“Only those who’ve played at least 150 Tests should be analysing Sachin’s game”. And spare a thought for me; I haven’t even played a test match, neither during school or college nor in ‘gully cricket’.
For quite some time now, an endless debate has been doing the rounds in the cricketing fraternity, not only in India but in all cricket playing nations around the world. A year that has already seen high profile cricketers exit the gentleman’s game (read retirement) from various teams, got another addition in its lengthy list with the announcement of Ricky Ponting’s swansong at Perth. As the reactions poured in from various corners of the world (read Turbanator “Bhajji” to Mrs. Julia Gillard) that ranged from ‘being shocked’ to those of ‘coming to terms’, there was another question that was playing on the minds of the ever inquisitive ‘Indian Media’ if not the Indian public. The question or the debate concerns none other than the great man, the Maestro, the Mozart of Cricket, the Demigod of the modern day game, the inspiration to many young cricketers and ‘non-cricketers’, you can add any title that can capture Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar’s all round brilliance or larger-than-life persona. With mediapersons going agog on speculations relating to Sachin’s future, it would be an understatement to say that atleast the Indian media seems the least interested to delve into any of the superlative cricketing exploits of Ricky Ponting.
However, let me buck the trend and pay my utmost regards and deep respect to the many conquests of Ponting, both as captain courageous and as one of the greatest exponents of high quality batsmanship from the Land of Kangaroos. Let me reserve my bucketful of emotions to pour over some other day as I seriously intend to take the “Sachin Debate” this time round. So, having already looked into the anxiety, excitement and sleepless nights that the Indian media might be dealing with at present, considering Sachin’s prolonged slump, I am forced to think that there’s a serious competition going on among media houses to win some coveted prize, maybe for being the first to report the breaking news on Sachin’s last hurrah. Or for that matter, Sachin suddenly emerging from nowhere to announce that “He is available for the 2015 World Cup”. All this also begs the question that “Were we always waiting with glee for Sachin to retire?” or “Should public outcry form the basis of someone’s selection or ouster?”. Views have been expressed from almost all experts, you have Rahul “The Wall” Dravid, vouching for Sachin’s requirement in the Test squad more than ever but then you also have Sachin’s once-upon-a-time close pal, Vinod Kambli, advising him to hang his boots. Even Sunil Gavaskar has for the first time not taken too kindly to the string of poor performances that Tendulkar has consistently churned out in 2012.
It is quite a paradox then to note that 2012 has also been the year when Tendulkar has achieved the gargantuan distinction of a “Ton of Tons”. The slide as they say started as early as the test matches at home against New Zealand when the Master Blaster got bowled through the gate in all his three innings managing a meager contribution of 67 runs in total. This event spurred a host of criticisms regarding Master’s slowing reflexes and weakening hand-eye coordination. The fact that he returned with unflattering scores from the first two tests of the ongoing India-England Four Match Test Series added fuel to the fire already raging in the hearts of unflinching critics who want him out of the Indian squad.
Current times may not be the same as yesteryears, when it was believed that as soon as Sachin gets dismissed, the others fall like a pack of cards but still his majestic aura was sorely missed in the Mumbai defeat against England when Mr. Consistent Pujara fell cheaply in the second innings. There was mayhem going on in the minds of Indian batsmen as they walked out to take guard and returned back the very next ball. This was, I feel, the apt time for Sachin Tendulkar to banish all his mental demons and demonstrate his class against a penetrative English attack. He failed in his attempt, again flattering to deceive by his fluent start that was studded with two boundaries.
To be very frank in analysis, Sachin has rarely come good with the bat in the second innings. However, a calmly self-confident Sachin could really have been a big asset for India during the second innings in which Team India couldn’t gain any sizeable lead. But self-confidence never stems from an overtly critical public opinion, where people have put you under immense scrutiny, where every shot you play evokes all kinds of post-mortems, so much so that suddenly you can feel losing all your basics. This is precisely what has happened with the great man, who can still send shivers down the spine of bowlers all round the world but only if there was an iota of confidence left inside. What if he still has failed to read Saeed Ajmal or that every rookie spinner looks capable to dislodge his stumps or for that matter looking ill-equipped while handling fast swinging deliveries. In fact, it is we, the inhabitants of a cricket crazy nation, who have planted all these stories regarding Sachin Tendulkar’s numerous weaknesses.
A player who has smashed 100 hundreds with more than 60% coming for a winning cause is no fluke but the fact that no one can take one’s place for granted in the ‘Eleven’ is also a harsh reality. Having said that every ‘Doubting Thomas’ must ask himself whether Mr. Tendulkar is really taking his place for granted. Whenever he runs on the field to save a boundary, he appears to put in the same effort he used to put as a 15 year old, though that may not yield the same dividends. Whenever he walks into bat, countless hours of net practice have gone behind that, even though he registers a single digit score. There may be thousands who would disagree with the aforementioned and call for young guns to be blooded. But the next question that pops up is that whether they are ready for the big stage. The painful truth is that barring Virat Kohli (who can safely claim to be the best player of Ajmal’s bowling) and Cheteshwar Pujara, none of the batsmen from the younger crop of players can boast of possessing sound technique and stable temperament befitting a test match scenario.
With an Indian Team in transition resulting from the double departure of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, there is none other than Sachin Tendulkar who can take up the role of mentoring all the youngsters, a job he has been quietly and successfully been performing with encouraging results. Why can’t we sit back and relax while Sachin gets back to form with a huge hundred, for even if he doesn’t, he would have made other ten members of the team learn some important tricks of the trade and they would have got richer in experience playing alongside some one who has featured in 190-plus tests that have been played in difficult and easy pitches alike, all across the globe. Thus, let us wait for the third test to commence, and let us steer clear of all this retirement debate. Sachin Tendulkar will surely take this decision in the best interests of the game for India. Let us grant this freedom to him. And, the naysayers, please be informed that Tendulkar himself has maintained that his being available to play doesn’t mean that selectors always need to pick him.
To quote another Indian legend, Mr. Bishen Singh Bedi: “Only those who’ve played at least 150 Tests should be analysing Sachin’s game”. And spare a thought for me; I haven’t even played a test match, neither during school or college nor in ‘gully cricket’.
Its NOW or NEVER!!
Its NOW or NEVER!!