Steve Redgrave,the British rowing legend,who won five gold medals in five consecutive Olympics from 1984 to 2000,on why he can relate to Sachin Tendulkar remaining driven to play the game for 24 years
The last time India were in England,in 2011,I went to see the fourth Test at The Oval in anticipation of Sachins hundredth international century. He got out for 23,if I remember correctly,in the first innings. However,his second innings was special. As he entered the 90s,all of us watching the match could sense we were about to witness something special. Unfortunately,he was dismissed LBW by Tim Bresnan for 91.
Trust me,I have never been so disappointed when England have taken a wicket and I can safely say that the entire crowd felt the same.
It took him some time to reach the landmark and experts suggested he shouldnt have chased it. But an athlete always tries to push the records a bit further. The skill,desire,passion and hunger to succeed override everything. I can understand the line of thinking Sachin adopted. I won my fifth Olympic gold medal at the Sydney Games because I always believed I could go faster and win. Similarly,he believed he could set the record and he did it. Of course,there was struggle but he persisted and in the end,managed it. The fact that he has scored a hundred hundreds is just incredible.
What I admire the most about his career is the longevity. Its something I can relate to and draw parallels with. To last for such a long time in professional sport is extremely difficult. The window of opportunity when you are at the top of your game is very small. You have to make the most of your time. I was on top of my game for around 15 years and had to peak once every four years: during the Olympics,which is the biggest stage for us.
In that sense,cricketers and rowers are at the two opposite ends of a spectrum. While the four-year Olympic cycle gives us time to prepare and recover,cricketers do not enjoy the same privilege because they are competing too often. You train and compete; train and compete. There is no respite,no time to recover and introspect about your own game.
Also,you have to continuously reinvent yourself and your link with the rest of the team. When I was at my first Olympics,I was the youngest in my team and in the subsequent ones,I was the oldest. The transition and adjustments that come along with that are difficult and I am sure Sachin would have faced such challenges as the average age of the dressing room got younger.
Calling retirement is perhaps the toughest decision a sportsperson has to make. As an athlete,you never really believe you are done even though the world will not miss an opportunity to remind you of that.
Shutting out critics
If youre a spectator,a critic,you will be quick to point out that the performances havent been good enough to carry on and that you should call it quits. I could have quit rowing after winning two Olympic medals,thats what I was advised. My family told me I should quit. But I pushed myself,tested myself at the highest level and won many more medals.
But if you dont compete and dont try,how will you come to know if youre good enough? An athlete will always believe he still has it in him to compete at the top level,no matter what others say. Its easy for the bystanders to comment but retirement is a personal choice. During my time,it was down to me to take a call and same is with Sachin.
Because of our past records,players like me,Sachin and the others are generally given a bit of lee-way and the management will be keen to give you one last opportunity. That means you are given a year or two extra but thats fine. In the end,a player has got to produce the goods and the moment he doesnt do that,he has to step down.
I am in Lavasa near Pune for the launch of my rowing academy and as Sachin prepares for his final Test in Mumbai,I can sense the excitement in the country. For me,he will go down as the best batsman of my lifetime.
Yes,his stats are not exactly the same as Don Bradman but he wasnt around in my generation. So for me,Sachin is the best ever.