Only Imran Khan made any sense when commenting on Indian cricket's latest (or is it perennial?) obsession Sachin Tendulkar when he said the maestro should have retired from ODIs on winning the World Cup last year. The Pathan was merely preaching what he practiced, unlike say Kapil Dev who, as a wag remarked, was virtually on wheelchair for two years in his pursuit of Hadlee's World record before retiring.
Perhaps, it would have been befitting had Sachin quit when on a high, for I have not seen a happier player after India won the World Cup. It was a fulfillment of a dream for Sachin and just the perfect moment to walk off into the sunset, and damn the century of centuries. As Imran said, you don't admire any less a batsman with 99 international centuries.
To say the least, I found Kapil's televised interview utterly disgusting (the anchor was far worse) and our desperate TV channels, short on quality content, have been falling over each other to have a go at a player who is not there to defend himself. And why should Sachin respond to the cacophony so long as he feels he is good enough to be playing ODI?
Truth to tell, I too have felt that Sachin perhaps is a fading star, but that is more in disappointment that he has not got to the magical milestone of 100th 100 than such trivialities as form and fitness. I suspect that had he scored a century in the Test series against Australia, he would have skipped the CB series and retired from ODI.
I agree with Ganguly’s comment that there is no batting feat greater than scoring a hundred against the Aussies in Australia, and that perhaps has driven Sachin to stay back for the tri-series with the hope that he achieves the milestone.
For the Indian Media in general, talking about Sachin's retirement makes for good copy and gets the eyeballs. You can throw any number of numbers to assert that Sachin is not in the best of form, but you cannot deny the fact that in the Test series, he was no better or worse than any other Indian batsman. So why pick on Sachin alone when younger (and supposedly fitter) team-mates fared much worse?
As for Dhoni’s immature statements concerning senior players, it is about time the captain is taught a few lessons in decorum. The Test series Down Under not only exposed the seniors, but the captain himself who even hinted that he was not averse to quitting Tests to focus on the shorter formats, keeping the 2015 World Cup in mind!
In fact, for Dhoni, the next World Cup is a convenient excuse to persist with non-performing youngsters while ridiculing the senior players. The fact is that Dhoni is presiding over a team divided and he is as much responsible for the team’s sorry state of affairs as any of his mates. If anything, the captain’s man management skill (or the lack of it) is open to question.
Adding to the worsening team situation is that the side is speaking in too many voices. We had the Ashwin outburst during the Test series, then Gambhir's rather testy comments, followed by Sehwag's don’t-give-a-damn assertions and it is a spicy and unpalatable potpourri. Dhoni is not helping the cause with his ill-timed statements.
It is a joke to be talking about 2015 World Cup when so much can happen between now and then. In this context, the Aussie selectors too acted rather ruthlessly in sacking Ponting when he at least deserved a last hurrah on his home ground at Hobart where Australia play their next game this week. It was an extreme step to kick out a player who was the captain the previous game. Perhaps, it is too much to expect a humane perspective in a "professional set up". It is unlikely such a fate will befall Sachin.
It saddens me that the Indian Media, especially our ill-informed TV channels, has been so unkind to Sachin. To repeatedly replay the maestro getting hit on the helmet is in poor taste and it is as if, he is the first player to get smacked on the head. He has been hit before and so also hundreds of other batsmen. At best, it indicates a misjudgment of bounce and pace, and not necessarily slow reflexes.
Whatever, we owe it to Sachin to decide for himself when he wants to quit. To keep harping on his retirement is akin to being the circling vultures eyeing a kill. Surely, he deserves a better send-off.
It is best to remember that even the great Bradman was out for a duck in his last innings. Only humans play cricket and Sachin belongs to that species and is not some divine force that he is made out to be.