Ex: You have an unmatched record of scoring a century of centuries, something that is afresh in the minds of your fans till date. Do you recall how you felt when you scored your first ever century?
ST: Very much so. One cannot forget their first century, no matter how many centuries you score after that. More so, because we were not in a good position at all. This was in England in 1990, and if I am not mistaken, we were at 138 with 5 or 6 down, when Manoj Prabhakar and I had that partnership and we saved the game. We had to play out for over 2 sessions, and there were moments when they put a lot of pressure on us. But we were able to stand up to all those challenges. It was a big, big moment for me. I still remember when I got back to the hotel room, my entire family and all my friends, almost 30 people must have called to congratulate me. The following day was 15th August, which is already special for the entire country. This was well timed with this moment.
Ex: The infamous ‘Nervous 90s’ was a challenging phase in your career. What advice would you give cricketers who are not in their best form
ST: All I can say is that there were also only 100 times that I had to go through those 90s. All you youngsters should just go out and enjoy your game. There are going to be ups and downs in your career but focus on the process and the result will take care of itself. If you constantly start focusing on the result and not the process, then there are a number of elements which come in the forefront, and you start losing your concentration, your focus and what you are expected to do. It’s important to prepare yourself, plan properly and of course, be able to execute everything you have planned and prepared.
In sports, you will see the best of the players have gone out and failed but very few have gone out and succeeded. Don’t worry about failure, think of those who succeeded.
Ex: The IPL Season is back! You’ve transitioned from playing to mentoring over the years. Can you give us an insight into how that journey has been?
ST: I loved it. I loved being a part of IPL right from its inception in 2008. The second year, we ended up playing in South Africa which in itself was a new experience for all of us. Also, in 2014, the tournament was partially shifted to the Middle East. So, a number of elements like different surfaces, different conditions, different grounds came into play. One thing I have realized is that wherever in the world you go and play, people turn up to watch IPL.
From a player’s point of view, it has helped Indian cricketers immensely. The youngsters like Prithvi Shaw or Rishabh Pant, have Kagiso Rabada sitting next to them in the locker room. Whereas for us, before IPL, I saw Brett Lee or Glenn McGrath every 4 years in Australia. So, everything was new to us. Initially, we had to actually study how these international players play. And suddenly, Shaun Pollock was sitting next to me in the dressing room and I got to spend 2 months with him. What happens is, you know how they play and the unfamiliar or surprising element disappears. You know your opposition inside out, but the flip side is, they also know you inside out, which I feel is fair enough, because it has brought the cricketing world closer to each other. It has made the world smaller and accessibility has become easy. All in all, it has done something wonderful to not just Indian cricket, but international cricket too. A number of players from across the globe are participating. Their fans and nations are going to support them and in return, cricket as a game has been globalized.
Ex: Apart from being the ‘God of Cricket’, you’re also a global influential personality for billions. How does it feel to have the power to be able to influence the opinion of the masses?
ST: The longer you stay, the more your responsibilities increase. Every little thing that you do is acknowledged and appreciated. In different stages of life, your heroes keep changing. I was talking to some youngsters and told them, don’t assume you are not someone’s hero. Even as a 10-year old, I had 15-year olds in our building who were my role models because you always look up to someone 5-10 years older than you. That, by default, weighs responsibility on my shoulder. I have been involved in various social causes, one of which I was really happy and satisfied with. This was about was the two villages that I adopted. I have also been involved with Swachh Bharat, Skill India, and UNICEF. Through our foundation along with Schneider, we have started providing electricity to houses in the remote areas of India where they have no access to electricity.
But the larger picture for me on this canvas is about how we could transform India from a sports loving nation to a sports playing nation. We believe that we are all fit and healthy but there’s a big question mark to that statement. If that were true, India wouldn’t have been the diabetic capital of the world, number 3 when it comes to obesity and that number just keeps rising. This is one record we shouldn’t be proud of. This can only change if we involve and engage ourselves in some physical activity. Sometimes, the message doesn’t filter down from the top and hence, it is important to look at this problem from the grassroots level. It’s what the children learn in school that they share with their parents and grandparents at a dining table. One way to tackle this challenge is to have sports as a subject in school where the children are given complete knowledge of how important it is to look after your health, diet and stay fit.
