to be Sachin Tendulkar’s kids. They haven’t known anything else to compare it with so they haven’t really had to cope with it. There have been a few funny incidences. When Arjun was around six-seven years old, he pushed a boy who criticised me for getting out early in a match, and Sara saying that even her father’s name is Sachin Tendulkar while discussing a news item about me during her nursery days.

Can you share your thoughts on Arjun’s development as a cricketer? Do you like to see him as a left arm-seamer or a batsman?

I don’t think it is appropriate on anyone of us to anticipate what he is likely to become. I think it is best not to pressure children or youngsters at the age that Arjun is currently at. Since he has taken up cricket, something that I know a fair bit about, I am there to answer all his questions and share my knowledge with him and we have long discussions about the game. But, I don’t pressure him and feel he should be allowed to enjoy his game and allowed to become whatever he wishes to become as long as he is doing his best. If that’s a seamer or a batsman, it remains completely at his discretion.

Do you cook for your family?

Yes, actually I do cook at times for my family, but this is usually only on my holidays due to paucity of time. I hope I cook well so you would have to ask my family on how they like the taste.

How much time have you spent with your friends post retirement. There must be many close friends?

I get to spend time with my friends, we get together at regular intervals and I make it a point to spend time with them during special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.

How much do you think you about Mumbai cricket?

My development as a cricketer happened in Mumbai, from the colony to the maidans and eventually playing for the Mumbai squad amongst the stalwarts of Indian cricket. It was the best grooming I could have asked for. Even the foundation was extremely solid and the Mumbai club culture is a great budding ground for any young cricketer to blossom.

Do you miss the chant sachin, sachin, sachin...was it there during the three matches in the US recently?

(Smiles) I don’t actually miss this because people have never let me miss this aspect of my life. People all over the world have always showered me with utmost love and affection, which was again evident at US when we played three matches and the chants had returned. Anywhere I go, whether it is to the village in Andhra Pradesh or to a brand launch, people are always showering me with this kind of love and it reminds me of how kind God has been to me.

What does it mean to watch Centre Court matches at Wimbledon virtually every year?

I get invited to the Royal Box each year and I thoroughly enjoy watching tennis at Wimbledon. The experience of watching tennis at Wimbledon is unparalleled. I have followed tennis closely since childhood and among racquet sports it is my favorite.

What are your views on DRS?

DRS as a system is aiming to achieve perfection in decision-making. However, I believe that the use of technology should be standardized, regardless of which board you are playing under. Any system that brings accurate decision-making closer to 100% perfection should be supported.

What do you make of playing with a pink ball?

I haven’t played with a pink ball yet. But I am all for experimenting and innovating, so I think it should be tried out. They will need to test it in a few games to see how the evening conditions affect the pink ball. The Test conditions could be dramatically different under lights at some of venues.

How was it like winning the Ranji Trophy for Mumbai?

It was an amazing experience. Whenever I played for Mumbai, it was a special feeling. I have fond memories of my entire career as a Mumbai player. In fact, some of my best moments in cricket have been playing for Mumbai. Of course most of the team-mates were also close friends who I had grown up with, which made it all the more special. My last Ranji match at Lahli was an incredible experience and I am glad that I was fortunate to play a key role in that game. It was always special playing as a senior member as I enjoyed guiding youngsters and I have fond memories of my Ranji days.

What do you feel about India’s current batting line-up? Dhawan, Vijay, Pujara, Virat, Rohit, Ajinkya...

They are certainly the future of Indian cricket as they are extremely talented and age is also on their side. They will undoubtedly be playing together for a long time to come. I know Ajinkya for a long time. I like his work ethic. He has been a committed cricketer and his growth rate has been tremendous. I think we have a very capable young line-up.

Despite the interest and the money spent in fast bowling academies, we don’t have a devastating fast bowler in our team. All other major teams have at least one. Why does India lag behind in terms of speed?

I think this is a misconception. India does and has produced quality fast bowlers who can bowl above 140kph consistently. I have played with plenty of guys in the ’90s who bowled consistently over the 140 range. And even today we have Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav who are all internationally acknowledged fast bowlers. The perception only exists in our minds, but I humbly disagree that we lag in terms of speed, as our bowlers have won matches abroad at places such as Perth, Durban and Lord’s. We tend to forget the performances of our bowlers when we have beaten the bowlers you have mentioned in their backyards.

