Daijiworld Media Network
Oct 9: If one goes by the expectations and imagination of the Indian cricket fans, India’s master batsman and world record holder for the highest number of runs in Test cricket seems to be at the crossroads of his glittering career. The most destructive batsman ever to walk to the batting crease, Sachin Tendulkar of India is in no mood to say adieu despite some recent failures which have opened up a big gap in his batting abilities including his slow movement of feet when faced with fiery bowling from his opponents.
There have been cries that the mumbaikar should now gracefully leave the cricket scene which he has majestically taken under his control from the very first day he started representing India. The fire in his belly to knock more runs is still there but the enormous strain, pressure, expectations and workload seems to have taken its toll and slowly and surely Tendulkar is at the end of his glittering career. In the recent series against New Zealand, Tendulkar’s wicket was castled not once but thrice much to the joy of the kiwis. His top personal score in the series was only 27 runs against a not so lethal attack.
However, his massive supporters do not want the darling of Indian cricket to vanish in such a manner. The selectors, no doubt, may be forced to ‘retire’ him if he does not take the cue of his recent failures. That would be a great blow to his reputation indeed.
It is decision time for Tendulkar whether to continue padding up for India or not. There are several youngsters already waiting in the wings to take over although they may not be upto his exceptional class and standards. Not so long ago, former skipper Rahul Dravid retired followed by V.V.S.Laxman. A few years earlier in 2008, another former skipper Sourav Ganguly too had followed suit.
There is no doubt that it is a tough decision to call it a day after having hogged the limelight for so many years. From a little 16 year old kid facing the barrage of bouncers in Pakistan from speed merchants like Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz, Tendulkar has survived the tests and trials on the international circuit and achieved a landmark that will not be erased easily. In his fantastic 23 years of cricket for India, he has amassed a record of 15533 runs in 182 Tests and 18,426 runs in ODIs.
There is no soul who is anywhere near that achievement and even prolific batsman Jacque Kallis of South Africa with his 12641 runs looks a distant second. Eminent batsmen like Dravid and Ponting are already out of the game. Therefore, the stage is ideal for Tendulkar to say ‘adieu’ and leave the game in style.
Some of Tendulkar’s records are worth mentioning at this stage. Tendulkar has played the most number of Test Matches (182). Also the highest run scorer in the history of Test cricket with 15533 Test runs with 51 centuries. Sachin Tendulkar is the highest run scorer in the One day Internationals with 49 centuries. He is the one and only batsman to score 200 runs (147ball 25x4 3x6) in an ODI against South Africa at Gwalior. He has played in 90 different Grounds. Tendulkar is the only player to score a century in all three of his Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy and Irani Trophy debuts. First batsman in the history who was given out through third umpire. He holds the record for playing in 185 consecutive ODI appearances for India.
Tendulkar has to take heart from the fact that former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar and former Pakistan skipper Imran Khan retired from the game when they were at the height of their careers. It was a difficult decision for them to make but one which is admired even today by all the cricket pundits. Unless Tendulkar learns from such decisions, a bit of self greed and personal fame may lead to his fall which no Indian wants to happen.
At this point in time, with such a lot of promising players around, despite Tendulkar’s past heroics, is there a place for him in the Indian team is the question which everyone asks.
One of his fondest supporters, former Pakistan captain Imran Khan wants Tendulkar to leave the game on a ‘high’ when he is still in contention. Imran feels that Tendulkar has served the game well and should now leave the scene to save any kind of embarrassment from the selectors.
Tendulkar’s slump in form has resulted in a drastic fall as far runs are concerned. There is never a lean time when Tendulkar is at the crease. But in his last 24 innings, he has not managed even a single three figure mark in the last one year. His last century was recorded in South Africa in January 2011 and after that he has managed just two 90s and one 80 in his batting. He is one of the longest serving cricketers having played for India for the last 23 years with absolute authority. But, as the saying goes, every one has to go one day !
Right now, the BIG question coming from all quarters is the same. ‘’What’s wrong?’’ they are all asking. Some experts have said that age is catching up with the master batsman. A few others have questioned his slowness in movement at this stage of his career. And there are others who say that he is going through a lean patch. Former India skipper Kapil Dev feels that Tendulkar should have retired just after the 2011 World Cup. Another former captain and coach for India, Ajit Wadekar, has defended his Mumbai mate saying that Tendulkar is going through a bad patch.
