It seems Indian Test batsmen have hit a purple patch. Everyone is going ahead and registering their Test best scores and that too with speed and style. No wonder we whitewashed Australia by 4-0 which happened to be only their second such scoreline in their 100+ year history of playing Tests.
But there is one batsman who is sticking out like a sore thumb.
He is a pale shadow of his past self. “Let him keep playing till he enjoys the game,” shout his fans. One didn’t know that Sachin really enjoys struggling with his game and getting mediocre scores while getting out to even mediocre bowlers.
“Let him decide when to retire,” scream his supporters. If that’s the case, then in one stroke we have rendered the entire selection committee irrelevant.
If any all-time great fails in 2-3 series, nobody even thinks of dropping him. But if the failure period stretches two years long, then even the very best have got to go.
In the last two years in Tests, Sachin…
…has not scored a century.
…has not won the man of the match award.
… has not averaged 50+ in a single series.
…has a average of 32.
What has really been worrying is that the last three series were on home soil and he has really struggled. Just looking at his performance within the team, in the New Zealand series, he was our sixth highest run-getter and with England he was the 8th highest! Coming 8th in a team of 11 has got to be a new low.
In the Australia series, he emerged as our 4th highest batsman, but that is only because people like Virender Sehwag did not play the full series and Shikhar Dhawan played just one innings.
In fact, in the past, his fans used to boast of things like: Sachin has more runs and centuries than the entire New Zealand team put together.
Now it’s something like: Sachin scored 192 runs across 7 innings spanning 20 days. Dhawan scored 185 runs in just two sessions!
It’s not that options are not there. In the last two years, here is the performance of other players who have an average better than Sachin…
Cheteshwar Pujara has scored 1073 runs at an average of 82. Virat Kohli: 1175 at 42. MS Dhoni: 1284 at 39. Murli Vijay: 502 at 38. R Ashwin: 616 at 36.
Even someone like Dhawan has to be given a long run.
In fact the only two players who have a Test average as low as Sachin are both out of the team. Sehwag is not there despite scoring a century in the England series. Gambhir is not there despite scoring two 50s in the same series and having a decent batting average of 43.6. It may be remembered that Sachin came 8th in that series!
The new selection committee has cracked the whip. All non-performers like Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina have been shown the door. Anyone who had a Test debut before Dhoni (2005) simply isn’t there.
Of course the only exception in both cases is Sachin.
Next month Sachin will turn 40. If he was in form, then one can understand. But you can’t take an out of form old man (by cricketing standards that is) to South Africa, which is probably now the toughest country with the meanest of fast bowlers.
It makes much more sense to blood a youngster there. A fresh team for South Africa will separate the wheat from the chaff.
If Sehwag bats down the order with his new glasses in the domestic circuit and scores big, then it will even make more sense to replace him with Sachin for his current slot.
The perfect time for Sachin to quit Tests was after 0-8 happened when even Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman wisely and selflessly decided to give way to youngsters. The perfect time for Sachin to quit ODIs was when we won the WC. Instead we were treated to a painfully slow and delayed 100th 100 against Bangladesh which cost us the tournament.
Sandeep Patil as Chairman of Selectors has boldly almost phased out seniors. Sachin’s retirement and the selection of a new ODI team which did not feature Sachin came at exactly the same time. The conspiracy theory is that Sachin was dropped and then informed of the decision, so that he had enough time to announce his retirement on his own.
That may well happen for the South Africa Test series!
Meanwhile, it is painful to watch an all-time great struggle like this.
Why is he still playing? God only knows!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/