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Dire Straits’s star Mark Knopfler (rigtht) believes, balance is the key factor in Sachin Tendulkar’s (centre) game © IANS

Sachin Tendulkar’s bat occupies a pride of place in the Indian batting legend’s music idol, Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler. Knopfler speaks to Derek Abraham about Tendulkar, music, farewell Test and the bat that the Master Blaster gifted him.

Like all Sachin Tendulkar fans you, too, would have loved to be in Mumbai for his farewell Test…

Yes, well, it would have been wonderful to be there. But I am in the studio doing what I do. And he’s doing what he does.

After all, duty is devotion…

Yes, I think Sachin and I are, sort of, dedicated to what we do (laughs).

When did you first hear about Sachin the batting prodigy?

Well, obviously, I knew about him when he was a teenager. It was quite unusual for such a young guy to play for the international side. That, in itself, was great. It’s been a fairy story all the way, hasn’t it? It’s just unbelievable.

You know everybody likes to talk about Sachin’s cricket. But I was very, very struck by him when we met in Mumbai (in 2005). I was sort of struck by him as a human being. That’s the extraordinary thing about him. You know, to have a common touch is a wonderful thing. He would never talk about it, I’m sure. His involvement in good things and, what I would like to say is that, in a quiet way he will do all he can do make the world a better place. We haven’t seen the last of that (laughs).

I have a feeling that he may be able to concentrate in that area. Because it’s not just in terms of his work with underprivileged children or fighting cancer. Just upping the game in schools across the country… I really think he is going to go on from strength to strength. A lot of people, when they retire, sort of fade away from the picture but I have a feeling that Sachin will be going on making the world a better place.

He is also a Member of Parliament. That would give him a great platform…

Of course, yes.

Have you watched him bat?

I never have!

So is that one of your regrets in life?

Yes, absolutely. It will be! But one of my most treasured possessions is a Sachin bat. We actually swapped a bat and a guitar! But yes, once again, I am sure you can find a lot of people to talk about the cricket. He has got an unbeatable record and is probably the greatest cricketer of all time. But I was just very impressed by the fact that he was so down to earth. Him and his wife, too.

She is a very impressive woman. As a couple, Sachin and Anjali seemed very, very grounded.

Do you think it’s got to do with his middle-class upbringing?

Absolutely. He did say somewhere it was his father’s influence that helped him be so. His father would be helping children along in the neighbourhood.

What about Sachin the music lover. There’s a lot of Dire Straits on his iPod!

Oh well, I am always delighted when the music I make is used in life. People use them to celebrate, people use them to mark milestones in their lives. And they use them to help get through the tough periods. And, of course, we all have tough periods. I am always very much moved by what people would say.

Did Sachin tell you that your music helped him?

(Laughs) well, I think balance is everything in Sachin’s game. Just being in the right place, mentally, is very important (in cricket). You don’t need the same piece of music every time. You need different kinds of music for different moods and different periods. Sometimes, you probably want to be having something a little more intense. And, at other times, you need something to smooth the bumps out. But I am delighted if my music has been of any use to Sachin. And I am more than delighted that he’s used the music to help him as a sportsperson and live.

Have you asked him about his favourite Dire Straits album? Which of your numbers do you think relate best to him?

I never did (laughs). But I would imagine that Going Home: Theme of the Local Hero would probably be pretty important. I would think it might relate to him. Though it’s an instrumental piece, but it would relate to his achievements. Because if Sachin’s not a hero, then who is?

Your career has spanned several decades. And Sachin played international cricket for 24 years. How tough is it to be at the top of your game for so long? And what are the ingredients that go into the making of a champion?

(Long pause) well, I think, desire. You have to want to be there. I don’t think there is any other substitute for that. Looking forward to ‘getting in and doing it’ is paramount. The moment I feel I don’t want to come into the studio or get up on the stage, I’ll know it’s time to hang them up. But it doesn’t happen to me. I may cut down (on some work). I may not be touring as much, but I would be recording even more. Or I may be writing even more. I love that. That’s what I am involved with right now. So I regard myself as very fortunate to be able to do all that.

Whereas, with cricket, there are so many sides to it. With Sachin, it’s not just his batting. He’s a fabulous fielder and a fabulous bowler. It’s a little bit like players who practise a little harder than the others. It’s the desire to succeed. I understand that when Sachin practised, he would be in the nets for hours. And that’s how it happens.

It’s a funny old thing, you know. I used to fall asleep while playing (the guitar). And when I was working with the great (American) guitar player Chet Atkins (nicknamed ‘Mr Guitar’ and ‘The Country Gentleman’). I happened to mention that I used to fall asleep. And Chet said he’d do exactly the same thing! He said your fingers are going but your eyes are closing. And instead of concentrating on things that I should have been concentrating on, like schoolwork, you know I was playing and getting myself to sleep playing the guitar (laughs).

I think it’s just the desire and also the fact I love all sides of it. I love all sides of music. I love writing. That comes first. I love recording. And all I want to do is write a good song and make a good record of it. That’s all I want to do. But then, I also enjoy performing, live. It’s clear that why cricket is such an involving game. There are so many different sides to it. Your standards and the demands of it are not just as a batsman but also as an all-rounder. But then, Sachin probably felt his work rate has to be harder than anyone else. He can bowl. It is a many-sided thing. He has been absorbed in it for many years. He can also bowl so many different kinds of deliveries, can’t he? (But now that he has retired), he would be looking forward so many wonderful things and, of course, to make the world a better place to live in.

There’s a beautiful picture of you with Sachin and Anjali. He’s holding your guitar and you his bat. Is that the same guitar you performed with?

Yes, I was very fond of that guitar. It was a great guitar. It was a signature Fender Stratocaster. And just like that, Sachin gave me a signature bat of his. So it was a straight swap (laughs).

By the way, your guitar occupies pride of place in his bungalow…

Same here! Sachin’s bat is in my study. In fact, it’s within six feet of wherever I am.

What is your favourite Tendulkar moment?

I do remember his 100th century. He was on 99 for a long time. That was something. Do you remember?

Yes, it took him over a year to break the jinx. So when did you first meet him?

It was in 2005, in Mumbai (that’s where the ‘swap’ took place). We spent a couple of hours and we also spoke about injuries. I was having problems with my forearm. We chatted about that because he had a similar injury or something that was probably even worse (tennis elbow). But you know, in fact, I spoke to Anjali (who’s a doctor) about my injury (laughs). It was very useful.

Actually, it’s been a lot better for me now. In fact, if you do speak to Sachin, please give him my very best and tell him that my arm is not bothering me as much. And I have learnt to relax. The harder I play, I have tried to relax more. That’s what the secret is. Try not to stiffen up the arm when it gets intense.

(The writer is Principal Correspondent at DNA, where the above article first appeared)