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On September 1, 2013, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that they will arrange for a two-Test home series against West Indies to allow Sachin Tendulkar to play his 200th Test at home. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at a bizarre decision that will probably end up tarnishing The Master’s image more than anything.
Why did you do this, BCCI?
Remember that man called Rahul Dravid? He quit international cricket after having a torrid time Down Under. No, we don’t love or respect him any less. If anything, he has grown in stature since retirement. He never got that dream farewell despite his incredible records. He has served as a perfect ambassador of his country ever since.
Remember VVS Laxman? Remember the strict message sent out to him? He had retired without giving himself a chance to play his final Test at his home ground. If anything, that increased the image of the man.
Sunil Gavaskar had a dream exit at Bangalore: he had chosen to end his career after that, while being at the top. Kapil Dev had played his last Test at Hamilton, of all places. Dilip Vengsarkar lost his place after a Test at Perth.
Anil Kumble had bowed out mid-series at Delhi; Sourav Ganguly had played his last Test at Nagpur, after announcing his retirement before the series. Just in case you do not remember Javagal Srinath’s last Test, it was at Kolkata. He had quit after that.
Of course, we agree that none of them, Gavaskar and Kapil included, has had an impact on Indian cricket more than Sachin Tendulkar; this is saying something, because Gavaskar was the first superstar of Indian cricket who had dared to look at others in the eye, and Kapil had brought the World Cup home.
Tendulkar has outdone all of them in terms of impact. India were divided in the 1980s between Gavaskar and Kapil; Tendulkar had helped unite them. People switched off television sets once he got out. Cricket coaching camps sprang up across the country. Money came into Indian sport. Don Bradman compared the man to himself. And Shane Warne had nightmares.
Of course, he has had his share of lows and blemishes. Let alone the best in the world, even his position as the greatest Indian Test batsman of all time can be doubted; as an ODI batsman, however, he has outdone everyone by sheer volume of runs and hundreds.
Above everything, it has been about the impact. He has been around for a quarter of a century — what is it they say about 25 years representing a generation?
He could really have done without this apparently magnanimous gesture of yours, BCCI.
You probably think you have pulled off a great stunt, improving your image, helping his fans witness him play his 200th Test at home. You have somehow squeezed in a two-Test series against the West Indies to be played at Kolkata and Mumbai, setting off a perfect stage to help him reach his landmark in front of his home crowd.
You’ve got strong muscles, which gives you the perfect right to flex them. You’ve already put the South Africa tour in jeopardy as an outcome, depriving the budding cricketers of valuable experience they need.
Even that is not the point.
Are you really doing a favour to Tendulkar, BCCI?
What if Tendulkar fails in both Tests? What if his failures turn the entire occasion into a farce? Given the build-up, it is very likely that he may be booed off the ground if he fails — something which would not have happened had this been ‘normal’ Tests.
Is that what you want, BCCI?
Tendulkar will forever be remembered as a man whose 200th Test had been arranged to play in front of his home crowd, ruining the normal procedure followed by international cricket. “He was a great batsman — so great that international cricket had to be re-scheduled to allow him to play his 200th Test before the series.”
Do you really think it would make him and his fans happy, BCCI?
I know you will cite examples of men like Steve Waugh and Glenn McGrath, both of whom had bowed out not only in their home country, but also at their home ground. However, these decisions were announced before the series: the players knew that the last Tests of the series would be played at Sydney (they usually are) and had planned their retirement decisions likewise.
The Board did not have a role to play in these decisions. In Tendulkar’s case it will.
Thanks to you the future cricket students and historians will get to know that the first man to play 200 Tests had reached the landmark in front of his home crowd because his Board had left no stone unturned to help him get there. They have even changed the international schedule.
You have tried to make it look like you, and the man himself, are greater than the sport. He isn’t, and nobody will care about what you are. You’re not about cricket, and time will erase you from people’s memory.
His fans are not happy. He has maintained that he is not greater than the sport himself; he has worshipped the sport since his early teens and has come as close to the phrase ‘breathing cricket’ as anyone else has; the small tricolour has seldom looked more apt anywhere on the cricket ground than at on his helmet.
He can do without the phrase ‘Tendulkar is greater than the sport’. If anything, he will hate it.
You have not provided a fairytale end to his career. If anything, you have gone out of your way to tarnish his image.
Oh, how I wish the series is washed out or he pulls out of the series for some reason! How I wish he celebrates his 200th Test with a hundred against Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and Vernon Philander against the top-ranked team at their own den!
God of Cricket, where are you?
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)
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