India legend does not want intense pressure on his son. Coaching youngsters could be part of life after playing.
Arjun, Sara, Anjali and Sachin Tendulkar
Arjun, Sara, Anjali and Sachin Tendulkar
As the febrile adulation that consumed his cricket life showed no signs of abating, Sachin Tendulkar, newly bestowed with the country's highest civilian honour, spent his first day of retirement here pleading for India not to heap similar pressures on his son.
Arjun Tendulkar is 14 and making a decent name for himself as a batsman in the Mumbai junior leagues but his father, still being treated like a deity at a familiarly crazy first post-retirement press conference, made it clear if he had ever been put under the same spotlight when he was a kid, he would have become a writer rather than a sporting legend. "As a father, I will say leave Arjun Tendulkar alone," said his 40-year-old father, still immaculate in his India blazer.
"I will say let him enjoy the cricket, don't burden him with expectations. "If I had such pressure on me, I would have ended up with a pen in my hands because my father was a literature professor. "Arjun is madly in love with cricket. That's what matters. I don't want to put pressure on him whether he performs or not. You shouldn't also put pressure on him either. You need to leave a young player free so he's able to perform."
Still, you could not help fearing for young Arjun as Tendulkar delivered this warning to hundreds of journalists in a rooftop hotel conference room amid chaotic scenes as everyone shouted over each other desperate to interrogate the nation's idol who, 24 hours earlier, had made a uniquely wonderful farewell with an eloquent speech following India's Test win over West Indies at the Wankhede Stadium. Tendulkar laughed about waking up on Sunday at 6.50am, showering quickly, ready to rush down to the ground, when it suddenly dawned that for the first time in a quarter of a century he need not bother. "So I made myself a cup of tea, relaxed, enjoyed a nice breakfast with my wife [Anjali] and thought of nothing!"
The previous night, he had learnt with pride how he had become the youngest person and the first sportsman to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation's 'Jewel of India' honour. "During dinner with Anjali, I had a phone call and when I came off I told her, 'I want you to stand in front of the gods with me and thank them for what I'm about to tell you. That was the Prime Minister'. She started jumping for joy. A special moment." Tendulkar, adamant that he left cricket at the perfect time, dedicated the award to his mum Rajni and the "millions and millions of mothers in India who, like her, sacrifice thousands of things for their children." He could not hold back the tears on Saturday as he spent a solitary moment amid the post-game madness with his hands on the turf.
"It was emotional, knowing that never would I get to do that again and that this is where my life started. Those 22 yards have given me everything. It's like a temple for me. So I just wanted to say a big thank you to cricket." Tendulkar was inevitably bombarded with 'what next?' questions but played immaculate forward defensives. "I've played for 24 years and it's been 24 hours since I retired. I think at least I should get 24 days to rest! After that, let's see. They say that 40 is the new 20 so don't think you are 40. Continue to be a 20 year-old. It works better!" He admitted that he would like to be involved in coaching youngsters "maybe quietly and very low profile".
This is something he has already done at clubs like Hitchin and Ealing when at his London pied a terre. He is such a diplomat that there was never any question of him offering prediction for the Ashes other than to say it would be exciting and that England should be concerned about Mitchell Johnson.
As for the prospect of India ever getting over the withdrawal symptoms of never seeing him with a bat in his hand again, he revealed tantalisingly that, actually, they just might. "I'll continue to enjoy cricket. It's my life, like oxygen to me." he said. "The difference in the future is it won't be competitive cricket, It will be just for fun." A billion eyes need to be peeled then.