With 72 hundreds in Tests and ODIs, there's little that Sachin Tendulkar needs to prove. The maestro, now in his 33rd year, recently spoke to The Telegraph for well over an hour.
The following are excerpts
Q What's your reaction to Wisden's observation that your approach has become colder' That, perhaps, you're now more mechanical and less passionate'
A Has my body language changed' It hasn't' My passion, too, hasn't' No matter who says what, I'm sure the passion is visible on the field.
Okay' To move on, would you have been relieved had the 35th Test hundred materialised in the series versus Pakistan' Would you, then, have enjoyed the off-season more' Now, you've got to wait till at least the August-September tour of Zimbabwe'
I'm still going to enjoy the break' Cricket isn't about records and life won't be different (in the next three months) because I didn't get that hundred.
But that 35th hundred has become a national obsession'
Look, one wishes to score big in every innings' Of course, I can't predict what I'll get' A batsman either believes he has struck a four or played the perfect defensive shot' Nobody looks at the other side of the coin, that one can also get out. Cricket isn't a game of certainties.
Aren't you thrilled at being just one hundred away from a huge record'
Well, 35 is a special number' However, I haven't thought about getting there too deeply... I tend to believe special things in life have their own timing' Moreover, there's more to cricket and my life than a 35th Test hundred' I didn't begin my career with a target. Today, then, why must I talk in terms of one' Bottomline is, I need to do the right thing at the right time.
Are you, at least, happy that the 10,000 barrier has been crossed'
(Smiles) That achievement puts in perspective my 15-plus years of international cricket' Believe me, I wasn't myself that conscious when I was near the 10,000 mark, but people around me always kept reminding.
Speaking of hundreds, is Jacques Kallis emerging a big threat to you and Brian Lara'
He's a great batsman' Very well-balanced both when attacking and defending' Is mentally tough and, overall, has a terrific temperament.
[Kallis began the Antigua Test with 21 hundreds. Lara's tally is 28.]
What makes a complete batsman'
The ability to analyse situations' Decent technique' The ability to control the game by making the bowler bowl to his strengths' A good defence...
Who, in your opinion, have come closest to being perfect'
Viv Richards for his ability to murder any attack and Sunil Gavaskar for his ability to control the game even with defensive play.
Incidentally, how is your left elbow'
I've learnt to deal with the pain' I've had a tricky (tennis elbow) injury' The pain lingers and one has to bear it' At times, I'm in pain; on other occasions, I'm not. Somebody with a back stiffness problem could feel the same way.
Are you continuing with a rehab programme'
I'm particular with exercises' Then, the icing is also regular, both after nets and at the end of each day that I bat.
What was your first thought when the pain became excruciating in Amstelveen'
Thought it was a spasm and I would be fine in a few days' Actually, I missed over two months of international cricket.
How would you draw up your own balance sheet for the 2004-05 season'
The tennis elbow made it tough' One does plan for a season, but things don't always work out the way you desire'
The ODIs were a disappointment, but how would you assess Team India's Test performance'
We did okay against Australia and played well in Calcutta to win the series versus South Africa' Then, we weren't stretched by Bangladesh' As for the series against Pakistan, we did well initially, but ought to have ended better'
Is that last afternoon in Bangalore going to haunt for long' Do you regret getting into a shell'
It's easy for people to talk' The close-in fielders, though, would have moved away only if we had a chance of winning' And, with four wickets (Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly) falling in the second session, where was that chance' Where was that support for me to play positively' In any case, (Virender) Sehwag had got out in the opening session itself' Those who were free with criticism should understand nothing would have been achieved (at that stage) by trying to be positive' It was a fifth day wicket with dual bounce and the ball often didn't spin the way it threatened to' My objective was to kill time, without giving the opposition any chance to break through' There are times when, playing positively, you play a shot which is just 80 per cent safe' I didn't want to give Pakistan even a 20 per cent chance on any shot from my bat. After all, a draw would have given us the series... If you recall, I'd started differently, hitting (Mohammed) Sami for a four on probably the second ball. But, then, wickets began to fall and I had to adjust. Indeed, playing a few shots wouldn't have changed Pakistan's game plan.
What was Team India's game plan that morning'
To have enough wickets in hand by the end of the third hour, a situation which would have helped us control the Test' Given that Sehwag left early, our best chance of winning was to have been only one-down when the fourth hour began.
You must have been crushed on being the second out (after Dinesh Karthik) in the final session'
I'd been playing for the team' I'd been telling myself I had to be patient' That I had to take it ball by ball' I was upset.
Looking back on the season just ended, who made the biggest difference in Tests ' Sehwag or Anil Kumble'
The batting of Sehwag and Rahul as also the efforts of Kumble and Harbhajan Singh... Then, (Irfan) Pathan had been outstanding in Bangladesh'
[Sehwag scored 1,128 runs, while Dravid totalled 841; Kumble bagged 64 wickets, with Harbhajan getting 48. Pathan had 18 wickets in the two Tests in Bangladesh.]
What makes Sehwag tick'
The free flow and swing of his bat' Also, his thought process is very good. It may appear he goes bang-bang-bang, but that's not so. Sehwag plans, doesn't close his eyes and swing... He's aware of the areas he needs to target.
Sehwag hardly relies on footwork'
But his hand-eye coordination is superb, isn't it'
The 2004-05 season, however, didn't begin well for Sehwag' Did the ODI failures make him more determined when the first Test series (versus Australia) got underway'
People should make an allowance for failure' Keep room for that' In fact, whatever the field, there's no individual anywhere who hasn't failed at some point' Surely, failure isn't a crime and somebody who fails will pull through only with the support of those around him. Sehwag, I'm sure, is going to acknowledge that the team backed him.
Sourav got crucified for a poor run. Your thoughts'
He tried to score, but couldn't' He wanted to contribute and feel good, but couldn't' Clearly, the criticism didn't help... That Sourav's form became such a big issue just didn't help him ' As I've said, you've got to make an allowance for failure.
Did you feel sorry for Sourav'
The issue isn't of feeling sorry or otherwise' It's about giving confidence to a player who hits a rough patch. I did speak to Sourav.
How is failure best handled'
It's important to listen to your own voice... It's important to look at ending a poor run as a challenge.
Has Kumble ever bowled better than in the last 17-18 months'
Barring a few matches, he has always been at his best' One gets to hear a lot about Anil not spinning the ball and not doing this or that' Well, now that he has 461 Test wickets, people must keep their mouths shut. If they still are intent on criticising him, they ought to first have a closer look at themselves.
No disrespect to Kumble, but there are times when you look the best leg-spinner around'
(Laughs) I don't have to do Anil's job and, so, enjoy myself' I like playing on the batsman's mind' My advantage, perhaps, is that I'm not a predictable bowler.
Are you, then, the latest man with the 'Golden Arm'
I'll have to bowl more regularly to qualify for that!
Does the batsman in you work even when you bowl'
Yes' I do think how the batsman could respond.
What are the challenges for Team India'
To keep improving' Keep getting better in every aspect'
Given the way Mahendra Singh Dhoni exploded in Vizag, he could be an asset both in the immediate future and the 2007 World Cup'
I agree that 148 was a career-changing innings, but Dhoni should be allowed to be himself and not burdened with over-expectations. Let's give him the confidence to be consistent, not weigh him down.
The final question: Does John Wright's success as our coach suggest only a foreigner is best suited for the job'
(After a pause) I think it's the individual who matters.