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I've never set goals for myself: Tendulkar

By Sanjay Rajan

CHITTAGONG, DEC. 16. You could sense the pain and frustration in his voice when Sachin Tendulkar said, "People did not know what I was going through when tennis elbow kept me out of the game. It was frustrating not being able to do what I love doing — that is, bat."

"My family played a huge role in my return, specially my wife. Obviously my brother, too. Their support was a major factor. Mother being a religious person kept praying for me. All through the two-three months. Even now she prays for me. These things mattered a lot. Such news does not go out of the house," the Mumbaikar said.

"With the whole family behind me, I was ready to take on anything. This particular innings (248 not out in the first Test against Bangladesh) was possible because of their efforts. Not to forget Andrew (Leipus) and Gregory (King), who did a good job. Dr. Anant Joshi helped me. A couple of other physios in Mumbai, too. I was clearly told by doctors that my tennis elbow was a serious injury, and that I would have been better off breaking an elbow instead. For, you know when a broken elbow is healing, which is not the case with a torn tendon," said the Bomber from Bandra in an exclusive chat with The Hindu.

His best

Tendulkar, who equalled Sunil Gavaskar's world record of 34 Test centuries last week, rates his 114 against Australia at Perth in 1991-92 as his best.

Asked to choose his top five centuries, India's most popular player said, "My first century (119 not out) against England at Old Trafford in 1990 will definitely figure. Also the 155 not out against Australia in Chennai in 1997-98. I'd also place the 241 not out against Australia in Sydney last season up there among my best. And.... let me think... probably the 169 at Cape Town against South Africa in 1996-97."

Injuries had forced him to make adjustments to his batting. "More in patches, I'd say. During my back trouble, I had problems playing on the off-side. With the present one, it is difficult to play all the shots. But I am building strength in my left arm. There was a stage when I could not hold the bat properly, could not lift it at all. It is obviously a lot better now. The pain is still there, but then the recovery is a gradual progress. I hope it is heading in the right direction," said the modern great.

Tendulkar said he did not set goals for himself, but he set standards for himself instead. There lies a subtle difference between the two. "I never set goals for myself. Take for instance the latest record. Obviously I knew I had 33 hundreds under my belt, but everyone kept reminding me about the 34th, which really did not help. I just wanted to get done with it, so that people would stop talking about it. I've never set myself targets. Mine is more about standards that I want to reach. It is basically about getting more consistent in my game and maintain a certain quality of play."

Redefined batsmanship

Come to think of it, Tendulkar has redefined batsmanship to the point that coaching as a concept had to be altered. Watching him over the years, one realised that technique is variable. Tendulkar described technique as important. "At the same time, it is not everything. There have been many successful batsmen who were not technically correct. Batting ultimately boils down to putting bat to ball. There have been players who have not had great footwork, but succeeded due to very good hand-eye coordination. I think the key factor in batting is hand-eye coordination. If you have good hands, you can manage."

Speaking about his evolution as a batsman, Tendulkar said: "As a youngster I exuded raw aggression. Now it is controlled. I am aggressive as always, just that I handle it in a mature manner."

Of late, Tendulkar grips the bat with a slightly locked top hand. Asked if the adjustment was meant for better defensive play, he said: "I don't think it was a conscious change. It is possibly an injury-related adjustment."

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