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"I can do much better"


SACHIN TENDULKAR hardly has any time for himself. He is either busy on the field or mobbed outside it. Whatever little time he manages between matches and tours, he likes to spend it with his family. It is not easy thus to concentrate on the game always. But this 25-year-old from Mumbai can do nothing wrong when it comes to batting under pressure and these days he is actually thriving only when under pressure. The 18th century in one-day international was yet another milestone in his career and Tendulkar deserved the honour, keeping in mind his awesome potential and commitment to Indian cricket. Despite his busy schedule, he spoke to The Sportstar in Harare, on the eve of his 200th one-day international. Sachin Tendulkar has won trophies without number.

How do you assess your career?
So many things have happened in my life. I just feel it is all part of my life and all I got to do is concentrate on my game. Try and continue in the same manner that I have been doing in the past nine years. I am not aiming for anything in particular but I think this is the time to enjoy the game and give my best. Try and be as consistent as possible. My teammates look up to me and the countrymen also look up to me. I have to realise my responsibility and I think if I keep enjoying the game it would be the best thing to happen to me. That is what I am trying really. To keep enjoying my game.

How much has your batting progressed?
There is a lot of difference between now and 1989. I am far more selective in my shots. Today I pick and choose my shots and wait for the loose deliveries. Sometimes it happens in one-day cricket that you play predetermined shots. But that is the way the game is played today. It has changed a lot since 1989. It keeps changing. Until a couple of years ago it was different. I feel I have adapted to both brands of cricket fairly well. I feel one needs some time to actually establish oneself at the international level. One learns to improve tour by tour so that your game doesn't become stagnant. There is always scope for improvement. I might be permitted to say I have improved since 1989 but I feel I can do much better.

Do you notice any major change in your batting style in the last few years?
I don't think there has been any major change in my batting technique. Probably as I said earlier, I have become more selective in playing my shots. Probably that is what is required from me. I may probably have become mentally tougher and a little more mature. There are a few other things which are not actually related to technique but they play a major role when you are there in the middle.

When does a cricketer feel the need to make changes in his approach?
I think a cricketer usually changes his approach when he has gone through a few seasons and tasted real cricket. I would say very tough tours to places like South Africa, West Indies and Australia make you change your approach slightly. For that matter any tour can be tough but I would like to point out these three tours because they are spread over a long period and you spend more time away from home. You play on absolutely different tracks and that is why it becomes important to adapt to situations quickly. It can really transform an ordinary player into a good player provided the player is willing to learn by hang around there. You have to accept the challenge by being very positive. These are the things that have helped me over the last nine years and this is where I think I have improved a little - in adapting myself.

How do you prepare before a match?
I don't really think much about the game. I just go there in the middle and play my shots. I do focus on the things on the eve of the match but that is about it. Not any big preparation as such. Of course I feel restless on the eve of the match and that is when I know my body is preparing for the match. Otherwise I go there with an open frame of mind, analyse the wicket and play my shots.

How important is technique for you and how much do you work on it?
One has to be technically good to survive on any kind of wicket at this level. You can't just go there in the middle and start playing your shots. The bowlers are good these days and they know your strengths and weaknesses. They are not going to bowl to your strong points. They will bowl where you can't play them comfortably. It is very important to build your game on sound technique. You must try and lift the game and that you can do when you practice seriously in the nets. That is where you learn from your mistakes and then put them into practice when you are batting there in the middle when playing a big game.

How much of analysis is involved in your cricket and how do you rectify your mistakes?
I keep in mind things I am not going to do. I tell myself that I am not going to repeat my mistakes and not give the same bowler the same opportunity to get me out in a particular fashion. Sometimes you can't help. The bowlers are there to get wickets and they are doing their job. We are doing our job. Sometimes we are successful and sometimes they are. I would look at being as consistent as possible and I can only do that if I am prepared to face all kind of situations by hanging out there and overcoming all obstacles. You can do that if you are in the middle for long. You can't score runs sitting in the dressing room.

Does responsibility sort of compel you to raise your batting standards?
I don't think on those lines. I have to score runs for my team and I think of nothing else. I go there with a positive frame of mind and I set myself a goal that I am going to get runs. Now how I score those runs is my problem and I have to sort it out myself. You can't actually pre-plan, go there in the middle and do what you want. Once you are there you start to plan things, analyse the wicket and analyse the strength of the bowlers, decide to play more on the front foot or the back foot. Sometimes you just play normal.

When do you really feel happy about your batting?
Sometimes it all depends on the level of your concentration. How nicely you are timing the ball. An important thing is that your mental state has to be very good. When everything happens to be in the right place, one also tends to go and play the shots and try and perform well. When I am not doing well, when things are not going my way, I try to talk to myself. I avoid the dangerous shots.

How much does your approach differ between one-day internationals and Test matches?
When I am opening the innings I don't have to watch any other player bat. Just me and my partner. It is an interesting situation. The bowler hasn't bowled a single ball and we have not played a single ball. Both have an equal chance to take the initiative. Sometimes when we lose an early wicket I have to try and hang in there and gradually try and get on top. It is all very tricky. A good ball can get you out and make the team's position bad. There are different kinds of situations where you have to make adjustments depending on what is the demand.

