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.