Masterful, serene, stylish, and graceful – all these words have been used to describe Sachin Tendulkar’s batting over the years. However, listen carefully and you’ll hear a plethora of new words being used; not all of them very flattering.
I don’t like going into specifics too much as we’re talking about the little master here – a man who is indisputably one of the best batsmen of all time – but phrases like ‘over the hill’ and ‘washed up’ have been bandied about in recent months.
The problem is that Sachin isn’t scoring the runs he used to. What’s more he’ll be 39 in a couple of month’s time. Surely it’s time that he made way for someone whose best days are ahead of them?
The big problem, of course, is that the mighty Sachin is stuck on 99 international hundreds. This makes him even more undroppable than normal.
Axing Tendulkar would be a heinous crime at the best of times, let alone when he’s one good innings short of recording a magnificent statistical achievement. If the Indian selectors did that, they’d get a better press if they urinated against the statue of a deity in public.
Consequently, it looks like it’s up to Sachin to do the decent thing: retire. After all, a man who has served India so well deserves to choose his own time of departure.
The thing is, Tendulkar seems determined to carry on at all costs. He’s got his sights set on one last hurrah – and nothing, not even getting out cheaply several times and looking a shadow of the player he used to be, is going to get in his way.
The problem is that we’ve been waiting for this innings a year now. At what point does Sachin simply throw in the towel and say ‘I’m done folks’?
In this observer’s opinion, I think this time has come. Indeed, I actually think it would be rather brilliant if Sachin never made it to one hundred centuries.
This isn’t because I don’t love Sachin. I admire him as much as the next passionate cricket fan. It’s because I believe there would be an even greater statistical symmetry if he failed to cross his final frontier.
Sir Don Bradman is the best batsman the world has ever seen. Despite needing just four runs in his final innings to secure a career test average of 100, he was out for a second ball duck. Therefore he will be forever remembered for averaging a paltry (ahem) 99.94.
I love this story. It was as if the cricket Gods were saying “now look here Donald old chap, you’ve made this game look ridiculously easy over the years – and as much as we like you, averaging over a hundred runs per innings is just taking the Michael”.
The fact that Sir Don fell four runs short of an amazing statistical achievement makes him even more of a legend in my eyes. It’s a reminder that he was, after all, human; something which makes his career all the more impressive in retrospect.
I reckon it would be the same with Sachin. No man should be able to tame international cricket to the extent that they can score one hundred centuries. It’s just not cricket.
And besides, if there are no more Everests to climb, no more incredible statistical landmarks to conquer, what have the next generation of young batsmen got to aspire to?
Actually, don’t answer that. The next generation of Asian batsmen seem more interested in earning millions in the IPL than scoring hundreds in test matches. In which case, does it really matter if Sachin has one more big innings in him? The all time record is probably his for good anyway.
Sachin should return to India and play in Test Matches. He is still a class act who spectators wish to see. Good on him. If he can get the crowds in to Test Match Cricket that is great. If India had not avoided Test cricket over the last five years Sachin would have been home and dry.
@ Bill – “If India had not avoided Test cricket over the last five years Sachin would have been home and dry”.. what have you been smoking mate? Since Jan 1 2007 (a little more than 5 years), India have played the second most number of test matches (60) only two behind England. http://bit.ly/xU81tp Get your facts straight before you pass off what you heard or read in a magazine or a website as the truth.
@James – Why focus on “Asian batsmen” to break the 99 centuries record, alone? Alastair Cook looks reasonably positioned to challenge SRT’s record, if not the 99, but certainly the tally of 51 test 100’s. And where do you get off by saying the next generation of Asian/Indian batsmen are more keen about playing the IPL and making millions (another stereotypical comment, Ugh!) that scoring centuries in tests? Is it just your opinion or is it based on any truth such as an interview or a poll of the next generation of players???
It’s actually much discussed re: Asian batsmen caring about the IPL. One day cricket is king in India, and the new generation of Indian batsmen, and Pakistanis for that matter, have adapted to limited overs international cricket a lot better than test matches eg raina, kholi, umar ajmal etc. You kind of defeat your own argument when you quite rightly say that Cook is the player most likely to break tendulkars record. Why is that? Because Cook, like most English batsmen, see test cricket as the peak of the sport, and T20 as a bit of fun. Test venues are packed in England and Australia, but few people bother to watch tests live in India atm. What does that tell you? India are world champs at ODIs but have lost 8 tests in a row. The facts speak for themselves. Stop imagining prejudice.
I said Alastair is a better bet because he already has 19 hundreds and is only 27 years old. Everyone loves to throw this 8-0 in tests around as if there were no tests played by India before that and were actually ranked number one for 20 months. You are shifting your argument to crowd at the grounds but i’ll address it: Test venues are not packed in India that means of course the Indian “player” doesn’t care for cricket, right? Where is the logic? Have you ever paid attention to the ratings on TV for the tests in India???? So people don’t flock to grounds for all the tests… but there is still a phenomenal audience for test cricket and other formats too on TV.
