By Asjad Nazir
Big hitting batsman Sachin Tendulkar admirably represented his country for 24 years and in the process uplifted a nation with his brilliance on the field of play.
Now the inspirational story of the greatest Indian sportsman in history has been bought to the screen with newly released documentary drama, Sachin: A Billion Dreams, which charts his rise from humble beginnings to becoming a global icon.
Directed by award-winning filmmaker James Erskine and with music by AR Rahman, the cinematic ode to the master blaster’s life mixes up cricketing glory, personal moments, unseen footage from the dressing room, dramatic recreations of his childhood and more. Eastern Eye caught up with the record-breaking cricketer at the Oval cricket ground in London to talk about Sachin: A Billion Dreams, his remarkable life, secrets of his success, inspirations and more.
How did you feel when you saw your life on the big screen for the first time?
I never thought that it would happen one day, but Ravi (Bhagchandka – producer) and James (Erskine – director) made it happen. The way they have been able to put things together, my entire life, is amazing. It is not just my cricketing life, but the years before I played for India and when I played for my country. There were also a lot of things happening at home and I was able to provide that footage to them.
How much did you get involved or did you just give them thousands of hours of footage?
(Laughs) Oh not much Asjad, just about 10,000 hours of footage. For real, they have gone through all of that and choosing from it is not easy. It has been a challenge for them. Then there are certain sections they have dramatised.
The director has described the movie as a mosaic because they have combined real footage with home movies and dramatised sections from your childhood. You are known to do your talking on the pitch. Was it difficult to let go of some parts of your life?
(Laughs) Now the pitch is not there any more and I can talk. Just joking! It’s always nice to remember those moments and it has always been special to reminisce about them.
Like re-imagining what it felt like holding the world cup in front of that big a crowd and doing a victory lap!
Is it possible to choose the fondest memory from your life?
It’s not impossible to choose one memory – lifting the world cup sits at the very top. There is no competition to that. I think it is the greatest feeling in the world. I can never forget that evening. Although it was at night that we lifted the trophy, it was the brightest day of my life.
Going back, how did you feel when you put the India shirt on for the first time?
Special! That is what I had been working so hard for. First it was my dream to play for India.
“it was my dream to play for India.”
Then it was about chasing the next dream, which was the World Cup. It all started in 1983 when I saw Kapil Dev lift the World Cup for India. After that I wanted to do the same thing. So it started from there and then the number of years I played were all magnificent and memorable.
How did you maintain discipline all those years, especially as a young man? We saw in the trailer you were quite a naughty kid.
Yes, I fully agree with you I was a naughty child. But my energy was focused on cricket. Once that energy was channelled in the direction where I couldn’t think of anything else other than cricket everything else fell into place. There were a number of occasions where my friends would go out in the evening and all that, but I would be practicing.
I didn’t want to miss my sessions. The team I had with me was my brother, coach and obviously my family. They were the foundation of whatever I was constructing.
So I had that discipline and balance in life because of the solid foundation they gave me. Nobody got carried away with my success, neither were they too disappointed with my failures. It was never an extreme reaction and was always a balance between celebrating and lifting me up from any disappointments. I was walking out alone, but there was a solid team working with me all the time.
What advice would you give youngsters wanting to be the next Sachin Tendulkar?
My very advice would be to keep things simple. Don’t get carried away because there will be a lot of things happening around cricket. Don’t forget the reason you are there and everything that happens around you is because of cricket. Let cricket always be in the foreground and all other things in the background.
“Don’t forget the reason you are there and everything that happens around you is because of cricket.”
If you take care of the runs, the rest of the things will automatically take care of themselves. For bowlers it’s wickets! You obviously have to work hard on your fitness and stay focused on the game.
Where did you find the strength to carry the dream of a billion people on your shoulders?
It was always there! Like I said earlier it was all about channelling my energy. I cared too much about cricket to take things easy.
You never seemed to be under any pressure or was it all inside?
The secret is not to show your weakness. Even when I was stressed and felt I was not moving well enough, I would never let my opposition know that I was not feeling comfortable.
There is a lot of bluffing one can say because you are also constantly playing mind games. Even if you are not on top of your game you have to convey the strong message to your opposition, “don’t mess around with me”.
How did you feel the last time you put on the India shirt?
It was extremely emotional! After the match I went back to my hotel room in my whites and still hadn’t changed. I only changed later in my hotel room. It was a special moment because I knew that one chapter of my life was over.
“I knew that one chapter of my life was over.”
It was a decision taken unanimously and never once did I feel after retirement that I shouldn’t have retired. I thought it was the right time and the right decision to take. Everything just happened so beautifully. You can plan to retire, but you can’t get people in the stands to come and cry for you. That is a blessing. When all these things happen for you, you only feel special and blessed.
What do you miss most about playing?
I think the dressing room and being out there in the middle is something you can’t compare with anything else in life – the excitement of being part of the team.
For me your greatest quality is your humility. How have you been able to remain so humble and grounded despite all the adulation from over a billion fans?
People have liked me for what I am so I don’t need to change. I have always tried to be myself. The first thing that my father told me when I played for India was you will possibly play for 10, 15 or more years, but what happens beyond that? This is one chapter in your life. People should want to have you around after you have stopped playing cricket. And they will only have you around if you are a nice human being. So always try being a nice human being.
What are your future hopes for Indian cricket?
I feel we have a solid, strong, balanced side and good upcoming players. Everything is falling into place so nicely. There is a lot of promise and as a team I am sure the players are very focused, and disciplined. They all understand their responsibilities.
Today what inspires you?
I am really enjoying the second chapter of my life. The first innings was 24 years (playing cricket). It has only just been three years of my second innings.
So I am still learning and figuring out a lot of things in life. It’s been a great learning experience because I am getting to do a lot of things I didn’t experience in the previous 24 years.
So it has been nice. I mean whatever is happening in my life I am completely happy and satisfied with it.