Maintaining his high standards and living up to his own expectations still gives Sachin Tendulkar sleepless nights, and it is this restlessness that has brought the best out of him, revealed the Indian maestro in an interview published in the Time magazine. Tendulkar is on the cover for the editions in the Indian subcontinent, Singapore and Australia and New Zealand. (Read: My son Arjun is in love with cricket, says Tendulkar)
"I don't think I woke up one morning and felt that there was this responsibility on me and that I needed to live up to that expectation. Something which still gives me sleepless nights is, 'How will I go out and keep that standard, and live up to my own expectations'," Tendulkar said. "How am I going to go out and perform? That restlessness brings the best out of me, it's a healthy sign."
Tendulkar said he refrains from planning too far ahead on his future. "My planning is only done match by match. I don't plan too far ahead, I've never done that. At most, I plan for the next tournament or series. I believe in approaching my targets step by step, and don't look at the larger picture."
The American magazine interviewed the Indian batting star for a profile that will appear in its issue this week. Tendulkar was named in Time's 2010 list of 100 most influential people in the world.
Tendulkar said at the start of his career, he used to "toss and turn" the night before a game. "Now I know that's normal, so I'll just get up and watch TV or something. I know it's just my subconscious mind getting ready for a game. It's about knowing yourself, and I know myself better now."
Considered one of the greatest batsmen of all time, Tendulkar has smashed several records in his career and is the only cricketer to score 100 international centuries. He was nominated last month to the Indian Parliament's Upper House, the 'Rajya Sabha. Amid all the adulation he has received and the impact he has had on his countrymen, Tendulkar said he believes in focusing on his cricket and the rest of the things happen on their own.
"Let people talk about it; me, I move forward. Right from my school days, I have done that. I know that certain things I do or say have an impact on people. People appreciate certain things that I do. But any active sportsman has to be very focused; you've got to be in the right frame of mind," he said, pointing out that if a person's energy is diverted in various directions, he does not achieve the results. "I need to know when to switch on and switch off; and the rest of the things happen around that. Cricket is in the foreground, the rest is in the background."
Tendulkar said it is important for him to enjoy his game and he reminds himself of that theory in tough moments. "So much happens (on and off the field) that sometimes you forget to enjoy the game. That's when things don't go smoothly. There have been challenges along the way, some tough moments. But I would speak to myself and say 'It doesn't matter what the situation is, enjoy it'."
On how he handles the media hype around him and his game, Tendulkar said when he is on the field, he has "0.5 seconds" or less "to react to a ball" and he "cannot be thinking of what XYZ has said about me. If I get to hear casually about something someone's said about me, or see something in the papers, that's fine. Don't go looking for things. In the last few years, the hype has grown because there is such fierce competition in the media."
"Earlier, you played 10 shots, and maybe a couple of comments were made; today you play one shot and there are 500 comments. The ball is in the player's court, whether you want to follow every little thing or you want to keep your mind blank and trust your judgement, trust your instincts and take decisions," he said.
On field, Tendulkar surrenders himself to his natural instincts and his subconscious mind knows what to do. "It is trained to react. At home, my family doesn't discuss media coverage. It helps because I am able to take my own decisions not influenced by somebody saying something," he said.
When asked about his "switch-on/switch-off" process for a game, he said the "switching on" happens automatically for him.
"I know that I am going to be playing in three weeks, so I better start doing something. I get restless. Even if I am holidaying and not doing anything - training, jogging or going for walks - I feel uneasy. It's become part of me now. Whether I am playing or not, I need some activity and that helps me to be normal, otherwise I am a little restless."
Switching off, on the other hand, is not an instant process for him and is only possible when he has time between games. "When I'm spending time with my children, that's when I actually switch off and I stay away completely from cricket. I do normal things, like any father, any family man."
He further said that he has always wanted to be completely focused on his game and did not want to think about the "commercial" side of it. "I do (advertising) shoots, but not at the cost of compromising on my cricket. At no stage did I feel I would have to make compromises and earn an extra buck," said Tendulkar.
(Photo courtesy: Time magazine)