The cacophony from the rattle of the timber behind – for the third time in a row! And then the uncharacteristic show of emotion, not seen in the two decades-plus of his exemplary career – the raised bat in a mix of anger and frustration.
SR Tendulkar b Southee 27.
The clamour for Tendulkar’s retirement grew louder.
At a stage in life when most people feel the need for reading glasses, Sachin Tendulkar has different problems to battle. His reflexes have understandably slowed down. Unheralded bowlers have been troubling him in the dustbowls of India. The fuller delivery has breached his defence three times in a single same series. Ever since the South Africa tour, he has averaged a meagre 35 in Tests, although he – along with Virat Kohli – looked good on that disastrous tour of Australia.
And for the first time, Tendulkar has come out recently and spoken about his retirement. November, he says, will be when he will assess himself and his place in his team, but the unwritten word of common sense points towards him continuing to play.
India will need his experience on the 2013 tour to South Africa. India needs an experienced batsman at the No. 5 position. VVS Laxman won matches in the past for India batting at that slot and shepherding the bottom half. Ricky Ponting showed the way by dropping down the order for Australia and it would help if Tendulkar bats one slot lower.
While doing any succession planning, the selectors and the team think-tank must reflect on how the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan failed to live up to the high expectations. The value of proven experience can never be discounted. Dravid proved the point when he was recalled to the ODI team for the Champions Trophy in South Africa and the ODI series in England in 2011 when his compatriots fell like a pack of cards. India have lost two stalwarts in Dravid and Laxman in quick succession. The exit of Tendulkar at this point will leave a crater in the middle-order. Changes have to be in a phased manner.
Tendulkar is most dangerous when cornered. He has repeatedly come back stronger from a crisis. After scoring 55 runs in five Tests at an uncharacteristic average of 17.00 in 2003, he plundered 915 runs in 10 Tests at an average of 91.5 in 2004. A similar mini-revival took place in 2006-2007.
Tendulkar finds himself in a quandary for the umpteenth time in his career. But the battle now is not just with the opposition but also with advancing age. It’s possible that Tendulkar may not be able to bat the way he did at his pomp, but he can still be a huge boon to the team.
Before we count the runs he has scored, we must count our blessings for having a man, who has taken the burden of the nation for a long time and has sacrificed a lot of public and private life. I think some of his trenchant critics with short memories need to him more respect than they have shown him in recent times. The nation owes that gratitude to Sachin Tendulkar.
(Madhav Krishnan is a student from Birla Institute of Technology & Science (Hyderabad), pursuing M.Sc (Chemistry) and B.E. in Mechanical Engineering)