Mumbai: Sachin Tendulkar made it clear on Sunday that he does not intend to retire anytime soon and left open the possibility of playing in the 2015 World Cup.
The master batsman, who will turn 39 next month, took on his critics who have been suggesting that he should retire from the one-day format of the game and focus on Test cricket. Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and some other former greats have in fact expressed views that he should have retired from ODIs when India won the 2011 World Cup.
"I feel that when I retire is something that I would decide because when I started was not decided by someone else. Those who are advising me about retirement did not bring me in the team," he said at a rare press conference here.
Tendulkar, who reached an unprecedented milestone in the game`s history of making 100 international centuries nine days ago in Dhaka, was uncharacteristically blunt about his critics and said, "I feel those who say you should retire at the top, are selfish because when you are at the top, you should serve the country instead of retiring."
Asked about the prospects of his playing the 2015 World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand, Tendulkar refused to be drawn into any predictions but clearly did not rule playing in the tournament.
"When this question was asked in 2007 (about the 2011 World Cup), it was tough for me to answer. It`s the same situation.
"I don`t know what to say about 2015, if people keep praying for me, that means a lot for me. I will keep trying, the rest is in god`s hands. I just want to enjoy the game. I don`t want to set targets," he added.
Speaking about his 100th international century, which he scored after a year-long wait, the iconic player said, "When I reached my 100th ton, I looked at my bat and looked at the sky and asked god, what wrong did I do? Why did it take so long?"
Answering a question about rising superstar Virat Kohli and other emerging youngsters, Tendulkar had a word of advice for them -- they should have strong commitment and discipline.
"It has taken so much of time for me (to reach where I have) and others who will play, they will have to have the commitment and discipline. When we started, we had goals, I feel I have been able to do that for the next generation," Tendulkar said.
"Virat has done really well. I hope he continues that but there are other players as well. We need such performances to continue for the team."
Tendulkar refused to predict whether his seemingly unconquerable record of 100 centuries would ever be broken but hoped that as and when it happens, the feat is accomplished by a fellow Indian.
"I don`t know. I guess all the records are meant to be broken but I hope it`s an Indian. I don`t think you can predict that (whether it will be surpassed) but I hope it`s an Indian whenever it happens," he said.
Tendulkar said his family is his source of strength and he will continue till he keeps drawing from it.
"I get my strength from my coaches and family. When I feel I don`t have that, on that day, I will think of retirement."
India went on to lose the match, that too against Bangladesh, in which Tendulkar got to the feat and he said the disappointment meant that the celebrations were muted.
"I don`t think that we are celebrating that one match. Where I am right now took 23 years and not one match. I feel the result was very important. It was very disappointing. The day I got the hundred there was no celebration," he recalled.
For a player who has virtually every batting record that is there to be taken, Tendulkar said the biggest compliment for him was when the legendary Sir Don Bradman included him in his all-time Test XI.
"I think the best compliment was from Sir Don Bradman when he announced his all-time Test XI and I was part of that squad. That would be the best compliment," he said.
Talking about his journey so far, Tendulkar, the highest run-getter in both Tests and one-dayers, said his late father Ramesh Tendulkar was his idol growing up.
"My hero is my father because he is the one with whom everything started in my life. I follow my father. In cricket, even whose who haven`t scored a hundred were advising me but as long as it was in good intention, it was fine," he said.
When asked about India`s early exit from the Asia Cup, Tendulkar said credit should also go to the rivals who played better than them.
"All three teams won two matches, it eventually boiled down to who beat whom. I want to clarify that Bangladesh are a good team and played well in all the four matches. The rival teams also come to win. Sometimes you play well but the other team plays better," he explained.
The diminutive right-hander said he does not have to prove anything now and would continue as long as he enjoys the game.
"I don`t think I need to prove anything right now. I started playing this game because I loved it, I enjoy it. The passion for cricket was there. The dream was to play for India and win the World Cup, I don`t think anything can be bigger than that," he said.
"I can`t think of milestones. I have been able to play for India and win the World Cup. I don`t know what is in store for me but my focus would be to just enjoy the game. I don`t want to focus on what I have to achieve because I have already achieved what I wanted," he added.
Tendulkar also detailed the one year barren spell during which he got into 70s and 80s but somehow missed out on hundreds.
"At the time of the World Cup when I got to 99 hundreds, no one was discussing about my 100th hundred because the focus was on the World Cup. But after the World Cup, the media built on it and started asking. I was only focused on playing cricket like always. I just wanted to score runs," he recalled.
Talking about his own form in this one year, Tendulkar said, "I can say that there were patches when I didn`t bat well, there were patches when I felt that I batted my best. I felt that sometimes you need luck to be on your side."
"Sometimes that luck factor was missing because as far as preparations were concerned, my commitment and passion was in place. I scored 100 out of 100 on that. But you don`t always achieve the results that you dream of," he said.
"Something that is more important is not to lose hope. I did not lose hope, I continued trying my best. Here I only waited for a year but for the World Cup I waited for 22 years and it happened."
Tendulkar said being a celebrity, his struggles hogged the limelight even though every individual goes through tough times.
"There are going to be rough phases in life. I don`t think there is anyone who hasn`t experienced rough phases but they are personal. But because we are public figures, our rough phases are on camera. But I didn`t lose faith in my ability and that is what has allowed me to be where I am."
Asked to assess himself, Tendulkar said he would leave that job to his fans and critics.
"I can`t judge myself but definitely there was a dream to be regarded as one of the top players to have played the game. To be in that league that was my dream. I wanted to be right at the top or to be there in that group and I feel I am there but if you ask me to judge myself, I can`t do that. That`s for others to say," he said.
Asked to compare the pressure he felt at the time of his debut hundred and the 100th hundred, Tendulkar said it is incomparable.
"I think in 94` when I did a press conference, even half of the journalists present right now were not there. There were few expectations. Today the expectations are a lot more. Even if I score 70-80, it is a disappointment like in Delhi last year against the West Indies," Tendulkar said.
"It`s about how you look at things. My first century and this one can`t be compared because expectations are different," he said.
Like him, the Indian team has also gone through a tough phase since winning the World Cup in April last year. Tendulkar said the key to recovery lies in not losing hope.
"Wherever we go, we want to win. When you lose the number one ranking, it means someone is playing better cricket than you, you need to perform better and win. That is what we go out for. At no stage should we lose hope. It is a rough patch but we can overcome that obstacle, we require hard work and we will do that," he said.
"I think our team has had a few injuries. During the England tour, we suffered because of injuries. I don`t want to give excuses because whoever plays, he is expected to do well. I can`t pinpoint reasons but we can get better.
"I don`t know how to put it across. I don`t think you can find solutions in 3-4 sentences. It is a process. When we became number one, it was a process and we will have to repeat that," he added.
Talking about the state of the game in general, Tendulkar said Test cricket should remain the pinnacle.
"There has to be more importance to Test cricket. This format is very challenging for which you need planning. You need to play at a different pace at different times. If you ask any player, most would tell you that Tests have to be number one and I have no different opinion," he said.