At the height of their careers, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar had formed one of the most formidable partnerships in world cricket. For both former captains of India, life was not restricted to the pitch alone. From crocodile meat in Kenya to learning Bengali, Ganguly has shared some of the most exceptional times with the Little Master. Clearly, the life for the duo has been an unforgettable adventure and one that Ganguly cherishes forever. In a freewheeling interview with NDTV Ganguly spoke of his relationship with Sachin Tendulkar on and off the field. (Highlights from exclusive interview)
Among international sporting icons Sachin only compares to Diego Maradona. Maradona was my favourite and so is Sachin. Both of them are geniuses.
On learning Bengali:
I have tried teaching Sachin Bengali. But it did not work. His Bengali is unbelievably poor! I've requested Sachin not to speak it anymore as he is making a mess of a fantastic language.
Sachin the prankster:
As 14-year-olds, one of my friends and I were sleeping in our room in Indore on a Sunday afternoon. We woke up at four in the afternoon and our bags were floating. At first we though it was a leakage, but we found our bathroom absolutely dry. We were still unsure as to exactly what happened and then we opened the door to find Sachin and Vinod Kambli with a bucket in their hand. It's youth, innocence and that's how he was.
We used to go to a friends place in Sri Lanka and used to have fantastic crabs. In Kenya I was told a particular dish was chicken. Sachin later told me it was crocodile meat!
On Arjun Tendulkar:
In 2008 we were playing against Australia. My room door was open and Arjun walked into my room with a bat. He asked me to teach him how to play the cover drive. I said, 'go and ask your father!' Arjun replied that my father is right-handed and you are left-handed so I need to know the cover drive from you. If Arjun achieves 50 per cent of what his father has achieved, he will be a very successful cricketer.
On Sachin's retirement:
It was a very emotional moment. I actually saw VVS Laxman cry, he had tears in his eyes. The ovation that Sachin got touched us all. For somebody so good, so brilliant and so big it was perfect. I have said it in the past that when Sachin Tendulkar goes, he should go with his bat held high. His farewell knock was his best innings in the past three years.
Impact on Indian cricket:
Cricket was always big in this country, but the people in Mumbai raised the standards. The biggest cheer at the Wankhede came for Sachin, Pragyan Ojha and Rohit Sharma. The platform of Indian cricket has been raised.
Sachin's farewell speech:
He mentioned my name along with Rahul Dravid and Laxman as well. It made us very, very proud because we played most of our cricket together and now it feels like it all meant something. We have spent more time together than with our immediate families. You don't just play cricket to have the numbers, the runs or the records. You also play for the moments. We played in a very happy time for Indian cricket. The journey has been really, really special. Sachin made everyone speechless with his speech. It was fantastic to see.
Sachin after retirement:
A lot of people have asked me what Sachin Tendulkar will do after retirement. Life is a lot bigger than commentary and Sachin has kept all his avenues open. He will make a good commentator but i don't think he should spend too much time on it. He should give back to Indian cricket. But it's not right for him to come straight back to the game and I don't think he will. Three or four years down the line Sachin could be someone who could take Indian cricket forward.
When Sachin spoke about everyone -- his brother, his father, his wife, -- it goes to show that to be a great person, you need these values in life. He went to the pitch and touched it, which was a phenomenal scene to watch. This part of Sachin Tendulkar we never knew when we played with him.
On Sachin, Dravid, Laxman:
It was never tough captaining Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble or Sachin because they are good people, they are honest. Not once did they ever feel that they wanted my place. I would rely on them when I had my problems. I was very fortunate after the Greg Chappel era to have Sachin. If he had not spoken the truth, I may never have played again.
Life after retirement:
It's tough! It is a situation in life which will never go away from you. 15 years down the line you still feel bad that you don't play the sport.