Tendulkar walking back - a familiar sight nowadays
The last few weeks haven't been easy if you're an Indian. If you're a member of the Indian test team then it has been worse as the team faces the prospect of a humiliating series loss at home against England that if happens will go down as one of the worst defeats in India's history. And if you're an Indian, a member of the Indian test team and your name is Sachin Tendulkar, then the last couple weeks have been utterly horrible with voices coming from left, right and center, asking you to retire.
The voices are some of the most distinguished names in Indian cricket. Dilip Vengsarkar, and Mohinder Amarnath have come out openly saying the unthinkable, while Tendulkar's former teammate, Sourav Ganguly has claimed that if he was in Tendulkar's position, he would have retired. Even international players who played against him have voiced the same. Wasim Akram has said that, Sachin has nothing to prove anymore, while Michael Vaughan in his column in 'The Telegraph' has blatantly stated that Tendulkar must retire after the series. The public is divided on the issue as expected, but a majority of the voices are along the same lines as Amarnath, Ganguy, and Vaughan. Now is it really time for Sachin Tendulkar, the most complete batsman of modern day cricket and the man whom many worship as god of Indian cricket, to leave the game that he has graced with his presence for over 20 years and has dedicated his whole life to?
The question in my opinion is wrong. The question instead of 'should Sachin Tendulkar retire?' must be, 'when should Sachin Tendulkar retire?' Sachin Tendulkar has been a diamond in the Indian team for over two decades and as great as he is, even his time will eventually come to an end, and I indeed think it is fast approaching.
Tendulkar is no longer the Tendulkar of his prime. He no longer is the same run-scoring machine that used to dominate bowlers and make fielding captains quiver at the prospect of him turning their best plans to pulp. He still has the technique and can score runs, no doubt but with age reflexes slow down and we are seeing that with Tendulkar. He still remains a legendary tiger warrior from Mumbai, but not the same warrior that defied Australia as a young 19 year boy at Perth in 1992, or the man who said never say die and brought India tantalizingly close to victory against Pakistan at Chennai in 1999, or the man who scored an heroic double century at Sydney in 2004, or the conqueror who just a few years ago in 2008, braved the Chennai heat to chase down England in the fourth innings. He still maybe capable of those feats of grandeur, but is being just capable of them and not creating them enough to warrant a place in the Indian team? His last test century has been in January 2011, nearly 2 years ago. In the current series he has averaged just 22 runs in five innings with a lone half century. Tendulkar is fighter, but right now he's fighting against time, and by the looks of it like Ricky Ponting he might end up losing and perhaps even cast a small shadow on that legendary career of his.
I felt Tendulkar made a very good call in 2007 when he made himself unavailable for selection for the T20 World Cup in South Africa. It was a selfless call, where he put the future of Indian cricket ahead and gave up his spot for a youngster. And didn't they repay his gesture in style by winning the cup! In 2011, Tendulkar and a billion fans realized a long dream come true. Tendulkar finally added to his cupboard the one thing that had eluded him all these years, and with the cup in his hands, he had a chance to bow out of ODIs on a high. He had a chance to leave at the highest pinnacle of glory - a chance that god's crave, and he chose not to. One of the few occasions that he missed the plot of the game. However he trudged along, playing in tests and selecting the series he'd play in ODIs. And now a year and few months later, the call is out for the last man standing of the golden generation of Indian cricket (With Dravid and Laxman retiring earlier this year).
Time to walk into the sunset?
I believe that Sachin Tendulkar should be the person to make the decision to call it a day on his illustrious career. But what happens when he is reluctant and clings onto the game that's been his life all this time? It's difficult to say goodbye to something that's been a part of you since your teen years, but the writing is on the wall and it's not very difficult to see that.
It's time Tendulkar and the fans accept the harsh reality of professional sports. It's perform or perish. If Tendulkar despite his poor run, cannot make the decision to retire, then unfortunately the selectors have to step in. But will they? I doubt it. Maybe here they can take the example of the New Zealand cricket board that sacked Ross Taylor as the captain after New Zealand went from being ranked 3rd in ODIs to 9th behind Bangladesh. The decision to sack your best and most popular player isn't going to win much love, but the board put the future of New Zealand cricket ahead of everything and made the brave call. It's time Sachin Tendulkar and BCCI think what's best for Indian cricket.
A phrase that became popular after the numerous government bailouts following the 2007-08 financial crisis is that some companies are 'too big to fail' and hence cannot be allowed to fail. The question now to ask is whether Sachin Tendulkar is too big to fail?