Ex: You have played with three generations of the Indian cricket team. What is your favorite locker room memory?
ST: I remember when we had beaten New Zealand in a one day series, and immediately after that, the team started celebrating. We had celebratory traditions like taking an ice bath or a jacuzzi or just warm showers. Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan, Ashish Nehra, were constantly calling me but I was really hungry and was eating my meal. So they made a plan and put my head down in the jacuzzi and when I got my head up, I could see the sandwiches floating everywhere. All I could say was, “What have you guys done?” (laughs). But the mood was such and these kinds of things happen!
Ex: Even though you have left the field, you are still in the game. You have ventured into Virtual Gaming with, ‘Sachin Saga VR’ which is India’s first virtual reality cricket multiplayer game. Where do you think the integration of sports and technology is heading?
ST: We are really excited that the ‘Sachin Saga VR’ game is out and received a heart warming response; we are happy but not satisfied. It’s good to continue to raise the bar and keep chasing your targets. That is how I played my cricket as well. You know, as a team you have targets and you keep setting new benchmarks and that is what we at 100MB would like to do. Talking about technology, it is something that I thought would never enter the dressing room. I remember back in 2002, we were in South Africa, there was a laptop in the dressing room and my first reaction was “Is this laptop going to teach us how to play?” (laughs). I never thought it would have so much to contribute. And as time went by, we started recording our sessions, we started having team meetings which were more precise and purposeful. Nothing was left up to the imagination of an individual. We could analyse how players of the opponent team played, which prepared us before entering the field. Now, it has become a permanent member of the game. So, that is how technology has changed from what it was in 2002. The progression of technology in cricket from then and now has been terrific.
Ex: 20 years from now, how much do you think the world will change and what are the tech innovations you see coming?
ST: Well, looking back to where we were 20 years ago; no smartphones or on the go medium to keep up with live matches. I think Artificial Intelligence (AI) is all set to take over. From auto driving cars to metros being run by computers; from restaurants serving food through robots, to the integration of AI in office spaces, I really don’t know where we will be in 20 years time because I feel in 5 years time itself, the scenario can drastically change. The ’20 years’ we’re anticipating today is a figure of our imagination; the world is moving much faster. So what we expect to happen after 50 years may be possible in less than 20 years.
Ex: You have been an ardent supporter of philanthropic initiatives. How important is it to raise awareness around causes that impact the society today?
ST: I think those initiatives are terrific in themselves and I am really happy to be a part of each one of them. It all comes down to nation building. I remember spending some time a few months ago with school children and I told them I will come play with you if you clean your playground. So, we all spent time cleaning everything, inside the school, as well as around the school and then, of course, we played a cricket match! Just to make them realize how important it is to keep our country clean. It is not just about our house; the “anything that happens outside the main door is not my problem” attitude needs to change because it is our problem. If we don’t learn to take care of our nation, then who is going to do it? It is every individual’s responsibility. On a number of occasions I have seen people disrespecting, the ‘kachrawalas’ which I don’t like calling them, because technically they are the ones cleaning the garbage. The garbage is somebody else’s and they are cleaning it. So I think it is really important to respect them and that is the message I wanted to put across to the children that it is hard work. There is no shame in picking up garbage but it’s always better to not throw it in the first place.
Ex: We are featuring the ‘Top 100 Leaders in Tech’ in India this issue. Any leadership quotes/mantras you want to give us?
ST: I think I am not old enough to give leadership advice but I am old enough to pass on a message which my father gave me. My father said you are starting your own journey and I hope it’s a long one. Along the way, there are going to be challenges, never ever take shortcuts. Along the way you will find many people cheating, many people doing things that one wouldn’t normally do. But because they have stooped to that level, you don’t have to lower your values and principles in life. You continue to do what you are meant to do and that is what people will remember you for. And that’s my message because I have just kept things simple, the more you complicate things, the more complicated they get. So if you keep things simple, life is good.