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‘India’s success story got encapsulated in Sachin’s’

- EXCLUSIVE
- Matthew Hayden on the ‘God’
I have liked Sachinís integrity. He stayed very, very true to the simple cause of being a good cricketer. Heís not been on the front pages for stupid things and always loved the game... That defined him...
Matthew Hayden

Top gun Matthew Hayden, credited with the celebrated comment — “I have seen God. He bats at No.4 for India in Tests” — spoke to The Telegraph exclusively on that God, Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin became a former India cricketer on November 16, two days before the scheduled end of his last series, as the West Indies threw in the towel well inside three days at the Wankhede.

Excerpts...

Timing of Sachin’s retirement...

Sachin’s gone at the right time. He’s a legend and legends should get the opportunity (to decide when to go). I don’t think an Australian could have played for this long, though. He would’ve been put under too much pressure.

Thoughts on November 16, Sachin’s last day as an India cricketer...

It was a sad day. But we have Sachin and the other greats on the videos. Thank God for that.

Importance of timing...

(Passionately) Fighters will always go for one more round, one more duel... So, there’s never a good time to retire. Remember, when you play international cricket, you have this giant resistance to outside forces... The opposition, the media.

If retirement, in early 2009, came easy to him...

I lost the fight... My approach would be one of defiance and of getting runs... But, one day, I woke up and said ‘you know what, respectfully, I have had enough’... I realised I didn’t have the strength to spring out of bed at 6 ’clock any more. It’s meditation on each ball and, so, you need a clear mind. That calls for a lot of effort and energy. I couldn’t have mustered that when I decided to retire.

His assessment of Sachin...

Sachin transcends the game... There have been very few players who’ve defined a period in history, he’s one of them. (Sir) Donald Bradman was another... We had the Great Depression, then World War II and the post-War period. Right through, Bradman provided entertainment and gave joy... India was rather different when Sachin made his debut (late 1989)... Over the years, the change has been unmistakable. You can make out from the airports... In the past 24 years, the time he played, India became a bubbling, massive success story economically. India’s success story got encapsulated in Sachin’s, which I find remarkable. That apart, cricket’s profile boomed in Sachin’s era. What an innings!

Sachin as an ambassador for cricket...

I have liked Sachin’s integrity. He stayed very, very true to the simple cause of being a good cricketer. He’s not been on the front pages for stupid things and always loved the game... That defined him... Sachin would almost be seen as meditating across the ground, he had such presence. He’d be most happy when batting, it was like an addiction.

Ricky Ponting’s attack on Sachin on the Monkeygate issue...

As I’ve told you, I don’t wish to go back in time. A lot of positives have emerged since then (early 2008).

First impressions of Sachin...

Sachin, I thought, was tiny when I first saw him, on India’s 1991-92 tour of Australia. He was a feather of an individual.

Sachin getting Test hundreds in Sydney (148 not out) and in Perth (114) on that tour...

Sydney would have suited Sachin, but the one in Perth was a different ball game... It’s hard even for Australians to adjust at the WACA and, back then, it was more fast and more bouncy. The kind of wicket to destroy batsmen. But Sachin went about his job beautifully. His mindset and balance stood out. He had that ‘This is me, this is who I am’ message which wasn’t lost on anybody.

His favourite Sachin innings...

One... Sachin’s 241 not out in the Sydney Test (2003-04), when he showed a very different mentality, when he put a leash on his favourite shot — the cover drive. It was a masterful innings. It’s not the shots which define you, but the ability to help in getting the outcome your team desires.

The manner in which Sachin handled such high expectations...

Sachin could have handled the expectations of 10 billion people, not just one-plus.

Sledging Sachin...

(Laughs) I did, but I failed... I failed because Sachin couldn’t care less. He had an impenetrable zone, like a shield. Sledging Brian Lara was also of no use. If anything, he’d start to play better!

If Sachin sledged him...

After being provoked, yes. I’d be provocative and be the victim of a return of fire. But I was never personal, for it should never get down to that level.

Immortals and Sachin...

Sachin apart, there have been so many... Sunil Gavaskar, Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Brian Lara, Ponting, Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid... Others, too. Each one of them has left a huge impression.

Lastly... His take on Sachin being revered in Australia...

Australians love a champion and Sachin defied us so many times... Australians respect good performances... Sachin provided us Australians plenty of entertainment. He’s been inspirational.

Footnote: Last month, in a one-on-one with this Reporter, Hayden clarified that his remarks after Sachin was conferred the Order of Australia had been made out of ignorance.