Two-time Olympic medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar has joined the bandwagon of sportspersons who wanted retiring batsman Sachin Tendulkar to become India's sports minister, saying that it would be beneficial to sports in the country.
"He should become the Sports minister, only then sports will benefit. He treats all the athletes equally. He is our supporter and he can understand. He has given 24 years to the country and worked hard. He knows what sportsmen need and what they should get," Sushil said here at the India Today event 'Salaam Sachin'.
"I consider him to be God... The reason I am asking him to be a sports minister is that he will understand. Our Chief Minister of Haryana Bhupinder Hooda is a tennis player. He has changed the sporting culture of Haryana. It is the only way sports will be elevated," he added.
Ace tennis player Sania Mirza said the choice should be entirely left to Tendulkar on what he wants to pursue after retirement.
"If Sachin decides to do that, whether it is politics or just administration for grassroots sports. Because, cricket already has that push, but other sports need that. He has inspired people for many years and is the best at what he does. People automatically would listen (to him).
"I think we need to let him chill out for a year and let him relax. We need to let him decide what he wants to do. If he does want to help and he does, so he will. I don't think we should give him that kind of pressure. Let him be pressure-free for six months at least," she said.
Sania added that game of cricket will not be the same again after Tendulkar retires.
"I think that we as a country would miss him. I think somebody in the form of a Virat Kohli or a Rohit Sharma keep the legacy going forward but it will never be the same without Sachin," she said. Sushil recollected that he was tongue-tied when he spoke to the Tendulkar after winning a silver in the London Olympics.
"When I spoke to Sachin over phone, it was double the happiness. Firstly, I had won back to back medals. I spoke to Sachin after winning silver in London Olympic. For five minutes I kept saying yes sir, yes sir, because I didn't know what to say.
"After the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I had met him at an event and touched his feet. He told me you also play for the country and have done a good job and keep doing that," he said.
Sania recounted her best memory with Sachin Tendulkar when he gifted her a car.
"I was just 16 and won the junior Wimbledon and came back home. There was a lot going on and I was very overwhelmed with the support. The best thing that happened was I got a call from a dear friend of ours. He said Sachin Tendulkar wants to gift you a Fiat Palio. He gave a signatured (car). He didn't even know me and to me as a 16-year-old that was so inspiring.
"I was more excited to talk to him over phone when he actually called me and congratulated me rather than have that car. That is my best memory of Sachin and that defined him, how he supported someone who was just 15 or 16 years old. He didn't have to do that but he did," she said.
She admired the way Tendulkar handled the media pressure and was not affected by it.
"One incident I remember very well. I think Sachin was maybe going through a few tough matches. This was many years ago. I read a headline 'Endulkar'. He came back in the next match and hit a hundred. To me that is what a champion does. He blocked it out. Maybe in vengeance, he hit that hundred. He did it beautifully and that is the only way you can survive at the top," she said.