In conversation with the Little Master, Sachin Tendulkar

John Bradman, son of the immortal  Sir Donald Bradman, changed his name to Bradsen in 1972 for privacy reasons, and he reclaimed the family name only in 2008. John was there when Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne celebrated the Don’s 90th birthday with the Don himself and he says that Sachin passed all the tests Bradman laid down for him, including the biggest Test- that of modesty. Bradman himself has said that he felt Sachin bats like him and that he never missed seeing Sachin bat for 5 years. Legendary Umpire Dickie Bird, born in 1933, too says that he saw Sir Don Bradman bat in 1948 and the nearest to him is Sachin Tendulkar, and that he cannot give him a bigger complement than that.

The comparision above with Sir Don Bradman, is to bring to perspective, how great a cricketer Sachin Tendulkar is. Now, a quick cursory look  at how it all started for our Champion.

As a 15 year school boy Sachin made his Ranji Trophy debut for Mumbai versus Gujarat. After Lalchand Rajput and Alan Sippy put on 159 runs for the 2nd wicket , Sachin was promoted to bat ahead of Sulakshan Kulkarni.  Rajput who was the captain was batting well however a mix-up resulted in the skipper getting run out for 99. The entire team thought that the young kid would get flustered. But No, he did not. Lalchand himself says when he got run out at 99 he told Sachin, “Dont worry about my missing the ton, u get one.”.  Indeed, he did. A ton on Ranji debut. Later he got a ton too in his Deodhar and Duleep Trophy debut’s as well. Subsequently, at the age of 16 he made his test as well as ODI debut. The rest is history.

I have been lucky enough to meet the great player a few times and each occasion was memorable. There were opportunities to have a brief conversation and ask him a few questions about the game which he served so well for more than two decades.

Some of the questions asked and answers given are as follows;

On Form. Sachin says that form to him was related to the sound when the ball hit the bat. According to him when the sound was sweet to him he knew he was in form and when it did not make a sweet sound, he knew that it was time for him to get back to form.

How to get back to form Interestingly, he says form is often about good or bad memories. If one has good memories, one feels good and is in form. With bad memories, one feels bad and is out of form and cant get back to form. Even if one practices and practices, then too one cant get back to form if one has bad memories and cant erase them.  “Therefore, Practice, practice and have more and more practice. But try to remain happy.”.  He said specifically “You cant hold on to mistakes of the past, as the more you will hold on to them, the more they will happen again and again.

On Focus. “The mistakes you have made in the past will not repeat themselves unless you let them. You cannot focus on your difficulties. Focus on your strengths and make them better.”

The importance of Breaks. Sachin’s view is that the more he practiced, the better he got. But there comes a time , in any sport, that while practicing, no much however much you try, you just cant do it- so you must understand when to back away, back off and take a break. To come back rejuvenated.

Why some cricketers crack under pressure.  “”Well, pressure is there and there is no doubt about it. It will always be there. There is a thin line between focussing on positives and deliberating on negatives. Even when i scored 200, i could find many mistakes in my batting, but i choose not to focus on them. If one thinks about past mistakes, one gets apprehensive that it will happen again and one cracks under pressure.”

His advice for young kids starting the game. Enjoy the sport. Many young kids want to play the game as there is big money in it. According to the Little Master if they don’t enjoy, they will never be successful. This is true for not just cricket but any career or profession. If one enjoys it, success and money follows.

On whether he actually got up at 3AM ( 0300 hours) to drink water. Yes , Sachin confirmed it was correct. He felt that keeping the body hydrated was very important and so he used to put an alarm for 3 AM, get up , have a glass of water and go back to sleep in seconds. ( Wow, what incredible will power)

On whether Dennis Lillee rejected him as a fast bowler.  Interestingly, Sachin says this is an exaggeration. While he indeed went to MRF, he always wanted to be a batsman and was ok with the idea of being a batting all-rounder. So the story that Dennis Lillee rejected him as a fast bowler and advised him to leave bowling and take up batting is an exaggeration. As already he was very sure he will take up batting.

On how it felt when he took the team so close to victory versus Pakistan and Australia and then got out. As we all know, Sachin scored 136 in the Chepauk Test vs Pakistan on a terrible pitch when India was chasing 271. Walking in at 6/2 he scored 136 but India lost by 12 runs. In the ODI vs Australia , chasing 351 he scored 175 and yet India lost by 5 runs. These were two epic knocks but in both matches India lost narrowly.  Sachin says it felt terrible, as he had felt so confident that he would be there till the end in those two knocks to see the team home and he got out and thereafter others got out too and India lost.  He says the memory is still there and till today he remembers how many runs were left, how many balls were left and so on.

