At 14,000 Test runs, Tendulkar yearns for "next level"

Sachin Tendulkar poses for a photo after  inking a deal with a watch manufacturer on Friday. AP

Tendulkar, who made history earlier this month by becoming the first batsman to score 14,000 runs in Test cricket, says his desire to improve remains as intense as it has ever been.

"I'm really focusing now on how I can get to the next level as a batsman. How can I get even more competitive? How can I get even more consistent? How can I get better?" Tendulkar said, according the extract of an interview to 'The Guardian' to be published in full tomorrow.

Instead of struggling for form with advancing age, 37-year-old Tendulkar has had the most prolific year of his Test career in 2010 and he insists rather than considering retirement he has many more goals to fulfill.

"Life would be flat without dreams. I think it's really important to dream -– and then to chase those dreams. I really believe in this because it's this dreaming that makes me work so hard. I want to continue doing that because I've worked very hard the last couple of years on my batting," he said.

"(Coach) Gary Kirsten has been instrumental in this. Together we've worked hard in the last couple of years to improve my batting. He's given me the freedom to express myself, and to pace my innings as I see fit. I can slow down occasionally. Gary has helped me do this and it's because he's more a friend than a coach," said Tendulkar who is just one short of hitting 50 Test centuries.

He described 2010 as his "sweetest year" as he won his first ICC's Player of the Year Award and returned to the top of the world batting rankings for the first time since 2002.
In February, Tendulkar scored centuries in successive Tests against South Africa before becoming the first man to reach 200 in an ODI against the same opponents.

Tendulkar was the highest run scorer in IPL and also made a Test double-hundred against Sri Lanka before his remarkable performances against Australia which saw him reach the 14,000 landmark in the second Test at Bangalore while scoring 214 and an unbeaten 53 to complete India's 2-0 series victory.

The iconic but down to earth batsman conceded that his form subsided a few years ago, prompting critics like Australia's Ian Chappell to call for his retirement.

"There was a little dip for me, around 2005 and 2006. But I had a lot of injuries then. I had finger and elbow injuries, and then a back injury. All these upper-body injuries may have altered my back-swing a little. But, fortunately, all that is behind me now and I've been able to put in the hours of practice that I need," he said.

Tendulkar had earlier expressed his desire to win the 20111 World Cup and he said the cricket-mad Indian fans would be demanding to win the prestigious tournament at home.

"It's going to be massive. Everyone in India is already looking forward to hosting a mega tournament and although people haven't started talking yet about 1983 (when India won the World Cup) it will happen soon. But, given our recent form, people have a right to be excited and have extremely high hopes for us. There are going to be big expectations."

Tendulkar also talked about the influence of his late father, a novelist and poet, as well as his brother, Ajit, who remains his closest cricketing confidante.

He also revealed the surprise identity of the bowler who has troubled him most in Test cricket and reflects on the day he and Shane Warne visited Don Bradman on his 90th birthday.

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