Tendulkar deserves a last hurrah
Sachin Tendulkar's ODI career is on its last legs, if they haven't folded already. Those on the inside track say he was to announce his retirement as soon as India qualified for the tri-series finals, which would then have been his swansong. Since their chances of getting there are the same as Tendulkar finding his form to make another double hundred in an ODI, it can be assumed he would be inclined to take in the Asia Cup in Dhaka in March so that he can go out on a high. He deserves the chance to name where and when his last game will be.
Regardless of the reduced circumstances Indian cricket finds itself in at the moment we cannot allow what happened to Ricky Ponting to be Tendulkar's fate too. India may have paid a high price already for a sentimental retention of the seniors until the top Test ranking is just a memory now when 'two white balls' cricket is testing the World Cup champions on Australia's sporting pitches that always offer a chance to the bowler.
How can you blame the poor guy for not even being able to take his innings to a logical conclusion because someone got in his way? The obvious double standard in a batsman being allowed to use his hand to fend off the ball on his way to accessing the crease and another being denied his right of passage down the pitch was too sickening when seen in the same match. But living down obvious umpiring prejudices has traditionally been India's lot.
Having come this far with the modern master who has played more ODIs than anyone else and who as recently as two seasons ago made a double-century to break a 40-year-old barrier in the slam-bang game, can we ask him to walk quickly merely because his current form has been woeful? Aristotle once said that ordinary laws should not apply to the brilliant and one would tend to agree with him, at least in sport.
So, go ahead and give him one last appearance on the 50-overs stage and the champion will be glad to go back to a format in which captains are not having a go at him because he is slow on the field. In Test matches, since even wicketkeepers are found more often to be the fumbling types in the course of long days because they can't last the distance, captains are likely to be more gracious about the fielding abilities of the seniors.
We are a sentimental nation more accustomed to letting the emotions play than hard reason, which is probably the reason why most of our major cricket stars were allowed a longer run than they may have strictly deserved on form and fitness. This applied to Kapil Dev too, for whom a whole support system was set up to see that he crosses the world Test wicket record mark, which was in the modest early 400s in those days.
There were times when Kapil seemed as busy as a guard on a slow goods train but when he knew his body was not responding in any way to the demands he threw it all away after a bad day on the field in Faridabad in his native Haryana. It was sad to see the decline in a fast bowler who set the highest standards in Indian cricket of discipline and dedication allied to a sense of duty hardly reach the wicketkeeper in his last days.
Tendulkar is by no means in the same plight yet. His feet are active at the crease, his eyesight nowhere near being brought into question and his reflexes smart enough for him to manage it all, if only he did not have to go out into this world of two new balls on pitches getting a tad tired at the end of a long Australian summer. There is no knowing if he would one day fade as rapidly as Rahul Dravid seemed to as he went south from the brilliance of England. But if that day comes, Tendulkar will be the first to chuck it all.
Again according to those on the inside fence, Tendulkar has to grapple with the problem of having signed up for three years with an endorsement deal reportedly worth Rs 100 crores per annum and the first year is not even up yet. At his level, he has to consider more than what ordinary mortals would have to in terms of timing a retirement decision. This is not to justify a commercial consideration, even though in modern pro sport such things mean a lot.
My plea is let Tendulkar decide the day and place. Maybe, a hundred in the last of the tri-series appearances on February 28 would mean he could go out on a high and not only because this hundred would be so statistically significant but he would also thus have given India the chance of winning with a bonus point and keeping their hopes alive in the series. Having endured all the criticism, great players have their way of answering it all before taking a bow. Mind you, that day is not too far away. And don't worry - he won't ever be a burden to India.
More about R Mohan
Ramaswamy Mohan, one of the country's leading cricket writers, fell in love with the game after watching his first Test match in 1960 as a 10-year-old. So fascinated was he with cricket that he dedicated his early life to becoming cricket correspondent of The Hindu, a post he held with acclaim for close to 20 years while reporting live 130 Test matches, five World Cups and over 300 One-Day Internationals. Having risen to Resident Editor at the Deccan Chronicle, Chennai, he still remains a keen student of the game who follows the happenings in Indian cricket with a particular relish.
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