Mumbai, Mar 25 (PTI): Sachin Tendulkar made it clear today that he does not intend to retire anytime soon and left open the possibility of playing in the 2015 World Cup.
The master batsman, who will turn 39 next month, took on his critics who have been suggesting that he should retire from the one-day format of the game and focus on Test cricket. Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and some other former greats have in fact expressed views that he should have retired from ODIs when India won the 2011 World Cup.
"I feel that when I retire is something that I would decide because when I started was not decided by someone else. Those who are advising me about retirement did not bring me in the team," he said at a rare press conference here.
Tendulkar, who reached an unprecedented milestone in the game's history of making 100 international centuries nine days ago in Dhaka, was uncharacteristically blunt about his critics and said, "I feel those who say you should retire at the top, are selfish because when you are at the top, you should serve the country instead of retiring."
Asked about the prospects of his playing the 2015 World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand, Tendulkar refused to be drawn into any predictions but clearly did not rule out playing in the tournament.
"When this question was asked in 2007 (about the 2011 World Cup), it was tough for me to answer. It's the same situation.
"I don't know what to say about 2015, if people keep praying for me, that means a lot for me. I will keep trying, the rest is in god's hands. I just want to enjoy the game. I don't want to set targets," he added.
Speaking about his 100th international century, which he scored after a year-long wait, the iconic player said, "When I reached my 100th ton, I looked at my bat and looked at the sky and asked god, what wrong did I do? Why did it take so long?"
Answering a question about rising superstar Virat Kohli and other emerging youngsters, Tendulkar had a word of advice for them -- they should have strong commitment and discipline.
"I hope only an Indian breaks my records"
Sachin Tendulkar does not want to predict whether his seemingly unconquerable record of 100 international centuries would ever be broken but the iconic cricketer hopes that as and when it happens, the feat is accomplished by a fellow Indian.
"I don't know. I guess all the records are meant to be broken but I hope it's an Indian. I don't think you can predict that (whether it will be surpassed) but I hope it's an Indian whenever it happens," Tendulkar, who reached the milestone during the recent Asia Cup, told reporters here.
For a player who has virtually every batting record that is there to be taken, Tendulkar said the biggest compliment for him was when the legendary Sir Don Bradman included him in his all-time Test XI.
"I think the best compliment was from Sir Don Bradman when he announced his all-time Test XI and I was part of that squad. That would be the best compliment," he said.
Talking about his journey so far, Tendulkar, the highest run-getter in both Tests and one-dayers, said his late father Ramesh Tendulkar was his idol growing up.
"My hero is my father because he is the one with whom everything started in my life. I follow my father. In cricket, even whose who haven't scored a hundred were advising me but as long as it was in good intention, it was fine," he said.
When asked about India's early exit from the Asia Cup, Tendulkar said credit should also go to the rivals who played better than them.
"All three teams won two matches, it eventually boiled down to who beat whom. I want to clarify that Bangladesh are a good team and played well in all the four matches. The rival teams also come to win. Sometimes you play well but the other team plays better," he explained.
The diminutive right-hander said he does not have to prove anything now and would continue as long as he enjoys the game.
"I don't think I need to prove anything right now. I started playing this game because I loved it, I enjoy it. The passion for cricket was there. The dream was to play for India and win the World Cup, I don't think anything can be bigger than that," he said.
"I can't think of milestones. I have been able to play for India and win the World Cup. I don't know what is in store for me but my focus would be to just enjoy the game. I don't want to focus on what I have to achieve because I have already achieved what I wanted," he added.
Tendulkar also detailed the one year barren spell during which he got into 70s and 80s but somehow missed out on hundreds.
"At the time of the World Cup when I got to 99 hundreds, no one was discussing about my 100th hundred because the focus was on the World Cup. But after the World Cup, the media built on it and started asking. I was only focused on playing cricket like always. I just wanted to score runs," he recalled."But as time went by, people who were listening to the media, those people, excluding my friends and family, would wish me about the 100th hundred. But I felt cricket should be the focus and that is what I kept telling myself," Tendulkar said.
"I can say that from a cricketing point of view, it was a tough phase because the good wishes were not stopping. Now, at least they won't pray for my 100th ton and my ears will get some rest," he joked.
