I've grown up watching Sachin Tendulkar smash good length deliveries to the boundary, let alone half volleys. That's why it hurt me to see the great man fall to a full-toss on Tuesday against Sri Lanka in their first match of the Asia Cup. In fact, if my memory serves me right, the Sri Lankans bowled close to a dozen full-tosses and while most of them travelled past the boundary line, only two ended up straight into the hands of a fielder, both coming off Sachin's bat.
So, is it time for Sachin to bid adieu to one-day cricket? Let's wait till the end of this article before we answer that question. (Also see: Sachin's 99 centuries)
I was in England recently during India's ill-fated tour where they failed to win a single match in two months. While heading off for dinner with Munaf Patel on the night before the first ODI in Durham, we encountered an elderly couple waiting outside the team hotel, wanting to know Sachin Tendulkar's room number. As it turned out, they had travelled all the way from Scotland just to deliver a handmade card to their favourite cricketer. Sold on the story, Munaf decided to help- "drop it in room number 203, that's the masseurs' room. You will always find Sachin Paaji on the massage table post 5pm everyday". So while this statement brought a smile on the couple's face it left me rather sad. Because I realized that even though my superhero could battle anything on the cricket pitch, he couldn't hit age for a six.
Making Sachin's fitness my premise, I had concluded a few months ago, that he's more likely to get his 100th hundred in Tests than in ODIs. Remember, runners aren't available anymore. And with the fittest of batsmen struggling to carry their bat through the innings, I suspect Sachin will find it doubly hard. However, with cricket coming back to the sub-continent, I may still end up being wrong. But the fact remains - while Sachin hasn't looked close to getting an ODI ton, he has managed two 90 plus scores in Tests in the past one year. Mind you, having played the same number of games (11 Tests & 12 ODIs).
Not for once I am saying that Sachin is playing only to score hundreds. But having seen the man from very close, let me assure you, he wants to score a ton every time he walks out to bat, not for himself but for his team.
So does this mean that his constant failure to reach the desired three-figure mark may force him to call it quits? I am afraid the answer to that question is an emphatic NO.
For that one needs to understand what makes Sachin Tendulkar a 'once-in-a-lifetime' cricketer. It's not just his enviable record or his attractive stroke play or for that matter his off-field demeanor. What makes him stand head and shoulders above the rest is his insatiable love for the game. Rahul Dravid loved cricket too but played the sport in right earnest. Cricket was his profession and he a thorough professional. So when the Indian cricket went through a slump after the disastrous tours of England and Australia, like the Indian economy suffered recession a couple of years back, Dravid chose voluntary retirement.
But Sachin's love affair with cricket started 30 years ago and he's been married to his childhood sweetheart for 23 years now. I can recall countless incidents of him asking us for domestic cricket scores while on foreign tours, giving advice to young bowlers from the local academies during Indian team's practice sessions and always be the first one to advice the BCCI on how to make the sport better at the grassroots level. He eats, sleeps and breathes cricket. It's impossible for him to visualise life without his first love - Cricket. That's why I think he may not be the best judge of when's the right time for him to say Bye Bye to ODI cricket.
I can only speculate here, but I reckon the skipper of the Indian team MS Dhoni also envisions a one-day team without the great man. His 'slow fielder' and 'rotational policy' comments are testimony to that. Obviously, in a cricket sensitive country like ours, you can't expect the captain to literally spell out what he wants.
Going back to the dismissal of Sachin vs Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup, Mahela Jaywardene took a clean catch and Sachin was in the best position to see that. So, it was a bit surprising that the batsman was reluctant to leave the crease.
Reluctant to leave. Is this Sachin's current ODI status too?
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