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Anand: Sachin should continue

Calcutta: Just a year after Viswanathan Anand became the first Grandmaster from India in 1988, Sachin Tendulkar burst into the international scene, making his debut, against Pakistan, in Karachi.

Two of the greatest icons of Indian sports have had almost simultaneous careers. They have admired each other as the country has worshipped both.

So now, when Sachin is being bombarded with suggestions, literally from any Tom, Dick and Harry, to hang his bat, it’s only natural to ask Anand about his views on the issue.

The five-time World Champion, who was in the city to attend a NIIT promotional, was genteel as usual in his reply. But if one can read between the lines, one wouldn’t miss his rebuke directed at those critics who feel that it’s time Sachin calls it a day.

“Nowadays, I feel that it is always the first question to be asked… When will people like us retire? As if, if not both, at least one of us should quit… It’s funny at times, isn’t it? I don’t think there’s any big change as soon as you hit 40… I don’t see any difference in myself from December, 2009 when I turned 40, till this December. It’s just that the way people look at you changes.

“I guess it’s the same for Sachin as well… Sport always favours young people, but that’s not everything. So I think Sachin should continue as long as he enjoys the game. Criticism is fine, but to ask him to stop playing when he himself thinks he is good enough to continue, is not right,” Anand said.

The 43-year-old also drew a parallel with himself, as he said: “In physical sports, there is a certain wear and tear to the body… So it’s difficult to stay at the top in games like football, tennis etc… But in chess, 40 is not that significant… Fifty, maybe, is kind of a barrier… But even for that, I still have a few years left… So I’m not worried.”

His respect for Sachin was also evident when he picked The Master as one of those sporting icons, as seen by him, who have had a major influence on the country. Asked to pick three who he thought were the best, Anand said: “It’s difficult to do that… But, maybe, Leander Paes will be the first one… Then, it will be Sachin… I have seen a lot of these two’s career as we had began almost at the same time. Sourav (Ganguly) will also be there,” he said.

Anand’s love for soccer is well known. Queried who he thinks, between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, will win the Ballon d’Or, the champion took a diplomatic stance. “Well, Messi’s game is really incredible… I’m a Real Madrid supporter though, ” Anand said.

Moving on to chess, he was asked how many more world titles would he want to win. “As many as they let me win,” was the simple answer.

Revealing his plans for the upcoming year, Anand said: “I have a heavy schedule… I will next play the Tata Steel championship… The next world championship will be held towards the end of 2013… In March, I will know who my opponent will be, and accordingly will begin my preparations,” Anand said.