'No one likes to lose'

Published : Sep 29, 2001 00:00 IST


HE makes news even when he is not playing. The Indian team missed him sorely, the victory at Kandy in the Test against Sri Lanka notwithstanding; the fans missed him even more.

But the bowling fraternity was quite relieved when Sachin Tendulkar was rendered hors de combat for some time because of an injury. Their joy, however, shall remain shortlived as the Master returns to the arena with greater determination to dominate the opposition.

Tendulkar is the only contemporary cricketer to figure in the dream team that Sir Don Bradman is said to have chosen. The subsequent comparisons, whether Tendulkar is greater than Sunil Gavaskar, were dismissed as meaningless by this titan. He has a special place in his heart for Gavaskar and in the past he has gone on record saying that he did not like comparisons.

During the period when he was out of cricket, Tendulkar obviously enjoyed being with his family, but then he simply could not take his mind off cricket. The world was more concerned than the man himself and the support from all quarters, the good wishes for his speedy recovery from a toe injury, made an emotional impact on Tendulkar, who worked very hard indeed.

It was painful, but then Tendulkar had his priorities right. He was not going to allow this injury dictate his career and in any case it was not the first time he was missing cricket. A back injury had troubled him two years ago and forced him to miss a few one-day assignments, but then this time he was ruled out of a Test series. "It was very disappointing," remarked Tendulkar.

Since his debut in 1989, Tendulkar had not missed a single Test, a record which shows his commitment, form, and of course, fitness. It was during the last league match against the West Indies during the tri-series in Zimbabwe that Tendulkar felt uncomfortable while running. His fears came true in the final when he kept leaving the field for treatment and on return, after various tests, it was discovered that he had a fracture. The pressure on the toe was unbearable and Tendulkar lost no time in consulting specialists.

A specially designed inner-sole gave Tendulkar comfort and raised hopes of an early comeback. It also required him to be disciplined and dedicated and the support from wife Anjali proved to be a major factor as he resumed training earlier than he expected and was back at the 'nets', knocking the ball around with the same elan.

On the eve of the team's departure for South Africa, Tendulkar spoke to The Sportstar.


Question: How was life without cricket for two months?

Answer: It's been tough. Life without cricket is unthinkable for me, but then the injury left me with no option. I was forced to stay away from cricket and thankfully the return has been as early as possible.

Wasn't it a frustrating period?

No doubt. It was very, very tough and very frustrating too. But then it was not that I wasn't in touch with cricket. I watched the team play and I shared their joy and disappointments in victories and defeats.

How would you describe the feeling on missing your first Test series since your debut in 1989?

It was a very unusual situation for me. I am not at all used to sitting at home when cricket is on. But then as I said there was no option for me. Not everything goes according to one's wishes. You may have your best plans but then to execute them is not always easy. I was keen to play but then I didn't want to take a risk with the kind of injury I had.

Did the injury keep you out longer than you initially thought?

Yes. The injury did keep me out longer than I thought from performing my role in the team. It didn't look so bad at the start but then when I consulted a specialist I realised that the injury was serious. Initially the doctors said there was no fracture but I felt the pain a lot. I was asked to rest but even that didn't help much. I looked forward to a quick recovery but things didn't work to my plan. And then I was told that it was a fracture. I was told that I was in no position to go to Sri Lanka and that was a blow to me. I had not visualised this kind of scenario when I returned from Zimbabwe. It was then that I learnt the injury would take some time to heal.

How do you look at things now?

To tell you the truth it was a big relief when I discovered there was no pain and I could resume my training in phases. I had to work hard on my recovery but then to be able to travel with the team again and play cricket is what I have been looking forward to.

What are the measures you need to take?

I am wearing specially designed inner soles which help a lot in reducing the pressure. I have been using them in my training sessions, running and in the 'nets' and I can say it's worked well. I'll have to keep playing and get used to it. It may take time I know, but it is a must for me at the moment.

What steps did you take in the initial period of your recovery?

I couldn't run because that would have aggravated the injury. Otherwise it has been normal. I couldn't run for two weeks during my comeback preparations. It was essentially walking and getting the feel of the inner soles.

Where did the support come from during your period of recovery?

