It was not the kind of Christmas gift that Indian cricket needed, but Sachin’s retirement from ODI, though did not come as a shock, was a surprise for its suddenness. Whatever the reason, his absence from the ODI scene will certainly take away a lot of charm and the heightened sense of expectations that he evoked every time he went out to bat. I would say that his retirement has taken away a major chunk of our lifetime. There is a numbness within that refuses to go away.
Sachin is to Indian cricket what the Beatles were to music. An entire generation or two grew up with these two legends. The lives of those who grew up in the “Sachin era” will never be the same again. In fact, no cricketer or a sportsperson has had such an impact on an entire nation as Sachin. Therein lies his legacy that transcends statistics. There will never be another like him.
I remember that day 18 winters ago when he opened the innings against New Zealand in an ODI game and he left us stunned by his assault on the Kiwi bowlers. That single innings typecast Sachin as the “master blaster” in the 50-over format and he has lived up to that tag more often than not. Though his dramatic retirement is surrounded in mystery given the suddenness and the timing, I guess it was coming, perhaps sooner than later.
Perhaps, Sachin yielded to immense pressure from fans, the media and, I suspect, the selectors too, but I thought he deserved a swansong game that would have been a fitting tribute, regardless whether he would have scored a century or out first ball. Being a Sachin fan, it hurts that he was kicked out so unceremoniously – not even a media conference leave alone a goodbye game!
For all that, Sachin is not yet free of pressure that now focuses on his retirement from Tests and with that all forms of cricket, even perhaps the IPL where the 2013 season could well be his last, if he decides to play. Eventually, constant criticism from all and sundry would get through his defences, just like the deliveries from Anderson and Panesar. I have this sneaking feeling that he will quit Test cricket after the home series against Australia beginning in February.
For sure, Sachin will be facing a slightly better quality bowling than he countered against England, and given the irrefutable fact that his footwork and reflexes are not the same, besides being away from international cricket for over two months, could lead to another set of failures that could well hasten the end of his cricketing career.
Few sportspersons have had the privilege of a fairytale final hurrah. For most, retirement decisions have been triggered by failures that inevitably come when one attempts to extend a career without having tools sharp enough to meet the demands. In the case of Sachin, he seems to be playing more from memory, and presents a sight that has tragedy written all over it, if only because a fading hero refuses to accept that his time is up, but believes that a renaissance is just around the corner.
Perhaps, we might yet see Sachin emerging from the shadows to score a few against the Aussies, but I doubt he will be able to exert the kind of influence or evoke awe he did in the past. Far too often in recent times he has been consumed by the pitfalls of age for one to believe that he will score his 52nd Test century much less play his 200th Test match for which he will have to wait the whole of 2013 before India tour South Africa.
If anything, Sachin’s retirement from ODI gives lie to the theory that he was after statistics. He could have tried to score another century to make it 50 in ODI or another four to reach 100 half-centuries that would have read better than 49 tons and 96 50s. Some even suggested Sachin could have continued till he got to 20,000 ODI runs, not far from his current 18,426.
However, it would be a travesty should we attempt to “quantify” Sachin in numbers. After all, he has adorned our living rooms for two decades and more, livened up our days with his stellar performances the likes of which we will never get to see again. We have rejoiced and cried with Sachin like we did with no other cricketer. Many of us have grown with Sachin from being sons or daughters to becoming fathers or mothers.
Through the changes in our life’s journey, Sachin has been the constant. He rarely let us down, but lived our dreams and shaped many a cricketing career. I for one will never be able to watch an ODI game again. In the past, I have often switched off the TV the moment Sachin was dismissed and now, there is no reason for me to switch it on again. Thanks Sachin for the wonderful moments.
Thus, the year has ended on a sour note and hopefully, 2013 brings more cheer to all of you dear readers.