Will the second Test against England at the Wankhede Stadium turn out to be Sachin Tendulkar’s final appearance on his home ground? That is a question not many cricket enthusiasts in Mumbai would be willing to answer as their favourite hero is in the twilight of his career. At the age of 39, Tendulkar doesn’t have much cricket left in him and a Test or a One-Day International (ODI) isn’t scheduled for Mumbai in the near future.
Tendulkar likes to play his cards close to his chest. But one got some inkling of what’s in his mind when he made a few numbing remarks last month by admitting that he isn’t going to last too long at the highest level and would assess the situation in November. He also indicated that he would take it series by series to determine his future in the game. These remarks came at the back of a lot of talk surrounding his apparently “slowing reflexes” after he was bowled on three consecutive occasions in the series against New Zealand.
Coming into the series against England, Tendulkar was under pressure. It was clear that he had to score runs to contribute to the team. Considering the retirements of his contemporaries Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, the heat was on Tendulkar as a string of failures wouldn’t have been tolerated.
Tendulkar announced his intentions by playing a Ranji Trophy game for Mumbai and smashing a hundred. International cricket is a different ball game, but that knock would have helped him find rhythm. In the first Test at Ahmedabad, Tendulkar looked positive as he was willing to take the attack to the bowlers. However, he played one shot too many and holed out to the deep when he was on 13. He thus arrives at his home venue with a desperate need to score runs.
A look at India’s schedule for the next two years shows that there aren’t many home series on the anvil. India is set to host Australia for four Tests in early 2013 and it is unlikely that any of them would be played in Mumbai. According to the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Future Tours Programme (FTP), the Test tours lined up for India after Australia’s visit are to South Africa, New Zealand and England. India’s next Test assignment at home is against the West Indies in October 2014.
It’s not going to be easy for Tendulkar to be around in October 2014. He would be 41-years-old and the likes of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara are expected to establish themselves by then. Having played cricket for 23 long years, Tendulkar’s body has experienced more wear and tear compared to any other international cricketer. He has played 191 Tests and 463 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) in the said interval and one cannot expect him to extend it to a 25th year.
Wankhede may witness Tendulkar play for the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League (IPL), but Test cricket is the real deal for the connoisseurs of the game. To watch the pride of their city play for the country in the classical format has its own charm – something an IPL encounter cannot match.
While Tendulkar has been playing Test cricket, his future in ODIs is uncertain. Having skipped many ODI assignments, it doesn’t look likely that he would feature in most in the coming year. None of the ODIs against England are in Mumbai. India’s next ODI series at home is against Australia in October 2013. Even if Mumbai is allotted a game, one can’t be sure if Tendulkar would play.
The last time Tendulkar played a Test at the Wankhede, he scored a brilliant 94 against the West Indies. It was built up as the occasion for his landmark 100th international ton, but he fell agonisingly short of the milestone. The crowd had flocked to the ground to watch him get the hundred, but were silenced when he edged to slip. A year down the line, the stage is set for him to make a big one in what could well be a farewell gift to his fellow Mumbaikars.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)