Do we really have to vilify Tendulkar for having the temerity to continue?

When a double-World Cup winning captain and the country’s greatest batsman have aspersions cast upon their intentions on a cricket field, we really need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we can really call ourselves “fans” © AFP

By Akash Kaware

 

Some of the fan reactions to India’s floundering Commonwealth Bank (CB) Series campaign in Australia have been amusing, to say the least. The rotation policy that Mahendra Singh Dhoni has chosen to implement in the series — to give the youngsters more opportunities or because the senior batsmen are ‘slow’, depending on whether you agree with Virender Sehwag’s version or Dhoni’s — has drawn the most flak. Whatever the reasons for the policy might be, the fact is, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina are getting far more games than they otherwise would because of the policy.

 

Not so long ago, when India were imploding even more spectacularly in the Test series against Australia, fans were adamant that the youngsters ought to be given more opportunities in place of the seniors. It did not happen in the Test series, and now when the youngsters are being given those opportunities, the same fans want the seniors to play every game! Dhoni can be forgiven for thinking it’s a funny world he lives in! Admittedly, the seniors in question were different in the Tests and one-dayers, but looking at their performances in this series, I shudder to imagine what James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Co. would have done to Rohit and Raina’s confidence in the Test series.

 

Another popular call on the myriad internet forums these days, and also among former cricketers, seems to be for a certain Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar to hang up his boots, at least from the shorter format. I agree that April 2, 2011 would have been a glorious day for Tendulkar to bid adieu to a format he has dominated like few others, for the high of that day was unlikely ever to be matched again. But do we really have to vilify him for having the temerity to continue?

 

The cynical among us point to his desire to get the 100th hundred out of the way as the only reason for playing the tournament. But is it so inconceivable that he thinks he still has runs left in him to contribute? Could it not be the case that he values a series win in Australia – even if it happens to be a one-day series — a lot more than some meaningless one-dayers against West Indies, and that is the reason he chose to play this tournament?

 

And frankly, I would join the chorus of those asking him to go too, if there were other young batsmen whose claims to a spot in the side simply could not be ignored. It is being conveniently forgotten that there is no replacement in sight. If India are to get out of the hole they find themselves in the CB series, I would stick my neck out and say that Tendulkar is still much more likely to play a stellar role than Raina and Rohit are. Tendulkar might only have 90 runs to show for his five outings in this series, but barring the game against Australia at the Gabba in which he was visibly scratchy, he has hardly looked out of sorts.

A player of Tendulkar’s stature, whose judgment of line and length has been almost supernaturally good for 22 years on the field, can also be trusted to be able to judge the right time to go. But in the unlikely event that his game deteriorates to such a level that he is a liability for the team and he still chooses to stick around, it is still the selectors’ job to let him go, as it happened in the case of Ricky Ponting. There is hardly a need for us nameless, faceless internet punters to play selectors.

 

Sports fans in general and Indian fans in particular have famously, and frustratingly, short memories. But when a double-World Cup winning captain and the country’s greatest batsman have aspersions cast upon their intentions on a cricket field, we really need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we can really call ourselves ‘fans’.

 

 

(Akash Kaware is an Indian IT professional, who would’ve been a successful international cricketer if it hadn’t been for an annoying tendency to run towards square-leg while facing tennis, rubber or leather cricket balls hurled at anything more than genuine medium-pace! Watching Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid convinced him that breaking into the Indian team was not going to happen anytime soon and hence he settled to become an engineer and MBA, who occasionally wrote about cricket. A few months ago, sensing his uselessness and constant use of cricket websites at work, his company banished him to Canada. His hopes of playing international cricket have, thus, been renewed!)