Imagine a world without Sachin Tendulkar. Seems almost impossible, doesn't it? Who else will fill in the legendary number 4 position of the Indian team if Tendulkar leaves? For over two decades, he has made that spot his own, carved his name in bold, and etched it in time. However one day it would be just his name there and not Sachin Tendulkar the five feet 4 inches of human flesh. And when is such a day that Tendulkar should leave the game?
He has already bid adieu to ODIs and T20Is and now it's just a matter of time before he says goodbye to tests and international cricket. But just how soon is it?
Now Tendulkar is a legend of the game without a doubt and surely would love to leave on a high. His ODI farewell wasn't exactly that and hence he would wish his final farewell from international cricket to be special. Now with India standing at the threshold of a historical 4-0 whitewash of the Australians at home, has that time come?
Tendulkar is the last remaining man from his era. The Dravids, the Kumbles, the Gangulys, the Laxmans – all who made their debut years after Tendulkar have moved on. Tendulkar is 40, and not getting any younger and as much as he would love to continue playing and fans continue watching him play, he eventually does have to draw a curtain on his illustrious career.
Tendulkar's retirement is sure to send shock-waves throughout the sporting fraternity and hence he would probably announce it near the end of the series and bow out discreetly as Michael Hussey did for Australia. Since it is Tendulkar, it won't be all that simple. However the stage is set for that.
Tendulkar can stay on for the South Africa tour and provide the much needed experience in the Indian middle order, or he can give up his place for a youngster to be blooded in one of the most difficult conditions for an Indian batsman. The transition phase of the Indian team has been rocky and turbulent, but there are young guns more than capable of taking the team forward and has the time come for Tendulkar to pass on his responsibilities?
He is currently on 198 tests and might want to reach that landmark 200, and maybe this series is not his last. Whatever the case, with the next home series in October 2014, surely this test is Sachin Tendulkar's last test match at home if not his final one for India.
Now a few years ago the thought of Tendulkar's retirement would have been impossible to imagine, but now with great difficulty some of us can indeed imagine it. Imagine it with great pain, loss and pride. And that imagined world after Sachin Tendulkar may come in just a few days time.