The family of course, but I would like to thank the Board for its help. Personally I feel the Board has been very caring in making arrangements for me to get the best medical assistance and I feel grateful about it.

How do you look at this forced break?

Well, it came as a big shock to realise that I wouldn't be able to play cricket for some time. Obviously we're playing so much cricket that a break comes as a relief for any regular cricketer. This one came under different and unexpected circumstances. There's a lot of cricket coming up and lot of cricket being played everywhere. We have some four-five Test series which would be demanding indeed if one is expected to be at one's best in all conditions.

Do you feel that too much international cricket is taking its toll on our players?

It appears so, but I firmly believe that we cricketers need to work a lot harder on our fitness. On one hand, we can't blame excessive cricket for our not being fighting fit, but on the other, it will be of great benefit to all the players if our international calendar is planned more thoughtfully. The body needs time to recharge if we are expected to give our best more consistently.

How do you look at this hectic cricket schedule?

It can be demanding as I said but then there are no exceptions these days. Every team is playing non-stop cricket. One has to be very fit and steady. I don't mind playing so much cricket, but then as I've said earlier everyone needs time between series' to recover and recoup. It also leads to injuries and it's not just us, for almost every team is suffering on this account. You need time to look after your injuries, time to sort out flaws, if any, in your game and time to study your overall approach. Sadly, these days we hardly get any time for such introspection because of the back-to-back cricket assignments at home and overseas.

How do you look at the coming tour of South Africa?

It's always a tough tour. We have to realise that we can do well provided we go out and play to the best of our abilities. I know for sure that the whole team is looking forward to this tour.

How was the experience during your first tour of South Africa in 1992?

It was a very good trip. There was such a tremendous hype about the tour. I remember it was called the Friendship Series even though the cricket that it produced was hard. The South Africans were playing international cricket at home after a long time and obviously wanted to prove a few things. For us, it was equally important to do well because it was India's first ever trip to South Africa for a cricket competition. I can never forget the reception we received in Durban, being taken in open-top vehicles from the airport to the team hotel. It was a fantastic experience for all of us.

How was it on the cricketing front?

I have some pleasant memories of that tour. I remember my Test hundred at The Wanderers. It was also the first time that I saw Jonty Rhodes. I had not seen anyone field so brilliantly. The South African attack was good too. It was very disciplined and kept you on your toes.

How about the pitches?

The pitches were nice and true, I would say. The same as we encounter in Australia. The bounce and the pace was challenging. It was top class cricket. The crowd too was sportive and enjoyed every moment of the series.

How different was the tour in 1996?

It wasn't very different. The crowd was as sportive and the cricket as fierce. We had a few chances to win and what rankles is that we couldn't finish the job. It'll always be on my mind that we couldn't win the Test at The Wanderers and the tri-series final at Durban. We should have won both and that would have made the tour so much memorable.

How then will this tour unfold?

We, no doubt, have a strong team. There are a few names missing though, but then you can only pick 15 for a tour.

Would you have preferred an experienced wicketkeeper in the side?

It's difficult for me to comment on the selection policies but personally I feel sad for Sameer (Dighe). I think in the three Test matches we have won against Australia, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka he has had a winning role to play. His partnerships with Harbhajan (Singh) in all the three victories have been significant. Experience would have helped certainly.

What about Ajit Agarkar?

I know that he is a quality cricketer who has had minor fitness problems which have kept him out. He is a genuine all-rounder I would say and could have been an asset to the team in all circumstances in South Africa.

Do you believe that the team will, at least this time, do well on an overseas assignment?

No one likes to lose, let me tell you. We've had many occasions to win Tests overseas. I would say that if India plays to its potential I don't see any reason why we can't win. There's no doubt that for the team to excel in South Africa it'll need a special effort from all of us.

Your reflections after the return from Zimbabwe?

I was able to focus on a few things away from cricket even though it was a painful experience, but the greatest joy came out of the period as I could spend a lot of time with my family. It was a bonus actually for me and my family.

I may have missed cricket but the gain on the home front was priceless. Looking after my wife and kids and their company made my recovery every bit easy. Honestly it was great to be in the company of Anjali, Sara and Arjun.

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