In the game of cricket there is nothing more humiliating for a batsman than to be clean bowled. That happens to the best batsmen at some point of time in their career, but when it happens three times in a row against the same kind of bowling, there is perhaps cause for comment and worry. No cricket fan anywhere in the world will mistake who is being referred to in the previous sentences. Sachin Tendulkar, arguably the world’s greatest batsman and without any argument one of the greatest batsmen the game of cricket has seen, has been dismissed clean bowled three times in a row and all three times by seamers. If Mr Tendulkar, or for that matter, any other batsman, is being clean bowled again and again the conclusion that is obvious is that he is not getting in line with the ball. Or he is not reading the movement of the ball correctly. If he is misreading the movement — and this can happen to all batsmen — he is not getting the time to adjust his shot after realizing that he has misread the delivery. This adjustment is part of the defence of all batsmen of the calibre of Mr Tendulkar. Thus what follows is that Mr Tendulkar’s footwork is not as nimble as is required to play the moving ball or to get to the pitch of it.
There are two possible reasons why this is happening to Mr Tendulkar. One is that he is going through a terribly bad patch and a few hours at the nets will remedy the mistakes that are occurring. Mr Tendulkar is too good an analyst of his own batting not to note the errors. The other is that Mr Tendulkar’s movements and his reflexes have slowed. This point cannot be wished away. He is nearing 40 and even a genius like Mr Tendulkar cannot continue to defy the natural process of ageing. Again, Mr Tendulkar is the best judge of what is happening to his reflexes. It is somewhat self-evident that no one can stop Mr Tendulkar from playing as long as he wants to play. He alone can choose the timing of his own retirement. The question that can, however, be asked — and asked with every justification — is whether Mr Tendulkar is being fair to himself and to the game he loves by continuing to play at an age when most sportsmen are content to hang up their boots.
It is an old adage that a player should retire when people will wonder why so soon instead of continuing to play when people are asking why he isn’t retiring. It is sad that cricket fans are asking the second question regarding Mr Tendulkar. This is where he is being seriously unfair to himself. He is the most talented batsman Indian cricket has seen, he should not continue till his talent is completely eroded and he is reduced to a shadow of his former self. There is also the danger that with slowed reflexes, Mr Tendulkar might do himself an injury and might be forced to retire. Mr Tendulkar should go with grace and perhaps with grandeur. The fear is that he is too old for the latter.