When was the last time you travelled by the local train?

I think the last time I travelled in a train was between Delhi and Dehradun for a short holiday about six years ago. Otherwise, I haven’t travelled in a Mumbai local train since 1988.

Do people allow you to shop, eat, etc, when you go out in Mumbai?

I have not gone out casually in Mumbai in over 25 years, whether it is to shop or eat at a roadside stall. I do go out now but everything has to be pre-planned. Due to the love of our people, usually a crowd gathers whenever I go out. I have no complaints about it, this love of the people has given me everything.

Do you miss Mumbai street food? If you were able to eat the city’s street food without the fear of being mobbed, what would that be? Bhel? Sev Puri? Vada Pav? Pav Bhaji? Samosas?

I certainly miss going out with my friends and eating at roadside stalls but there are few people who help me by supplying these dishes at home. I do enjoy eating out once in a while but have no specific preferences on the dishes mentioned, as I love all of them equally in different ways.

How has been the response from the fans for your biopic? Has it been decided?

The response has been overwhelming; the fans have sent a lot of suggestions for the title. The title has not been decided as of now but we have got some great options to decide.

Any plans to write another book, maybe one in Marathi?

Not for any time soon. The first one was quite time consuming and took a lot of energy out of me to complete. One has to recollect every minute detail of my past with statistics and small anecdotes and doing it again would be quite taxing.

Are you a movie buff? Can you tell us your top three in English, Hindi and Marathi?

I watch movies in all the three languages. I generally watch a lot of movies and picking top three favorites would be extremely difficult as I have so many favorites over the years.

You have not started writing columns. Are you interested in donning the hat of a media expert?

Actually I have written a few columns in the past for a magazine during the 2011 ICC World Cup. It all depends on the appropriate opportunity and the time.

Which are your most favourite Marathi, Hindi and English songs?

Again, there are many songs over the years that have been there with me and with which I have a lot of personal memories. It also keeps changing with time. I listen to a lot of music and thoroughly enjoy music from the ’70s onwards as good music always stays with you. I don’t have any particular preference in genres. I listen to pretty much all kinds of music.

All time favourite male and female voice?

Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi as male singers. Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle are my favourites as female singers.

Favourite Hollywood and Bollywood actors?

Amitabh Bachchan and Robert De Niro.

Favourite destination, in India and overseas?

Mumbai undoubtedly is my favourite city in India and London internationally.

You continue to be associated with top brands even after your playing days. How special is it to be in the collective consciousness of the masses even as a retired cricketer?

It is really special to be associated with brands of high repute. I can only thank my fans for the kind of love they shower me with, which enables these associations. If I think a brand has some value and is true in its value proposition to the end consumer I decide to associate with the brand.

You gave so much to India during the 25 years that you played, but the amazing thing is that you are not done. You continue to give back to the society in many ways. Can we say that Sachin, the retired cricketer, desires to do much more for a better India than Sachin, the cricketer, did for 25 years?

In the first innings of my life I did not get the time to do much of what I wanted. Now that I am retired, I am trying my bit to do something for the people who have given me so much love in life. The village adoption is one such instance where I realized that a lot that we take for granted is simply not present for a village in terms of basic infrastructure. So I thought something can be done in that aspect when the Prime Minister announced SAGY (Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana). Similarly light and electricity is something we take for granted again in cities, so the value of one light is something we do not know if we were villagers who have no access to the grid.

Spreading Happiness tries to bridge this gap albeit in a small way by providing portable solar lighting to villages that don’t have grid access. Small steps I guess can slowly make a difference, so my desire which was always there has got some wings now after many years. I just hope I can continue this and do much more in the next few years.

Tendulkar and Apnalaya, and other charities. What does it mean to you in life – Apnalaya plus Spreading Happiness?

I have always strived to impact lives of the underprivileged in the country and have been providing support in whatever way possible. It is fulfilling to see a smile when a child gets an opportunity or a lady gets light in the house even after sunset. Apnalaya works with the underprivileged in the worst slums of Mumbai and Spreading Happiness tries to provide portable lighting to homes, which have no access to the grid. They are both small initiatives but extremely close to my heart and I do my bit to support them and some other causes from time to time.

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