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"It has made life more charming for me"



Sachin with wife Anjali at an awards functionFamily eases pressure on India's idol

Age 13 : Scores first century in school's first XI grade.

Age 14 : Invited by Indian captain Dilip Vengsarkar to a net session with the Indian team.

Scored 1200 runs in a school season including two scores of more than 300. Shared record stand with Vinod Kambli of 664: Tendulkar 326no, Kambli 338.

Age 15 : First-class debut for Bombay scoring 100no.

Age 16 : One-day debut for Bombay, scoring 103no.

First selected for India to play Pakistan. Tours New Zealand, making 88 at Napier test in 1989-90 to be just deprived of being youngest test century-maker.

Age 17 : Tours England and scores match-saving 119 in a test to become second youngest test century-maker.

Fatherhood has added a different dimension to the life of Indian cricket batting great Sachin Tendulkar.

``It has made life more charming for me and is a special feeling I cannot put into words,'' Tendulkar told a press conference in Dunedin on Saturday, breaking his silence for the first time on the Indian team's New Zealand tour.

Tendulkar, 25, is touring New Zealand with wife Anjali, a doctor five years his senior, and 14-month-old daughter Sara.

``It's nice to have my family around and it's changed my life but once I get on the coach to go to cricket it's time for work.''

Finding privacy is a problem for Tendulkar in his home country where he is worshipped as a cricketing god. He and his family often use their Mercedes to try to escape the bustle of Bombay, where they are based.

Tendulkar has even taken to wearing a disguise, using a false beard, hat, and glasses. But when the beard started slipping he was recognised and mobbed.

Fans' support 'inspiring'

Tendulkar says he has become accustomed to being idolised by millions of people in his homeland and he finds the support inspiring and motivating.

He claims not to feel the pressure of a nation on his shoulders.

``As long as I keep enjoying the game, I will keep playing.''

Because of the pressures placed upon him, Tendulkar does few one-on-one interviews and the Indian cricket board places him off limits to the media most of the time.

In Dunedin meeting 20 media representatives, he appeared relaxed and assured but in no way arrogant, a characteristic which could easily creep into the personality of a player with a test average of 54 and international one-day average of 43.

Despite his remarkable talents, Tendulkar has not had the Midas touch throughout his nine-season international career.

He was appointed to the Indian captaincy in September 1996, ahead of long-time leader Mohammed Azharuddin. But the Indian team continued to have mixed results and, at the start of this year, Azharuddin returned to the leader's role.

And for all of his batting brilliance, Tendulkar has yet to score a test double-century - Sunil Gavaskar with 236no holds the Indian record - while Pakistani Saeed Anwar holds the world mark for the highest one-day tally, 194.

Tendulkar says he did not score his first one-day century for about 70 games but in the next 130 he scored 21. ``I am always trying for a bigger score but somehow it hasn't happened.''

Tendulkar said his first priority was the performance of the Indian team.

He finds comparisons with legendary Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman odious. ``Each player has their own style and it's difficult to compare different eras. I just want to be left to play my own game and be judged on that.''

However, meeting 90-year-old Sir Donald in Adelaide in August was a special thrill. ``I'll never forget that feeling in my life.''

Tendulkar says he does not aspire to be the world's best batsman; he is satisfied being regarded as one of the best.

He admires the abilities of the likes of West Indian Brian Lara, the Australian Waugh brothers, Mark and Steve, and South African Jonty Rhodes.

Tendulkar, who is obviously blessed with special hand-eye co-ordination which enables him to make decisions earlier than most batsmen at the crease, says his batting style is ``just to watch the ball and do what my mind tells me''.

Tendulkar was 21/2 years old when he first swung at a ball. Using a broomstick, he faced his nanny in the backyard.

Watching the 1983 World Cup in England inspired him to take the game seriously.

If need be, Tendulkar, who writes left-handed, could even bat that way. He was seen batting left-handed in the nets at Napier when the tour started and looked just as effective as he does when he is batting right-handed.

Tendulkar said that dated back to playing street cricket as a boy when those involved had to bat with their non-preferred hand to enhance the chances of being dismissed.