Do you enjoy creating a platform for others by opening or do you like going at No. 4, like you do in Tests?
It is a different proposition batting at number four in a Test match and opening in one-dayers. I like to open in one-day internationals. I really like to set the pace for the team. If I get out, the next guy should be able to score at a reasonable pace. I can't be the same every time because of different tracks.

How is it different in a Test match?
In Test cricket I have to watch others and I get a chance to analyse the bowlers. It gives me opportunity to study. It is a different ball game. Each bowler has a different plan. He might bowl a different line to Sidhu or Dravid or Azhar and it might not be the same for me. I have to prepare myself for what he is going to bowl to me and not what he is trying with others.

Do you like to sort it out by watching or by taking on the bowler?
There are a few things you can sort out in the dressing room. There are a few things you have to go out there and sort out in the middle. I try and visualise what the bowler might try and I must play straight, not across at all. You keep telling yourself to concentrate. Sometimes the captain changes the strategy by changing the bowler. All bowlers can't be dealt with similarly.

You do not bat defensively in the Tests, too. Is it because of your instinct to dominate?
I don't try to dominate as such. I try and play my shots. But I try to play as many shots as possible because that is what my game is. Unless I play my shots I am not going to score. As simple as that. I don't try to dominate but just play my shots.

How do you rate this phase of being hailed as the best batsman in the world?
(Tendulkar with his wife Anjali. Whenever he gets some spare time, the maestro likes to spend it with his family). I am not thinking of myself as number one or two or ten in the world. I always had this ambition to become one of the top players of the world. If I can stay there for long I will be happy. My motto is to perform well for the country. I don't really set personal goals. I do set goals series by series but none such as personal targets. I don't think it is such a big thing. I am happy to perform for my country. If India wins because of my contribution it will earn me respect from the players. That is very important. Only the players know what goes on. Of course the countrymen respect you and the affection can be the best reward really - to be remembered by the past players and the countrymen. I really set no individual honours and goals just for myself. When I scored my first one-day hundred four years back I didn't aim to hit 18 centuries. It just happened. I never looked at the world record when I played for the team. All I thought was whenever I went to the middle I had to score runs and India should win. In the process if I broke any record that's fine.

Do you still believe that captaincy did not come to you a little early?
I was 23 when I was made the captain. I had led Mumbai for a couple of years. It wasn't early. I had played seven years of international cricket before being made the captain. It is believed that it influenced your batting... The team has to perform. We didn't perform at all. You look at the records for the season. We didn't perform as a team. If the team doesn't perform the captain can't do anything. But you look far more relieved now and are able to play your shots freely... You are saying that because the team is winning. I am batting in the same manner. Remember I scored more than 1000 runs in Tests and one-dayers last year. I don't think captaincy really put any burden on me. You feel sad when you lose and losing was very disappointing for me. We missed out on several opportunities. Somehow or other things went wrong. Nothing clicked for us. It is just that we didn't perform as a team.

What did you learn from that experience?
I learnt lot of things in that span. I won't like to crib or make excuses. It is a closed chapter. I have left it behind and am looking at the future which looks bright and needs a positive approach.

How do you feel winning more and more matches for your country?
It is always good to win matches for your country. That is the ultimate dream. Try and be a match winner for your team. In my opinion no achievement can be greater than this. Winning the match for your country is more satisfying than personal distinctions. I am enjoying winning matches for India and I want to continue like this. I can't be complacent.

Does failure worry you?
Not at all. One is bound to fail. It is part of the game. I think if a player accepts his failure I don't see any reason why people also can't learn to accept that. It is very normal in any sport. Anybody can fail.

What do failures and success mean to you?
They don't worry me. I aim at scoring runs and continue in the same way. I can't think of how I was four years back and lose sleep over it. Such things keep happening and you have to accept them. I am human and I can't succeed all the time. You can try and do better in your life and that is what I aim at.

How much time do you get for yourself?
It depends. When I am playing my mind is only on cricket and nothing else. When I am not playing I only think about my family and spend all the time with them and no one else.

How does it feel being mobbed and generally having your privacy being threatened time and again?
I know I can't enjoy various things like I would want to. I can't watch a movie in a theatre; can't go out to eat bhel or paani puri. It has become a part of my life and I have learnt to accept it. It is good that people like me so much and their wishes and support get me going. When people cheer me that is the time I get charged up to perform better and better. This support from the people is important for all the cricketers in India. This support will help every cricketer raise his performance level.

Do you get time to listen to music and enjoy movies?
Yes I still listen to music. I still watch movies but more of cricket video. I do have friends but I am not a party guy. I don't like going out.

What are the next major plans?
In the near future I am aiming at the World Cup. The whole team rather is looking at the World Cup. It will be very crucial for us. We have done well and I hope it carries on like this. For myself I am not thinking of any individual goals. What I am looking at is just play as long as possible and score as many runs as possible.

How was the experience of meeting Sir Don Bradman?
It was one of the most thrilling experiences. I never had this kind of feeling earlier. Meeting a great person like Sir Don was terrific. I can't really describe the feelings really. Meeting him was easily the highlight of my career. Talking to him I could analyse how confident he must have been in his playing days. How difficult it must have been for the opponents. But no comparisons please. He was a different man altogether. Overall it was something I can never forget.