"I'm a realist. I live in the real world and I know if I'm not getting runs I might not make the summer out and I definitely won't be in England. I’ve got no illusions or disillusions about where my cricket's at.”
That was Ricky Ponting on Channel Nine during the Adelaide Test last week.
It didn’t even take a week for the former Australia captain to announce his retirement from international cricket as the debate regarding his place in the Test team was getting louder and louder. Belatedly, Ponting sensed that he was not getting the timing right regarding his decision.
The above mentioned quote by Ponting can easily be attached to Sachin Tendulkar during the upcoming Kolkata Test or before that. Such has been the crisis, if we can call it that, in the professional career of two modern icons of cricket. Tendulkar may have been hailed by many as the best since Don Bradman but equally it has been argued that Ponting was as good as Tendulkar. Eerily, the decline of the two geniuses has been almost parallel. There is a remarkable similarity in the diminishing aura and declining forms of both.
Since July 2011, both have played an equal number of Test matches (15). In 27 innings, Tendulkar has scored his runs an average of 32.22 without a hundred and just six fifties. Ponting’s numbers look slightly better with an average of 40.12 in 26 innings with two hundreds and six fifties. But, if one decides to leave his one exceptional series against India (544 runs at nearly an average of 109) he is as good or as bad as Tendulkar. Prior to the India series, Ponting had not scored a hundred – and managed just eight half-centuries - in 31 innings. In that sense, his struggle for hundreds is far more sustained than Tendulkar’s, if we chose to skip that prolific series against India.
In his last ten innings Tendulkar hasn’t managed a fifty while Ponting has one in as many innings. Although Ponting was publicly backed by his coach Mickey Arthur, no body from the Indian team management has spoken on Tendulkar. Of course, Duncan Fletcher may counter it by saying that it is not part of his contract!
While Ponting will enter the Perth Test unburdened and in more relaxed frame of mind, Tendulkar will for the first time in his illustrious career go into a Test match battling for his own position and reputation. Failure in Perth will not affect Ponting- though he would love to go on a high - but failure in Kolkata will affect Tendulkar massively.
Ponting realised that in a ruthless Australian set-up it all hangs by a thread. “This is not a decision that's been made by the selectors, this is a decision that's been made by me, and I'd like to thank all those guys for the support they've given me over the last 12 months,” he said on Thursday. “There were probably moments when they thought long and hard about ending my career and I'm glad I've got the opportunity to finish this way and on my terms.”
Ponting‘s final words in Perth may also echo in Tendulkar’s heart, because both are proud cricketers who will hate to see that final chapter being written by someone else.