Looking Ahead - New Role for Sachin?


TNN

Christchurch, Feb 26: As the captains stepped out for the toss, followed by the reserve-forces of the day, a fully loaded figure warmed the eyes: Sachin Tendulkar.

The little master-blaster has, of course, already slipped in and out of virtually every role that this rapidly-evolving game can offer. But this one is not just new and unexpected; it is incomprehensible too.

Yes, who would have imagined that Tendulkar would actually be cooling his heels in the dressing room when Team India was in action? Especially, when he is not carrying a niggle or injury; or, indeed, the series is still alive and kicking.

Well, as the story turns out that is the latest twist. Tendulkar might have announced, just before this exciting tour, that he was (temporarily?) hanging up his Twenty20 boots; that he would make himself unavailable in the interest of the team's balance.

In other words, as he (and Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly) stepped out aside for the Twenty20 World Cup last year, the new game has all but shot past him. MS Dhoni took over the at-times-tenuous-at-times-silken reins and transformed the team into a smooth but ruthless unit; he converted a young and talented bunch into confident machines who don't know the meaning of fear.

It wasn't just in T-20 though; one could see the magic in One-dayers and Tests too. Now, suddenly, the holes in the batting have evaporated (in the shorter versions); virtually every slot is taken and there are others waiting with bazookas to bring down the door.

If he wanted, of course, Tendulkar could have insisted and commanded a place yet; after all, wasn't he India's pioneer in power-hitting and blazing strokes? He is still playing in the IPL too, isn't he? So what is the gameplan behind this move?

Tendulkar clearly wants to nurture his body as much as possible; he still has his eyes on the 2011 World Cup (an elusive trophy would quite severely dent his claims to greatness) and possibly many more ODI runs and Test centuries.

Maybe, his body is screaming all the time; maybe, this is just his way of acknowledging the fact that the world is becoming faster and younger; maybe, he is still trying to reinvent himself, and looking for a newer role.

For an answer, you have to look deep into the dressing room; you just have to listen to his team-mates, especially the younger ones, to understand the possibilities. It is more than apparent that every player holds him in high esteem; each one turns to him when the runs dry up or a glitch appears in the technique.

Like god, his word is truly the last one; like the all-knowing guru, he has answers for everyone. Maybe, that is where lies his next calling; maybe, he is the missing messiah (Indian coach) that the country has always been waiting for.

That is, of course, still in the distant future; it is quite possible that the thought has not yet crossed the mind. But what does Tendulkar really do when the game slips out of him? Will he sit behind Tendulkar's cash-counter? Can he really pull it off as a commentator? No, and maybe not.

He has to look beyond for something different; surely, he can't contemplate staying away completely after giving cricket 20 years of his prime life; surely, the answer is already ticking somewhere at the back of his mind.

One just had to look at him on Wednesday evening to see the emerging picture: the same enthusiasm, the same passion, the same old tricks. Who can keep him away from cricket? 

  

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