"I can't complain about all these good wishes."Talking about his own form in this one year, Tendulkar said, "I can say that there were patches when I didn't bat well, there were patches when I felt that I batted my best. I felt that sometimes you need luck to be on your side."
"Sometimes that luck factor was missing because as far as preparations were concerned, my commitment and passion was in place. I scored 100 out of 100 on that. But you don't always achieve the results that you dream of," he said.
"Something that is more important is not to lose hope. I did not lose hope, I continued trying my best. Here I only waited for a year but for the World Cup I waited for 22 years and it happened."
Tendulkar said being a celebrity, his struggles hogged the limelight even though every individual goes through tough times.
"There are going to be rough phases in life. I don't think there is anyone who hasn't experienced rough phases but they are personal. But because we are public figures, our rough phases are on camera. But I didn't lose faith in my ability and that is what has allowed me to be where I am."
Asked to assess himself, Tendulkar said he would leave that job to his fans and critics.
"I can't judge myself but definitely there was a dream to be regarded as one of the top players to have played the game. To be in that league that was my dream. I wanted to be right at the top or to be there in that group and I feel I am there but if you ask me to judge myself, I can't do that. That's for others to say," he said.Asked to compare the pressure he felt at the time of his debut hundred and the 100th hundred, Tendulkar said it is incomparable.
"I think in 94' when I did a press conference, even half of the journalists present right now were not there. There were few expectations. Today the expectations are a lot more. Even if I score 70-80, it is a disappointment like in Delhi last year against the West Indies.
"It's about how you look at things. My first century and this one can't be compared because expectations are different," he said.
Like him, the Indian team has also gone through a tough phase since winning the World Cup in April last year. Tendulkar said the key to recovery lies in not losing hope.
"Wherever we go, we want to win. When you lose the number one ranking, it means someone is playing better cricket than you, you need to perform better and win. That is what we go out for. At no stage should we lose hope. It is a rough patch but we can overcome that obstacle, we require hard work and we will do that," he said.
"I think our team has had a few injuries. During the England tour, we suffered because of injuries. I don't want to give excuses because whoever plays, he is expected to do well. I can't pinpoint reasons but we can get better.
"I don't know how to put it across. I don't think you can find solutions in 3-4 sentences. It is a process. When we became number one, it was a process and we will have to repeat that," he added.
Talking about the state of the game in general, Tendulkar said Test cricket should remain the pinnacle.
"There has to be more importance to Test cricket. This format is very challenging for which you need planning. You need to play at a different pace at different times. If you ask any player, most would tell you that Tests have to be number one and I have no different opinion," he said.
"I asked God why 100th ton took so long to come"
"I have always believed in God. My father was a believer and my mother is a believer. Even when I was a schoolboy and playing at Shivaji Park, during breaks, I used to run to a Ganpati temple nearby and drink water from the tap there every day. I got the feeling of getting positive energy after drinking the water," Tendulkar said during an interaction with a select group of journalists, here today.
"When I got to my 100th hundred, I looked at the bat and looked upwards towards God and said "it's been a tough time for me, why? Where did I lack in my commitment?". Finally it had happened and I was really thrilled and looked at the dressing room and pointed my bat to the players and also to the Indian flag that I have on my helmet. This is what I have done for the nation and everyone has been a part of it," the legendary batsman said.
"I remember my coach (Ramakant Achrekar) telling me when I was a kid, this game can be cruel at times... don't worry, everyone goes through these patches. When you are doing well you don't question yourself ...why are these things happening to me. You feel you are doing well and I have managed all these things. Even a bad phase will pass by...nothing will stay permanently you will overcome these obstacles," the maestro reminisced.
"In my school days, I learnt a lot, these things have helped me...above all to respect the game - that's something I have learnt... to respect the game," said the champion batsman, who will turn 39 on April 24.
Tendulkar, whose 99th hundred was registered on March 12 last year during the World Cup against South Africa at Nagpur, had come agonisingly close to notching the century of centuries on a few occasions, but had to wait till March 16 this year when he completed the landmark against Bangladesh in Dhaka.
He described in detail the trials and tribulations he underwent before achieving this milestone in his 22-year-old international career, and felt the luck factor had deserted him.
