By Nishad Pai Vaidya
It is perhaps the first sign that the legendary Sachin Tendulkar is not timeless after all. Having defied the age barrier for the last few years, he has uncharacteristically indicated the possibility of calling it a day. It is a day the vast multitude of cricket fans in India would not like to come. Tendulkar’s statements are frank and candid, but the question one must ask is: Are we reading too much into it?
Since the 2011 World Cup, Tendulkar has gone through an indifferent patch and the pursuit for the historic 100th international century was painstaking. It wasn’t that he looked out of touch; in fact, he was looking good and hitting the ball well. The only time he struggled was during the Test series against New Zealand – where he was bowled on three consecutive occasions. The sequence of dismissals started a wave of comments suggesting that age was catching up and his reflexes were slowing down.
Through the testing times last year, Tendulkar maintained that he still has the fire in him to turn up for India and deliver his best. His approach to take it series by series is sensible and the admission - that at the age of 39 he doesn’t have much cricket left – an honest one. If his latest statements are numbing, then it’s only because fans see him as immortal. It’s an unbearable for millions to think that the man who strode the cricket field like colossus for almost 23 years walk away from it.
“It again depends on what my heart tells me then. I need not take a call right now. When I play in November, I will re-assess things,” Tendulkar said.
Taking it series by series would help the team and Tendulkar has done well to take that into consideration. But the word “November” – just a month away - has sent jitters as millions of fans expect the worst then.
The Tendulkar retirement calls have surfaced periodically. It all started when he suffered the painful tennis elbow and wasn’t able to maintain his consistency. In the aftermath of India’s disastrous campaign at the 2007 World Cup, these calls intensified. However, at that stage one felt that he had a couple of years left in him to deliver. Instead, he has gone on to play for more than five years – during which a number of records have been broken and memorable moments cherished.
When compared to previous instances where people had written him off, things are a bit different now. Tendulkar’s long standing companions VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid have called it a day following India’s struggles abroad. The Indian team is looking at youngsters to rebuild and eye lost glory. As he rightly pointed out, there isn’t much cricket left in him. Which is why, this may be the toughest phase of his stupendous career.
However, Tendulkar is more than a cricketer; he is a symbol of hope and happiness for millions of Indians who carry about their daily grind. He has been a constant source of joy in their lives of fans and a pillar of strength to the team – in the dressing room and on the field of play. The youngsters who turn out for India look up to him and are motivated by his mere presence around them. He is a player who has invoked strong emotions and the day he quits – a nation will mourn his exit. Yes, it will almost be like a death of a close family member. Nothing can be more torturous than that.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst 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 can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)