The Cricketer
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"After that I believed I could play anywhere in the world"

We caught up with Sachin Tendulkar to discuss his new film, Sachin: A Billion Dreams...

Are you excited to see the film come out?

I’m happy with what I’ve seen. There’s been a lot of hard work gone into it, so I hope people enjoy it.

Was it difficult creating authentic cricketing scenes?

Everything was real. 20 years ago, it was right in front of the whole world. There’s not many changes you can do with my life, because the whole book is in front of you. Just to be able to capture the right moments, and then make people understand what was going on in my mind, which hasn’t been seen before.

Can you tell us about the Asian Awards and your involvement in them?

I’m quite happy. To receive any award is nice, but especially when you’re in the company of people like Jackie Chan and Ravi Shankar – they’re big names. I’m honoured to be in the same list as these personalities, and it’s a good sign for other sportsmen that contribution in sports is recognised. Because way back, when I started playing cricket in India, to let a middle class family allow their child to take sports as career was unheard of. Very few families would allow that. So to get from there to where I am, it has been one journey to remember.

Was there any particular period where you would say you were at your peak?

There were different phases in my life. When I started, I was only 16, and there were other guys taking more responsibility, and taking those important decisions. Senior players who were double my age – a few of them were even more than that – so they were taking all those critical decisions, and I was free to just go out and play. As the time went by, I became vice-captain of the team, and then captain of the team, and then senior most member of the team – I had different roles to play, not just as a team man, but as a batsman. And I had to understand those roles, and play my game accordingly. So the role I was doing as an 18-19 year-old, other 18-19 year olds were doing when I was 34. So my role kept changing, but if you talk about the “good years”, 1998 was an important year; my first hundred in England at Old Trafford, when I was only 17 to save the Test match. After that I believed I could go out and score big runs. It was not about 40s and 50s, but going beyond that. When I went to Australia, playing on completely different surfaces – playing at Sydney was completely different to Perth – after that I believed I could play anywhere in the world.

Is there any innings you particularly think of as your best? The 108* against England at Chennai in 2008?

I think Perth that I mentioned in 1992. The 169 in Cape Town [in 1997] and the 149 in Cape Town in 2011. There’s been lots, but I think the Chennai innings was the most important innings of my life, because of the tragic terrorist attack In Mumbai. England graciously agreed to come back to play cricket in India – that changed everything for us. That dramatic Test match where England dominated for three and a half days, and then on the fourth day, just before tea, we started taking the initiative. To chase 387 on that surface, the bowling attack was one of the best England has ever had – Harmison, Flintoff, Anderson, Panesar and Swann – you can’t get a better attack than that: you had swing, you had reverse swing, you had somebody who could get extra bounce with the new ball, off spinner, left arm spinner… it was a kind of complete attack. That was a big achievement to get people to smile again, even if just for that second when India won.

If you had to name the toughest batsman and the toughest bowler you ever had to face, who comes to mind?

Many players. On my first tour to England, they had Graham Gooch and Robin Smith who scored heavy. Then we would play Sri Lanka, who had Jayasuriya… Brian Lara, Steve Waugh… I keep naming them because I’ve played against so many players. I think, if I’m not mistaken, I’ve played against 900 and something players, so there’s a significant number of players who’ve done something special against India.

Bowlers, there at least 25 I could list. How do you pick between a Glenn McGrath and a Curtly Ambrose? Shane Warne or Muralitharan? Jimmy Anderson and Dale Steyn? They are all world-class bowlers. To say, “this guy is better than this guy,” you’re taking away from the other guy and I don’t like doing that.

How would you have advised bowlers to bowl to you?

Juicy half volleys and short balls outside the off stump that I could slash! It depends on where we are playing, and what surface we are batting on, the condition of the ball, and what’s the state of my mind. There are too many things, it’s all about context. There’s no set formula.