On how one can overcome such disappointment when losing after playing an epic knock. Sachin said “ Ït was difficult, very very difficult. In fact its difficult to get over even now. But it had to be done. Has to be done.”

On the difference between Sachin Tendulkar the batsman and Sachin Tendulkar the bowler.  He says this is simple. As a bowler he could experiment, and he had full licence to do so as he could do whatever he wanted.  But as a batsman he could not experiment, he was not allowed to do so.

On whether he felt any batsman was more talented than him. Lara, Sehwag and Rahul, as these three could do anything they want. These three would be followed by Ponting and Kallis. ( No wonder he passed Sir Don Bradman’s modesty test, though indeed the persons named are wonderful, super talented all time great cricketers).

On match referees. Umpires and commentators.  Sachin says that they require to be as fit as the players, both mentally and physically. They require immense levels of concentration as they have to see each and every ball. In fact, according to him, it is a more difficult job than playing, since for the players there is excitement and flow of adrenalin whereas they have to remain detached and focussed. Conversely too, if the match is boring, the players can chill, but the match referees , umpires and commentators still need to focus.

On his thoughts before he and Sehwag took apart Shoaib Akhtar and Wasim Akram in that incredible 2003 World Cup Match . Pakistan had set India a huge target of 274. Since it was a World Cup quarter Final, the pressure was immense. Sachin says that he was calm and relaxed. He in fact had a big bowl of icecream before going out to bat, something which dietician, coach etc will not allow nowadays. He felt supremely confident and went off to a extremely quick start which helped the team tremendously. India raced to 27/0 in 2 overs with Sachin scoring 20 in his 1st 8 balls. Ultimately it was a very comfortable win.

Folklore has it that in that golden knock of 98, off Wasim Akram’s bowling, Abdul razzaq dropped him at 32 and Akram screamed at him “tu jaanta hai tune kis Ka catch drop kiya ( do you know whose catch u dropped). Maybe if i get another chance to meet the Little Master, i will ask him whether this Akram-Razzaq story is true

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as i enjoyed recalling and writing about my conversations with the one and only Sachin Tendulkar.


How Sporting Events changes the lives of fans, and even the decisions of nations

There are 3 important once in 4 year events. The Olympics, the Football World Cup and One day internationals (ODI) World Cup. Now sports is  played throughout the year but everyone waits for these three events. While Test matches can never be replaced as the ultimate form of the game, ODI are taken as extremely important too and teams start preparing for the next World Cup as soon as the present world Cup is over. Who will be captain is tentatively thought of, who will be the players tried out and experimented with before the core of the team is decided. All these are serious decisions to be taken by major cricket playing countries.

Similarly, the same is true for Olympics and World Cup Football as well. Decisions are taken years in advance. For instance, Germany started preparing for 2014 world cup 12 years in advance. They selected 500 sports schools and put 10 young footballers and 1 coach in each of them. Thus they started with a pool of talented young school level players. The results were amazing. From this pool there were as many as 14 players in their World Cup Winning team 12 years later.

To take an example from Olympics, England identified major Olympic events such as cycling and swimming, rejuvenating itself as an Olympic superpower. From a going downhill sporting nation, it once again is taken very seriously in world sports. Incredible, isn’t it.

What about Fans. How important are these events for them. Say cricket. Since when are fans waiting for 2019 World Cup Cricket ? Is it an event one is waiting for ever since defending champions India crashed out to Australia erasing memories of Skipper Dhoni hitting that magnificent 6 at Wankhede stadium and India lifting the 2011 World Cup.  Or is it even earlier, ever since many impressionable young Indians, newly introduced to the magic world of TV, saw Kapil Dev Lifting the world Cup on that memorable day. Probably the latter, for that glorious win was versus the mighty West Indies who were expected to win in ridiculously easy fashion. 

Accordingly one can safely conclude that these events are eagerly and desperately looked forward to and no sooner than one edition of the event is over does one look forward to the next. It also means that while the waiting period is one of eagerness, the period of actual tournament when it happens is one which is actually life-changing, in more ways than one. 

