Seasons pass, rain comes and goes, while the circle of life, to quote a fictional lion from a Disney movie, continues. Sachin Tendulkar, the man who has scored the most centuries ever on the international stage, the most runs, and is also the most capped international player of all time, has endured 23 years of international cricket.
That is a lot of seasons.
He has seen Test cricket get supplanted by first ODI cricket, and now the devil we know all too well, T20 cricket, as the game’s money spinner. He has seen the careers of Shane Warne, Wasim Akram, Shaun Pollcok, Gary Kirsten, Alec Stewart, Brain Lara, Martin Crowe, Rahul Dravid and Andy Flower come and go. He has outlasted them all. Heck, he was the very first batsman given out by the third umpire in Test crkcet way back in 1992.
He’s won a World Cup, played cricket around the world and was/is the game’s first true global superstar (Warne might argue with that, but Tendulkar got their first). He is adored by millions, anointed by Sir Donald Bradman as the batsman that most resembled him in style and technique at the crease and is even now a member of India’s parliament.
However, in Tendulkar’s last 16 Tests (and 29 innings), he has scored 951 runs, with no centuries and only seven fifties at a mediocre average of 32.79. He has very little of the fluency that used to inspire fear into bowlers, the assurance of movement that sent a message to the fielding team that he was in the sort of mood to build a house on the crease, he was going to be there so long.
During the T20 Champions League in South Africa this year, I was sitting in the press box at the Wanderers when the Highveld Lions’ Aaron Phangiso bowled Tendulkar, playing for the Mumbai Indians.
It was an ugly shot, with Tendulkar playing all round it. Phangiso was ecstatic, and I made the comment that “Tendulkar isn’t the batsman he used to be”. This caused murmurs and stirs, but why do we have to tip-toe around a subject that is clear to see. Sachin Tendulkar isn’t the batsman he used to be, and the longer he suspends his coming retirement, the more damage he is doing to his legacy, and arguably the Indian team the medium term.
India have been shown by England to be short of skill and hunger in their own conditions, which should be an embarrassment to the BCCI for the way they have neglected the first class game in India. Instead we hear excuses from the players and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, blaming everyone or everything else but themselves.
The Indian team, like Tendulkar, need to take responsibility for their performances. For the cricket world’s most populous nation to be losing so easily to an England team that is good but no where close to the level of Steve Waugh’s Australian side in the 2000s, something is wrong. Media reports today state that the selectors wanted to sack Dhoni only for the decision to be overturned by the BCCI president.
As India’s cricket exploits on the field, and the boardroom, get murkier, Tendulkar should like Ricky Ponting and Andrew Strauss this year, realise that by hanging on, the strands of rope that form his place in the history of cricket will only be stretched and distorted into a shape that a man of his once exceptional talent does not deserve.
Sachin Tendulkar should retire after the fourth and last England Test starting on Thursday. Will he? Rob Steen has an amusing crack at it…
Me? I doubt it very much.