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January 3, 1998


No problem, says Sachin

Deposed captain Sachin Tendulkar on Saturday termed his ouster from the helm of the Indian team as only a slight hitch in his career, and said he never felt like it was a life-and-death matter.

Speaking from his residence, Tendulkar, replaced as captain by Mohammad Azharuddin, said he had no emotional feeling towards this incident. "My job is to contribute at my best to the team's well being, which I was doing before I became captain, also while I was captain, and I will continue doing so now when I am not the captain," he said.

Tendulkar pointed out that he had over a 1000 runs in both forms of the game in the year just ended, but if the selectors thought, despite this, that captaincy was affecting his batting, "then it is their business."

"I took up the captaincy as a challenge. Unfortunately it is being judged by results, not by the efforts that have gone into it or other factors," Tendulkar said, while refusing to be drawn into discussing the selectorial diktat that he should bat lower down the order, or whether the captain should have a vote in team selection.

"But yes, there were times when I did not get the team that, I felt, was the best combination for a particular tour or against a specific rival," added Tendulkar. Pressed for detail, he added that everything to do with his tenure as captain was so much water under the bridge, and he saw no need to enter into needless, and probably futile, debate and discussion. "I am not prepared to argue about trivial matters," he said.

Asked if losing the captaincy had shattered him, Tendulkar sounded calm when he said, "No, I am neither sad nor shattered. When I got the job 18 months ago, I was prepared. And even on this occasion, I was mentally prepared to face the sack."

Tendulkar was out of Bombay on a personal visit when the selection committee decided to remove him from captaincy. On his return, he got the news and immediately called up Azharuddin to congratulate him. During that call, Tendulkar assured Azhar that losing the captaincy was insignificant, and would not effect their relations or his, Tendulkar's, zeal for runs.

On the subject of pressure, Tendulkar said that it is not just a captain, but every team player, who faces pressure to perform. "A man making his debut is under pressure, a bowler is under pressure, a batsman going out to bat is under pressure, it is not something felt by a captain alone," said Tendulkar, adding that the real test lay in how you coped with it.

Will the demotion mean he can now concentrate on his batting. "Yes it does, but again, that is not all important. The main thing is to win matches for the country. I wanted to win when I was captain, I still want to win though I am no longer the captain. About my personal batting, I frankly never did feel the pressure. True, I had a bad patch during the last few weeks of last year but I have had bad patches before and bounced back, I guess I needed a little more time to get back into my batting groove."

Does he believe that mistakes, bad decisions and such were responsible for the loss of captaincy? "Criticism is always there, but it always comes in post-match analysis. For my part, I read the situation at the time as best as I was able to and took my decisions accordingly. I know I made mistakes, there is no person in the world who does not make mistakes, but I needed time to analyse them, time to understand where I went wrong. Time helps you to broaden your knowledge as player and as captain. I didn't get too much time to sit down and analyse the games I had led the side in, we were going from one tournament to another.

"Now that I have some more leisure, I can rethink and learn from whatever mistakes I have made. As to the rest, I have played under Azharuddin before, I had very good relations with him then, our relations were good even when I was captain and he was playing under me, and there is no reason why our relations should not continue to be good from here on as well."

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