The statement above may sound preposterous to non sports aficionados. However it will appeal to all sports lovers since they too go through similar situations and emotions. For instance, during these sporting events, normal hours of sleep decrease since the matches are often at odd hours. Yet again, this may sound odd to non-sports lovers but one cannot bring oneself to waste time on mere nocturnal rest when one can watch the sprinting of an Usain Bolt or a bowling of a Dale Steyn.  

Apart from sleep, the next serious casualty is conversation. One actually talks less to family members, friends and relatives during this period except for suddenly saying something like “brilliant ball” or “wonderful long jump”or “mind-blowing sprint”.  Next, one has lots of arguments with friends and relations during this period on topics such as who is better, Bolt or Carl Lewis, who is the better bowler, Starc or Jimmy Anderson and so on. Arguments can be anywhere, in real life or on Facebook, whatsapp and via exasperated SMS/texts usually continuing until the wee hours of the night, almost until friendship breaking points, till suddenly  sanity dawns on one of the “boxers” who hurriedly says good night. The next day , after a couple of  hours sleep  ( more than that one can’t afford during these events), sheepish realization dawns that most of the discussion was more in animation than for any other reason. 

How else Can these Sporting events change lives. Yes, it can make one more statistically conscious and go in for more number crunching. One does tend to delve deep into memory and also google for interesting statistical details. In fact one cannot disregard statistics as it often bring us back to reality from emotions. At the same time the surfeit of statistics has made commentary very statistical based which has taken away the sheen from an important aspect of a sporting event, namely views and analysis. Hence definitely a balance has to be met but well, isn’t that true for almost anything. 

Sports events can help utilise time better. To take my own personal example, I stay in Mumbai which is a busy metro involving long commuting hours between home to office. Such enthralling events makes the commute better as one can follow the current match going on in sports sites and applications. Even if no match is going on, one can read the analysis and newspaper reports of previous day matches and previews and forecasts of next day matches. One wonders in fact how much such events will contribute to the revenues of cell phone companies and in an aside that will be an interesting comparison in itself- To compare the sales/revenue of cell phone companies and internet service providers the month of the events and the previous and next months. Same for television companies and cable service providers.

The above are only illustrative examples of how sports events changes lives. There is no doubt that sports events are extremely important and affect decisions of not only individuals but even institutions and countries. For instance the Hon’ble Guwahati High Court ordered the Assam Government to provide cable TV connection to inmates of the Central Jail so that they can watch the cricket world cup 2015. As mentioned earlier, Germany and England took decisions of far reaching consequences and results. One can therefore conclusively state that the importance of sports cannot be overemphasized. Furthermore, There is a growing realization and belief that properly handled , Sporting events can enhance the economies of nations. In this context the 1984, 1992 and 2012 Olympic Games are good examples. The football world cup of 2014 also saw enhanced infrastructure by the host country Brazil and for 2016 Olympics too Brazil has already decided on 25 Billion USD of further infrastructure spending which it hopes will improve its economy. There are contrary examples too where Olymoics has led to financial gloom, best examples being Athensand Montreal. Therefore a major decision in-itself is whether it should bid to be a host country for mega events.

In view of the above , in my opinion, mega sporting events certainly changes the lives of fans and also affects the decision of nations. Do you agree ?

Ritesh Misra

What Corporate Gurus must learn from Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is frighteningly dominating men’s tennis. In 2015 he won 3 Grand Slam titles (Majors), 6 Masters and a 5th world tour finals becoming the 1st to win the end of the year tournament 4 consecutive times. He has started 2016 by winning the Australian Open for the 6th time. Djo now has 11 Majors, 6 short of Federers 17 and he also has won 26 Masters which is just 1 short of Rafa Nadal’s 27. Djo looks all set to substantially increase his tally of 11 Majors, considering that his main rivals are an ageing 34 year old Federer , Rafa and Andy Murray, all three of whom he is dominating at present.

Reasons for this success- determination of steel, Recognition of what is required, a target set for one-self and dedication to stick to it.

