How Wright started it all

Tendulkar reveals that what became a national obsession was first spoken to him about by former India coach in 2003

In Mumbai: In February 2003, as India began their World Cup campaign, Sachin Tendulkar
had 33 one-day international and 31 Test tons. There was no frenzy to add the two numbers then. It was nine years ago that Tendulkar first heard about something called 100 international tons. But this wasn’t a mythical number that was thrown at him as some statistics but a motivational tool used by the then Indian team coach.

Tendulkar revealed this as he met the press at a five-star hotel in Mumbai. “I remember a long time ago, in 2003, John Wright had told me that you should be the first player to score 100 international hundreds. We used to have many chats and this was during one of those chats, just to push me,” he reminisced. “The coach’s job is to give the players that high and make sure that they are in the frame of mind to deliver and possibly John was looking to do that.”

Tendulkar also insisted that he is in no hurry to retire from the game. “Maybe you guys have not understood properly. I have always said that when I decide to retire I will let you know. Where is the question of not answering? When this question was asked in 2007 (about the 2011 World Cup), it was tough for me to answer. It’s the same situation: I don’t know what to say about playing in the 2015 World Cup. If people keep praying for me that means a lot. I will keep trying, the rest is in God’s hands. I just want to enjoy the game. I don’t want to set targets.”

He though admitted that all the talk around the 100th international ton did affect him in a certain way. “It was a tough phase because wherever I went, people would wish me luck for the 100th ton. After a point of time, I also started feeling the pressure. You meet people in a flight, reception of a hotel or room service, they tell you in a good way ‘we are praying for you to score a hundred today’. How do you escape that? You have no choice, but to appreciate and acknowledge every little effort that they have made. Now, at least they won’t pray for my 100th ton and my ears will get some rest,” he said. 

So what has the last year taught you that your first 22 years didn’t?  “To stay patient on 99 hundreds (smiles). As the time went by, there was so much hype created that naturally the focus, even though I didn’t want it, I felt it was somewhere there in the subconscious. Though I kept telling myself that above all I just need to enjoy playing cricket and be myself.

“I felt like telling everyone, let’s just talk cricket and not talk about the hundredth hundred. I went through the same pre-match preparations, but sometimes there are no reasons for failure and disappointment. Sometimes things happen in your life which you can’t explain.”

But while this wait was on, India lost four Tests each in England and Australia. There was also the issue about the rotation policy and a rift in the team. Tendulkar explained the reasons when he said, “Yes, it has been a tough phase for all of us in Test cricket. That is something we need to definitely look at. I felt the conditions were different. England were wanting to get to No. 1 spot and Australia were also looking a good side. If you look at the Australian series, in every Test there was just one partnership which changed the game; otherwise the records were more or less the same. In the Perth Test match, their first partnership was 178 runs. If you look at the average partnership of the series, which was less than 20 runs, then Australian team in the first innings instead of getting to 320 or 330, would have scored 170 and we were 158. So 12 runs lead, you think differently and the whole game changes.

“Similar things happened in Sydney and then in Melbourne, where they were 24 for four and then there was a partnership in the second innings. So if you see in all the matches, these partnerships have hurt us. Obviously we were not able to put up a big score on the board but the surfaces were slightly different. So if you remove that one partnership from every match, more or less the scores are the same. And that is going to happen. If we win, then there would have been a big partnership from our team, but that didn’t happen.

“The rotation policy was discussed between the senior players, the captain and the management. It was clear that we wanted all the guys to play because in a tournament like that, when there are no long breaks between the games, you also need to look at injuries. I am not saying that the players were injured but then there were some borderline cases, which you need to look up and that is what we were looking to do. It was not a question of dropping someone but it was a question of taking care of those borderline cases.”

So what dream is he following now? “There were two big dreams —one was playing for India and the second was to lift the World Cup.”