Sachin Tendulkar: Cricket in any form is welcome after lockdown

On the eve of his 47th birthday, Indian cricket icon Tendulkar shares his opinion on the coronavirus situation, matches without spectators and T20 World Cup.

Fans take pictures as Sachin Tendulkar makes his way to the crease during the Road Safety World Series in March.   -  FILE PHOTO/ VIVEK BENDRE

 

It’s Sachin Tendulkar’s birthday on Friday. But, he is in no mood to celebrate. Amid the pandemic, the Bharat Ratna awardee opens up on the major challenges the sporting fraternity is likely to face after the world recovers from COVID-19.

Isn’t this birthday going to be a little different for you?

I won’t be celebrating my birthday this year. Given the circumstances, I don’t think it’s right time to celebrate anything.

How many times have you stepped out since the lockdown?

Not even once. I haven’t met anyone, including my friends, since March 15.

So, what is keeping you busy besides shooting videos for awareness campaigns?

I start the day with some physical activity: a bit of gym and exercises. Then, whatever work I have is carried out either over the phone or through video-conference. Every time the government wanted us to explain its directives, we have done that as well. I have been in talks with some of our business partners to spread the message about the prevailing situation to those in their organisations. Also, for the first time, I have been able to work with the medical fraternity. I spent around 45 minutes talking to them about my experiences.

READ | Sachin talks cricket, we listen!

This is a good time for us to look back on our achievements in the past few years and map the way forward. Also, giving back to the community — especially the less-privileged — is important right now, and that’s something the whole family is involved in. And it’s good to have a doctor in the family.

I have been spending time with the children too even though both are above 20 and have their own circle of friends. But in these times, we have to make the most of the situation by spending time with each other. Since I cannot travel at all, I have been trying to make up for the lost time with my mother as well. In a way, it’s been a sort of blessing in disguise.

Sachin Tendulkar in action at the Road Safety World Series.   -  FILE PHOTO/ VIVEK BENDRE

 

How do you see sport in general, cricket in particular, in the post-pandemic scenario?

Whenever it opens up, it’s going to be a fresh start. Sportspersons will have to make both physical and mental adjustments. Currently, the players are training at home and trying to keep themselves in good shape. As and when we overcome this challenge, sport will be back to being competitive. I believe once a sportsman, always a sportsman, so you would want to go out and compete hard. For that, the players need to be physically and mentally prepared.

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The question I have been facing a lot is whether the matches would be the same if the stands are vacant. Without spectators, the energy will obviously be low because the players are used to crowd’s response. In a packed stadium, when a batsman hits a cracking shot or a bowler picks a wicket, fans roar in celebration. The players will undoubtedly miss it.

How challenging will it be for an Indian cricketer to be mentally prepared to return to domestic cricket-like scenario of playing in front of vacant stands?

It’s easier said than done because they are used to playing cricket in a particular style, and expect a certain response. Imagine if we have done well against a nation and want to celebrate it, we will need a full house. If there are no fans to celebrate, then that moment won’t feel as important. Can you imagine a match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on a vacant Centre Court at Wimbledon? It’s going to be an extremely different experience.

Tendulkar with Virat Kohli during IPL 2019.   -  FILE PHOTO/ K. MURALI KUMAR

 

Do you think pace bowlers will be concerned about getting injured due to lack of training once they resume?

I am sure players will get time to train before any match. It’s not that they will be given only a couple of days to prepare for a Test match. I am sure they will gradually build it up.

If the T20 World Cup is not held in Australia in October-November, but there is a possibility for the game to resume, would you prefer the IPL or international cricket in the window?

There have been discussions on whether the World Cup should be shifted to India or should the IPL be held at that time, but I don’t know what window will be available. It all depends on the number of days we’ll have. It would be interesting to see if a full IPL or a shorter version with two pools can be played. We will also have to assess the situation in India, whether it would be safe to travel to all parts of the country at that time. It’s a million-dollar question and nobody knows the answer yet. I am sure the concerned bodies will look into it. If it’s about shifting the World Cup, ICC, Cricket Australia and BCCI will take care of it. Other countries would be happy to play the World Cup anywhere provided it’s safe. But cricket in any form is welcome.

READ| Sachin Tendulkar: Cricket in any form is welcome after lockdown

For now, with no live sport on TV, fans have been forced to watch replays of some of your epic innings. Do you watch re-runs of those games?

Sometimes, I do. Those are some great memories and I enjoy revisiting them. Right from my early days, my brother (Ajit) and I used to watch those video tapes and analyse the performance. Be it a hundred or an early dismissal, we always wanted to find some areas to improve. Nowadays, since Ajit is not here, I go down that road by myself.

So which is your most favourite innings to revisit?

I would say the 2003 World Cup match versus Pakistan. It was a high-voltage game, with the kind of build-up it had had. It’s a wonderful match to revisit and I enjoy watching it from time to time.

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