Sachin Tendulkar's retirement completes long transition of Indian cricket

Sachin Tendulkar had turned into more of a father figure in the team towards the end of his career © IANS

Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement was emotional and touching. His farewell speech said it all. There can simply be no words to describe the magnitude of what he said to the whole world from the Wankhede Stadium. He also left Indian cricket in great health. Shrikant Shankar writes that Tendulkar’s retirement has completed a long-running transitional phase in Indian cricket.

When Sourav Ganguly retired in 2008, many said that Indian cricket has started a transitional phase. As part of the ‘Fab Four’, a void was left in the Indian middle-order. Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and a few others were tried, but no one cemented their place in a star-studded side. For a long while Indian cricket did not feel any effect of Ganguly’s absence. The likes of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag were in terrific form and gave India strong starts. The middle-order comprising Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman built on that. The lower-order contributed immensely and all this helped India attain the No 1 ranking in Test cricket.

Critics would argue that India played a majority of their series at home and this accounted for them being No 1. But a series victory in New Zealand in 2009 and a 1-1 draw at South Africa in 2010-11 gave the Indians a cause for argument. MS Dhoni’s troops then won the 2011 ICC World Cup and Indian cricket had again reached the very heights in international cricket. Although the bulk of the Indian Test side were aged in the wrong side of 30, they were performing and playing well. But age catches up quickly and reality struck the Indian team hard.

Away series in England in 2011 and in Australia in 2011-12 were lost 4-0 each. People were clamouring for new faces and youngsters to be given a chance in the Test side. Players who served their country to their absolute fullest for more than a decade were seen as burdens to the Indian team. Suddenly Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman retired without getting proper send-offs that they deserved. Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara came into the side and established themselves quickly. But one cannot replace Dravid’s 13,288 runs and Laxman’s 8,781 in Tests that easily.

There were calls from the so-called cricket experts and many in the media that even Tendulkar should retire and allow Indian cricket to complete their transition. The biggest thing about that is who is there to replace Tendulkar? If legends have to be replaced, irrespective of their form, there has to be someone able to do so. Indian cricket did not have any bright prospects that could come into the side and just settle in. Tendulkar’s role in the side also changed. From being their best and high-scoring batsman, he had become more of a father figure. The young guns needed someone to guide them. Or else India faced an even dire situation like the one West Indies and Australia endured after their respective great sides came to an end.

Sehwag and Gambhir also were not in the best of form to shoulder the majority of the burden. So, who else was better than Tendulkar to be there and use all his experience to help the Indian team? He has seen many generations of the Indian team and outlasted everyone. Then another in the form of Shikhar Dhawan came into the Indian side and along with Murali Vijay, India had found their new opening partnership in Test cricket. Australia were then defeated 4-0 in India. The middle-order was still not complete.

But Rohit Sharma’s extraordinary form in the shorter formats of the game propelled him into the Test side. He made it count with two back-to-back centuries in his debut series. India beat West Indies 2-0 in a two-match series. Indian cricket looked fresh and was ready for the next challenge. Tendulkar was there to make sure that happened. His 200th Test and farewell speech were moving and highly emotional. He thanked everyone who helped him achieve the starry heights of his career. Cricket gave a lot to him, but he also gave a lot to cricket.

He came into the Indian side in transition in 1989. His departure completes another transition in 2013. Sachin Tendulkar would be delighted to see Indian cricket in as healthy a shape as ever before in his 24-year-long glorious career. He walks off as India’s greatest cricketer ever.

(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)