Former captain Sourav Ganguly also echoed Wadekar’s statement. "I honestly feel the time has not come for him to go," Ganguly said. "He is a legend and takes pride in his game and no one knows his game better than him.
India’s ‘little master’ Sunil Gavaskar said that Tendulkar is slow on his feet due to the age factor and not able move quickly like before. His Mumbai counterpart Sanjay Manjrekar too feels that there is something wrong with Tendulkar’s batting. "It is clear his reflexes have slowed down," Azharuddin said. Former India coach John Wright however feels that Tendulkar has plenty left to offer for Indian cricket. ‘’Who is there to replace him?’’ he asks angrily. Wright coached the Indian team for 5 years when Tendulkar was at his peak.
India’s leading newspaper, The Times of India, posted a picture of three of his dismissals against New Zealand, all bowled, on its front page and asked 'What's wrong with India's batting genius?' 56 percent of readers in an online poll by readers of the Hindustan Times opined that Tendulkar should retire. There were other newspapers too who felt that it was the right time for him to leave the scene which he had dominated for so long.
He is not a spring chicken any more and it is admirable that the man has managed to hold on with such determination. His love for the game is immense and when someone is at the top it is very difficult to call it a day. Gavaskar and Imran Khan were exceptional in their decision to retire while still at the top in the game. But Tendulkar has said repeatedly that as long as he likes the game he will carry on with his cricket.
Tendulkar has a massive fan following which the mumbaikar will miss when he leaves the game. Earlier in the year, other Indian stalwarts like Dravid and Laxman too retired after serving so well. This is a testing time for the talented record holder when he has to make a decision that will not be easy. Having carried his playing kit for more than half of his life means the world will change for him overnight drastically when he leaves the scene of action. Despite all his wealth which may be good for a few generations of his family to come, he will feel the difference of staying at office or home compared to playing cricket. The love and adoration of all his followers will be gone once Tendulkar exits from cricket.
After such an illustrious career unmatched by any in cricket, Tendulkar has slowly eased himself out of the one day games and is now playing Test cricket only. Although his recent performances do not warrant a place in the side for him, the selectors do not want to face the immense supporters who will cry foul if he is dropped from the Indian team. Tendulkar can avoid such a situation if he packs his bags and hangs his boots once for all. The most important decision in his life has to come from the master batsman himself. No one else can decide for him.
Life has not been easy for Tendulkar at the batting crease of late. Compared to his stunning record of the past which has a career average of 55.28, his recent tours to England and Australia have been a total failure with only 814 runs coming at an average of 35.39 in 13 Tests. Since the World Cup, in the 10 ODIs played he has scored a mere 315 runs at an average of 31.5 and he surely struggled to get that hundredth century which came against a Bangladesh team in March last with plenty of nerves disturbed. One almost thought that Tendulkar would retire without completing the hundredth century ! Such was the agony when he took so long to reach the inevitable landmark.
Everyone has been asking Tendulkar the same question. And the master batsman is not in a hurry to take a decision at least for the moment. While admitting that he does not have much cricket left at the age of 39 the veteran will decide depending on his frame of mind and physical ability to deliver. ‘‘It will be a hard one.’’ Uncompromising as ever, Tendulkar remains fit even today despite having sweated on the cricket field for the last 22 years. ‘‘I will go when I feel it is the right time. Never ever will I stay if I feel that I cannot play any more. One of the most difficult decisions in my life.’’
The decision will come sooner than later. England and Australia are due to tour India later in the year. Probably, the master batsman is preparing himself for one last flash of his dear willow to beat the opposition and also silence his critics. There is no better way than hammering yourself out of trouble with a thundering century against the visitors and then announce loudly that he is leaving the game for ever. Perhaps, with silence and concentration, Tendulkar seems set to give India a massive flood of runs especially against England and Australia and then say ‘bye bye’ to Indian cricket.
What a loss that will be, one may say, but everyone wants India’s batting great to fly high and retire with great pride and precision and place his name in the record books for ever. Every single Indian cricket lover is bound to be shocked when the Great Indian Batsman ever to walk into the cricket ground will be gone for good. But, his records will be etched in gold and reviewed repeatedly as one cricketer after another tries to match and surpass the ‘God’ of Indian cricket. Can you defeat ‘God’?