Saturday, November 03, 2007

'Sound of bat hitting ball is still a special feeling'

Sachin Tendulkar has dismissed speculation that he is thinking of retiring from one-day cricket or cutting down on the amount of ODIs to ensure a longer Test career. In an interview with the Times of India, the 34-year-old Tendulkar discussed a number of issues, from the challenges ahead against Pakistan and Australia to a look at his own fitness and form.

On the question of quitting the one-day game, Tendulkar was emphatic he had no such plans. "I have honestly not thought about the fact that I only need to play one version of the game to play the other longer. I am enjoying whatever I am doing at the moment. The moment I feel I am not enjoying myself, I will start thinking about it.

"I think I still like to do a lot of things on the cricket field. When I am bowling, I would want to do something more, surprise the batsman, beat him with a little bit of extra seam or some spin or whatever I am doing. That excitement is something else. Even today when I do that I feel happy. When you hit a cover drive, a straight drive or a cut, the feeling touches your soul. The sound of bat hitting the ball, even hitting it exactly where you want to do it, those feelings are special. I enjoy that feeling, I live for it."

Plenty has been written about his inability to dominate attacks in the last few years, but Tendulkar saw it differently, saying he is now more adept at shaping his game according to the needs of the situation.

"My batting has changed for the good, I would like to believe. I won't be able to pinpoint but I know when I go out in the middle now I do things a little differently, things I was not able to do earlier. You continue to raise that bar, to get better. I definitely feel there have been a lot of changes; my shot-selection has improved, I have more options now. If somebody is bowling a particular ball, maybe earlier I had only one or two options; now I may have four or even five options. And I am able to pick the best option for that particular moment and I go for it."

He also spoke at length about his battles with James Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom during the Tests against England earlier this year to illustrate the fact that he had improved in his ability to mould his batting to suit the needs of the team.

"I thought on both the occasions I went in to bat at the most crucial moments in the Test matches," he said. In the second match at Old Trafford, Tendulkar overcame a terrific spell by Sidebottom, getting beaten several times and hardly scoring a run off him. "If I had lost my wicket at that stage, we would have been on the back foot. Even the result might have been different. I am not saying the batsmen behind me would not have done the job, but we would have been under more pressure. At that particular stage it was important that we didn't lose any wicket. Just play out that spell and gradually start building our innings again." Tendulkar finally fell for 91, but by then India were in command at 342 for 4, and a platform had been set for a huge first-innings lead.

Sachin Tendulkar avoids yet another bouncer on the first day of the Oval Test © Getty Images
In the next game, at The Oval, Anderson tested him with several short deliveries on the first day but Tendulkar refused to be baited into playing the pull or hook and instead took several blows to his body. "That evening spell [by Anderson] was very crucial. I thought if I could just hang in there it would put us in a better position.

"[The body blows] were all intentional. I though that was the best way of playing at that point. He was trying to intimidate me and I said fine, 'try it as long as you want'. I had basically used a different technique, a different approach to overcome it. I don't know how to express this but I was like 'if you are going to do this I will handle it like this'.

Tendulkar also explained why he didn't try to hook. "They had fielders there for that specific shot and if I mistimed even one shot they would have been successful in their plan. And I wasn't going to let that happen. Here it is not a battle between Anderson and me; it is about the team. I was looking at the big picture all the time. I knew he won't be able to go on and on with that line and length. And that's exactly how it worked out. Later on when the other batters came on, the pressure had eased out.

"Probably ten years ago I would have played my strokes, tried to dominate. I didn't mind not doing it that time." Anderson did eventually dismiss Tendulkar, but not before he had made 82 and put India on the road for a sizeable first-innings total.

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