“invest in, insure and immortalise” athletes said Sachin

Sachin Tendulkar’s session on stage began with a cheery conversation on tennis, his other great sporting love. He was asked if he had told Roger Federer, who has now returned to the top of the world rankings aged 36, anything during their meetings in the Royal Box at Wimbledon.

“I generally told him: ‘Please don’t retire. There’s a lot of tennis left in you.’ But that was for selfish reasons, so that we get the pleasure of watching some unbelievable shots.”

His abiding passion for sport was at the heart of Tendulkar’s chat with Nikhil Naz, NDTV’s consulting sports editor, at The Huddle on Saturday.

The 44-year-old batting maestro renewed his call for India to go from being a “sports-loving” nation to a “sports-playing” one.

Let’s play

“Parents should give their children freedom and encourage them to play sport,” he said. “Not because we want to produce Olympic medallists but because we want to have a healthy and fit India. We love watching sport, but very few of us regularly engage in sporting activity. We don’t play. I want to make an effort to transform India from a sports-loving to a sports-playing nation.”

Sports, he felt, had to become part of the curriculum in schools. “I’m hoping the right to play becomes a reality and sports become a part of the curriculum. I feel the right to education and sport will complement each other well.”

Tendulkar also touched on India’s failure to “look after” some of its sporting heroes, something he had first intended to raise in the Rajya Sabha (before his speech was disrupted) in December. “We’ve failed to look after many heroes. The great hockey player Mohammad Shahid — the way his life ended was sad. When I read about Shamsher Khan, the swimmer who competed in the 1956 Olympics, and the financial constraints and health issues that he had, it was disheartening. Why should they suffer like this?”

The idea, Tendulkar said, was to “invest in, insure and immortalise” athletes. “We need to form an organisation which employs these retired athletes and keeps their minds engaged,” he said.

There was plenty of cricket on the agenda too, as Tendulkar recalled, with some humour, his interactions with Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble, before hailing the current Indian ODI team’s performances. The wrist-spin of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav in the middle overs, he remarked, had given India a huge advantage over other sides going into next year’s World Cup.

Simple vision

His vision was simple, Tendulkar concluded. “Parents ask their kids every day if they ate and studied,” he said. “It will be a big day for me when parents ask their children if they went to play or not.”

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