India weren’t world champ in ODI for 24 years from 1987-2011. Whatever that is supposed to mean to you. I am not imagining prejudice. I am saying that when you make a comment, make sure it is fact based rather than recycling what we hear from talking heads on TV throwing around.
Of course, I meant umar akmal! Bloody predictive text
Great debate folks. Cricket Couch, could you explain why Indian and Pakistani batsmen adapt to ODIs and T20 so well, but have struggled to make the jump to test cricket? If it isn’t because many Asian batsmen specialise in ODIs, or prioritise limited overs cricket, why is this? From what we’ve seen of India’s batsmen in England and Australia over the last year, it appears to be a technical issue. Surely this suggests that test cricket is not the priority any more. However, if there’s another reason let us know. We are, after all, trying to reach the truth of the matter here.
Also, surely it’s human nature to be drawn towards the glitz, glamour and riches of the IPL? Any individual who is trying to support his family and secure his future would obviously look at where the most money can be made – regardless of where that person grew up. This is a problem that cricket needs to address. It’s kind of hard to see what can be done though? ESPN Star Sports has already postponed hopes of a world test championship finale in the immediate future, because apparently their audiences (in Asia by the way) would prefer to watch the ICC Champions Trophy instead. Again, why is this if ODI cricket isn’t more popular in Asia than test matches. This has to have some impact on the players, surely?
@FullToss – The players not adapting to tests in England and Australia has a lot to do with the change in playing conditions from home more than anything. Indian batsmen, whoever they are, young or old, experienced or not, perform better in conditions more suited to them. That applies to players from any country. We say England do well at home and in Australia but their batsmen were found wanting in UAE. What does that tell us?
Kohli, who has been made a poster boy for all the glitz and glamour of IPL, has actually performed far better than most of his celebrated seniors in Australia. What does that tell you??
Do listen to the conversation I had with Gideon Haigh and he addresses why Test Championship for 2013 was scrapped (http://thecricketcouch.com/blog/2012/02/28/couch-talk-episode-34-with-gideon-haigh/). It had to do with most of the cricket boards not wanting to cough up money to the tune of a few million dollars rather than prioritizing ODIs.
Home advantage obviously plays a role, but India and Pakistan still seem a lot more competitive in ODIs and T20s in foreign fields. As for England, I don’t buy the arguments that our batsmen are poor away from home. Frankly, it’s a weakness against mystery spin – end of. Expect England to be much more competitive in Sri Lanka i.e. when they’re not confronted by Saeed Ajmal on low pitches, when anything that hits the pads is basically out lbw (i.e. nothing is going over the top of the stumps). It’s basically impossible if you don’t know which way the ball is going to turn, and you can’t use the pad as a second line of defence. England played Pakistan’s seamers with relative ease. England are, of course, rubbish agaisnt mystery spin anywhere in the world – including at home! Most of our batsmen have very sound orthodox techniques, that enables them to thrive in most conditions. However, because we don’t get to face mystery spin in county cricket (and we don’t encourage our young spinners to bowl doosras with bent arms) our batsmen simply aren’t used to playing it. The issue, therefore, i think is somewhat different with English batsmen as compared to Indian and Pakistani youngsters. Kholi is arguably one exception, but what about the others. They all look a million dollars attacking, and using their natural flair for clearing the ropes and hitting boundaries, but their defensive techniques, especially on bouncier wickets leaves much to be desired. It’s not because they ‘can’t read’ fast bowlers, if you get my meaning.
Ajmal is just the latest in a line of mystery spinners who have totally baffled English batsmen – Warne and Murali took just as many wickets against England IN England, as they did against England in their own conditions. Blimey, England even made South Africa’s Paul Adams look good once upon a time ;-)
This target of 100 centuries is an entirely arbitrary line in the sand created by the media. One suspects the pressure has been telling and has inhibited his batting when he gets past fifty.
I don’t think he looks a shadow of his former self at all. He’s actually been batting pretty well in some difficult circumstances. He’s one of the few Indian batsmen who’ve come through the recent series with much credit. I suspect that when/if he reaches this ‘milestone’, the shackles will come off and he’ll suddenly unleash a whole string of centuries.
Even us humble club players can sympathize with what it feels like to be weighed down by some impending personal milestone – maybe a thousand runs for the season, or something: hesitating over every shot, blocking balls you normally thrash for four, missing half-volleys, feet turning to lead, groping for every run – then having the shackles released when you grind your way past the mark and wonder what all the fuss was about, normal service resumed.
On a side-note, his Test record 51(?) centuries seems likely to be challenged, possibly one day by Cook, but most likely by Kallis. He’s still about 8 behind, but he’s a couple of years younger and his form is still incredible. I think SRT will keep the record, but I wouldn’t put any serious money against Kallis either.
@Bear Allen: Well said! I just think the same. Once he gets past that 100th 100, he’ll resume back to his normal ways. He did looked to be at his best in the first two Test matches against Australia.
All academic now.