I didn't even know who Sachin was when we first met: Anjali
For all the fame he achieved even before the start of his international career, Sachin Tendulkar's wife Anjali couldn't recognise him when they first met in 1990 and she says the batting maestro perhaps fell for her lack of cricket knowledge.
"I was there to pick up my mother and Sachin was arriving with the Indian team. That's where we saw each other for the first time... we had a courtship of five years and got married in 1995. We had got engaged a year before that in 1994 and that was in New Zealand," she said in a published interview.
Ignorant about cricket when she first started dating Tendulkar, Anjali said she read up everything about the game soon after but the man himself didn't like discussing the sport at home.
"I think what he liked about me was that I knew nothing about cricket when I first met him. But then, me being me, I read everything about the game. I came to know all the fielding positions but he doesn't like me discussing cricket at home. But at times when he is low or upset, I do talk to him about cricket. Again, it's not the game but things related to it that we discuss," she said.
On whether Tendulkar's fame had come in the way of getting the simple pleasures like a movie, Anjali recalled how the batting great had to come in disguise to watch a movie during their courtship.
"... We had gone to see the movie Roja. I was studying medicine then and a couple of my friends planned. Sachin did try telling me that it would be difficult but I insisted that he come along. To make sure nobody recognised him, we even got him a beard. He wore specs as well and we went in late. We watched the first half of the film, but during the interval, Sachin dropped his specs and people immediately recognised him. It was a bit of disaster and we were forced to leave halfway," she told 'Times of India' in an interview.
Anjali gave up her promising medical career to be Tendulkar's "biggest support" and after
14 years of marriage, she doesn't regret her decision one bit.
"Though I loved every moment of my studying days and my days at the government hospital, it then came to a stage when I realised that I could not be married to Sachin and also have a full-time career. It wasn't possible because he depends on me for almost everything. It was my decision. I thought I should be at home with him and make everything perfect for him," she recalled.
"In his childhood, brother Ajit did everything for Sachin, sacrificing his own interests. I thought I should do the same. Besides, mine would not have been a 9 to 5 job. I'm a paediatrician, so if there's a patient calling me or someone admitted at odd hours, I have to make myself available", she said.
"With Sachin not around and me with two kids at home, it wouldn't have been possible. I took a decision and I have never, ever regretted it," Anjali said.
Tendulkar completes 20 years of international cricket tomorrow and Anjali said she still can't stop herself from getting tensed when he comes out to bat, so much so that she doesn't even get up to take a phone call when he is at the crease.
"Actually, I have one particular spot in the house from where I can watch TV and also keep an eye on my Ganpati (Ganesha). I don't eat. I don't answer phones. I don't drink. I don't even move. I don't reply to any sms until he's out," she said.
Nineteen years of knowing the cricketer India worships, Anjali said she has learnt to deal with the pulls and pressures that come with being his better half.
"For me, it's very easy because I've known Sachin for 19 years now. I understand him so well. So whether I am his girlfriend or his wife, it's the same thing, just an extension of that bond. I don't find it very difficult and I'm used to it.
"Maybe, it's also because I've not known any other person in my life except Sachin. Of course, there are many challenges and difficulties to being his wife but the whole family, including my children, has learnt to deal with it," she said.
But Anjali wishes that Tendulkar doesn't have to spend so much time away from his home and two young children.
"The only regret, even though we've learnt to cope with it, is that he's not at home most of the time. I think even Sachin has realised this, now that the kids are growing up fast. Sara is 12 and Arjun is 10. We sometimes wonder where all the years have gone. Since he used to be away most of the time when they were growing up, now he tries to come home as much as possible", Anjali said.
"Though he's trying his best to spend more time with the family, sometimes he's not at home for birthdays, special occasions or even for the kids' annual day at school. It matters a lot to the kids," she explained.
On the many moods of the batting genius, who seems calm and composed almost all the time on field, Anjali revealed Tendulkar is miserable when the team doesn't do well and he goes on to achieve a personal milestone.
"It's much worse when he does well and the team doesn't. I know how much it affects him because, for him, the country always comes first. To me it doesn't matter whether he scores one run or 10 runs or even a 100. I'll still be happy because I know he's really trying hard. But I know how much it affects him when he does well and the team loses, like it happened in Hyderabad (against Australia). It's very upsetting," she said.