"This year was a difficult one. When I was on 99 centuries during the last World Cup ... we played 4 games after that, (but) nobody talked about my 100th century. The focus was on the World Cup. We won the World Cup which was absolutely fantastic. Then everyone started thinking where can we focus..the focus was on the 100th hundred," said Tendulkar.
"At that stage my focus wasn't on 100th hundred. My focus was, like any other match I would go out to get a big 100 and contribute. (I) just wanted to go out and get as many runs as possible and that is what I was thinking about.
"But as the time went by there was so much hype created that naturally the focus... even though I did not want I felt somewhere in the subconscious mind it was there. I was telling myself that above all I need to just enjoy the game and be myself.
"But when you get at least 100 reminders a day, it is difficult not to think about it. You are forcibly made to think about it. That was something which was getting tougher and tougher to manage. I obviously felt like telling everyone let's talk cricket and not 100th hundred, I am exactly making the same pre-match preparations (and) everything exactly was the same.
"The 100th hundred... of course I started off really well and then I felt the ball was coming off the track a bit slower than I would have liked. And during my partnership with Virat (Kohli), we both kept discussing what would be a good target and we thought 275-280 would be a good total as that wicket wasn't like the one on which the earlier game had been played.
"We were constantly keeping an eye on the run-rate that we were maintaining and it became critical to have wickets in hand. I was patient and just focused on building partnerships. At the same time there were spells during which they really bowled well.
"I remember Mashrafe Mortaza bowled a maiden to me in the Powerplay. I had connected three good shots in that over and all three went to the fielder." Tendulkar said that he was talking to Virat Kohli about how certain shots which would be boundaries was stopped.
"And I told Virat, and thought to myself, on a good day, those are three boundaries. That is what this game teaches you. Sometimes you can edge between slips for a four and when you are batting well, three potential boundaries could get stopped. It's an unbelievable game. You just have to remain a student and learn so many things," he said.
Tendulkar also pointed out that he had got big runs when he had not batted well at times in the past, but when he did bat well, like in Australia, luck seemed to desert him.
"There have been occasions when I have not batted that well but have ended up scoring big runs...what could be the reason? It's luck, as sometimes you get beaten by just that much...how will you describe it...edging one and getting beaten..that has to be luck.
"In Mumbai (against West Indies in the third and final Test last November), if I had been beaten by that particular ball I would have been batting on 94 ... the next ball you think, ok fine it's a two-paced wicket, so I better respect that and leave that ball alone.
"Sometimes that 'wake-up ball' is important... which I felt in my case did not happen much last season. It just taught me to have patience and focus on my job...results will take care of themselves if I focus on my prematch preparations and not think too much."
Tendulkar said instead of relaxing he tried harder than necessary during this phase..
"When you start climbing a building you don't think of the 10th floor directly you have to start from ground floor. As far as my preparation was concerned, I did not find any shortcuts there. I don't think I was relaxed. I kept myself pushing harder and harder because these are the things which make you.
"Sometimes there are disappointments or setbacks and afterwards I always used to work harder and try and take whatever positive out of them. That is something which I have learnt, or maybe it was a reminder after 22 years."
"Something last year has taught me is, in this game sometimes there are no reasons for your failure or disappointment. I felt I was batting well in Australia and felt in the recent past, or possibly in the 22 years (that) I (have) played cricket, I was playing one of the best.
"And I was really pleased with the way, I was moving and timing the ball, pleased with everything...but somehow at that crunch moment you need luck to be on your side and I felt luck was not on my side.
"I got close to scoring 100s or when I was really looking good, it was not happening. There was no particular reason. Sometimes there are no explanations for certain things that happen in your life. You look at the solutions, put question marks everywhere why this is happening, (but) you don't find any answers."
Tendulkar also said his focus has always been about team and not personal records which, if they happen along the way, make him happy.
"When you contribute towards the team, trying to achieve a team goal, that's when records are created. You don't look to create records and achieve the team's goal.
"Before anything, we as a team have a goal. While chasing that goal if certain records are created it becomes a landmark, it becomes big news, but in our team meetings we never discuss records, we discuss how we can win the match and what would be our strategies. Along the way if you are able to break records or do something special then you obviously feel good about it."