Let us go through the journey;

Life changed for Novak after a nutritionist Dr Igor Cetojevic, while surfing TV saw one of Djo’s regular mid-match collapses. This was in 2010. Dr Igor conducted experimental tests and found out that Djo had 3 food issues. He was allergic to Gluten, strongly intolerant to wheat and diary products and mildly sensitive to tomatoes. Bread and cheese was forthwith banned. Djo, ironically the son of pizza restaurant owner parents readily accepted the suggestion. (I wonder if we would have ?) Dr Igor gave him a gluten free diet for two weeks and Djo felt lighter. Then, as an experiment, Igor gave him a bagel and, lo and behold Djo felt sluggish and lethargic, confirming the gluten allergy.

Once the problem was diagnosed, then followed the tough decisions on how to solve it.  The champ permanently switched to a gluten free diet and the effect was remarkable.   This change in diet helped in Djo becoming world No. 1 within 12 months. He has stuck to the diet ever since with monk like perseverance.

The diet itself is based on vegetables, nuts, beans, chickpeas, seeds, lentils, healthy oils and lean meats. Djo cooks almost every meal himself. As a pro tennis player he cant avoid staying in hotels. One would feel this itself will jeopardize his diet. Not for this remarkable personality. He lays down a condition for hotels that he will stay with them only if they will allow him to use their kitchen. He never uses his phone or computer while eating. He never watches television while eating his food slowly and meticulously. Before eating he says a short prayer reminding himself of sticking to his diet. The results sure are reflecting in his performances.

(All these details of diet have been revealed by the champion himself in his book, Serve to win).

Lets have a look at what Djo has already achieved. As mentioned above, he has won 11 Majors, 26 Masters and 5 ATP World Tour Finals. He is world No.1 for 185 weeks which will substantially increase in future. Is Federer’s 302 in threat ? Probably yes. He is also a proud Davis Cup champion with Serbia lifting Davis Cup in 2010.

What Djo hasn’t done so far ? A glaring omission in his glittering trophy cabinet is the French Open. Only 7 champions have won all 4 Grand Slam titles. These champions are Fred Perry, Don Budge ( All Majors in a year), Rod Laver ( All Majors in a year twice), Andre Agassi , Roy Emerson, Roger Federer and Rafa. Djo surely would like to join this select list.

Its not that Djo has done badly at the French Open. Its destiny that 6 times including twice in finals he came up against the best clay court player of all time, 9 time winner Rafa. Djo’s best chances were probably 2011 and 2015. In 2011 he had defeated Rafa 4 times in a row and also had a 41 match winning streak before being defeated by Fed in the SF. In 2015 too he must have indeed fancied his chances especially after defeating Rafa in the quarter final. However Stan Wawrinka came up with a super display. Accordingly, French Open is one which he would be looking keenly to win, and preferably as early as possible, ideally in 2016 itself.

What lies ahead. He already has 11 Grand Slam titles. He seems to have had the measure of his opposition. His most important rivalries are versus Federer ( 23-22) and Rafa (24-23). However pertinently, Federer is 34 and has lost 7 of his last 7 Grand Slam Best of Five matches against Djo. Similarly Rafa had a 22-15 career lead against him but Djo has won 9 of his last 10  to go ahead at 24-23. This would show that he seems to have had the measure of his top 2 great rivals.

Other competitors are the unpredictable Murray and Wawrinka. While both have the game to win against Djo, his sheer consistency makes him clear favorites versus both of them. Therefore it is quite likely that Djo may end up winning several more Grand Slam’s in the next few years unless one or two young stars come up from nowhere.

Can he come close to Federer’s 17. Time will tell. Already he has given a veiled statement that Federer’s 17 can be challenged. I am sure he must be planning an assault on it.

The above write-up can be seen as a tennis article or as an excellent learning example for Corporate Gurus. Like Novak Djokovic had the problem diagnosed by Dr Igor, so also Corporate owners can get periodic analysis of where they are and where they ought to be headed to. In Djo’s case , it was a chance diagnosis, but this too shows his openness at allowing a problem to be examined. So also Corporate Honchos should be open. Once a problem is diagnosed and a solution offered, stick to it. Dont compromise. Like Djo going to the extent of asking whether he can use the kitchen of the hotel where he stays so that his diet is not compromised. Once goal is set and hard work done on a sustained basis, the results will follow. Thereafter after the goal is achieved, then the corporate needs to reevaluate and set a fresh goal for themselves.  Like Djo , not remaining satisfied with his 10 Grand Slams and thinking about the next Step. The learning points indeed from the story of this remarkable champion are many, and one can choose to learn from the success story of  Nonak Djokovic or simply think of him as just one more tennis player.