Sachin ‘The Master’ Tendulkar, brand ambassador for Sunday’s IDBI Federal Life Insurance Full Marathon in the city, spoke to The Telegraph for over half-on-hour late on Saturday.
A former captain of India and a member of the 2011 World Cup-winning XI, Sachin will be in Calcutta for less than 24 hours.
Q Coming to the city for the Marathon has become an annual ritual, quite different from the trips you’d make in the India Whites or the India Blue...
A Completely different, yes. However, one thing is common — sport. As you’re aware, I’ve been wanting the common man to engage in some sports-related activity. As a nation, we love watching sports, but not many actually play some sport or the other. The lifestyle of most in India is sedentary, which is why we’re the diabetes capital of the world and rank very high when it comes to obesity. Those statistics need to quickly change and there’s nothing better than a fit and healthy nation... It’s with a reason that our parents kept reminding us that ‘health is wealth’. Indeed is.
Q Have you attended any of the high-profile Marathons, London or Boston, perhaps?
A No... My involvement with the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Full Marathon is two-fold: To encourage the common man to take to some sport and instil the need to be healthy financially as well. The ideal combination: Be fit physically and healthy financially.
Q Are you, by the way, advising on the financial aspect too?
A Not me, the experts are there.
Q What has been the response of Calcuttans to the Marathon?
A Fantastic... The number of participants has jumped and I’d like to congratulate Calcuttans for their enthusiasm... I’ve just finished an event with some of the participants, one of whom is 87 years old! He’ll figure in the Half Marathon... Then, there’s a visually-impaired person, who’ll run for 10 kms without the support of his guide’s elbow... Those are two amazing examples, terrific examples of commitment. Calcuttans always showered me with so much affection when I played for India, now it’s my turn to spread the message of being fit and healthy. So far, it has been well received.
Q While you’re passionate about fitness, the country isn’t yet sold on it. How long could that take?
A The present generation has realised the importance of fitness... Information, for example, is readily available. It wasn’t so when I was growing up.
Q Just how can this push for fitness gather steam?
A Maybe by holding more Marathons, in as many cities as possible. Bottom line is spreading awareness.
Q You’d like sports to be made compulsory in school. Is that the best way forward?
A Look, I’m not suggesting that even kids run Marathons. However, the awareness and direct involvement must start from a very young age. Of course, good marks are essential, but it cannot only be about studying to get promoted. Time has to be taken out for sport.
Q When did you realise that fitness is so crucial? What, indeed, was that trigger point?
A As a young cricketer, the late Ramakant Achrekar Sir would make me run two rounds of Shivaji Park with pads and gloves on and bat in hand... Not at the start of the day, but after having trained and played a match... It was a daily ritual... Sir emphasised that the cricket gear ought to become a part of me... Training in a methodical manner began as late as 2002, after Adrian le Roux joined as full-fledged trainer (during the Sourav Ganguly-John Wright era). It was, therefore, very different in the last 11 years of my India career.
Q The fittest cricketer?
A If one talks of being quick on the field, then nobody better than Jonty Rhodes... He was as agile and fast in the 90th over of the day as he was in the first.
Q It must be making a huge difference when the captain, India’s Virat Kohli being a prime example, swears by fitness...
A Definitely, as the others too will push themselves to the limit. And beyond.
Q Outside cricket and away from India, who is the one sportsman or sportswoman whom you admire for the level of his/her fitness?
A Many... Muhammad Ali, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, whom I loved watching... Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic... Diego Maradona, David Beckham, Lionel Messi... All such incredible athletes... I’m sure I’ve missed many names... Routines differ from sport to sport and, naturally, I wouldn’t expect Tiger Woods to train like a boxer would.
Q On the eve of the Test series in Australia, you’d told me India would win. As it turned out, India won the ODIs too... Teams in the past, especially the ones you played in, had more formidable batting line-ups but you ended up facing much tougher Australia teams... To what would you attribute the unprecedented success under Virat?
A First of all, my congratulations for the wins under Virat... I’d like to make special mention of Cheteshwar Pujara, who was exceptional right through the Test series. There were situations when he set the platform for the rest to build on... We lost in Perth, but Virat had a good Test and followed that up with such an important partnership with Pujara in Melbourne... Rookie Mayank Agarwal did his bit Melbourne onwards and young Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja got vital runs in Sydney... Among bowlers, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami were stand-out performers... Ishant Sharma also played his part... Not to forget Ravichandran Ashwin’s contribution in Adelaide and Kuldeep Yadav’s in Sydney... Yes, Australia fielded stronger and more experienced teams in the past, but I wouldn’t like to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of one team vis-a-vis the others. I’ve never been one to compare.
Q Finally... The World Cup is less than four months away... Thoughts today, as teams finalise combinations and, possibly, dread peaking early...
A India have a settled, balanced combination in ODIs... So, that’s not a worry in the build-up to the World Cup. I don’t think any team should worry about peaking early. Whether it’s India or some other team, the focus has to be on quality cricket. That matters.