Bangalore, Dec. 23: Sachin Tendulkar’s decision to retire from the 50-over format hasn’t come as a shock, yet there’s a question: did The Master get the timing right?
The aam aadmi’s response would have been far more emotional had Sachin quit either after India’s 2011 World Cup win or after his 100th international hundred, in Dhaka, this March.
Sachin, who is a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, featured in only 10 of the 36 ODIs after the World Cup. In any case, then, he’d been picking and choosing.
Sachin had been short on runs in the just-ended Test series against England, but the announcement came on the morning of the selection committee meeting to pick the T20 and ODI squads.
Pakistan have reason to celebrate. In form or not, Sachin’s presence alone was cause for worry to teams over the past two-plus decades.
But Pakistan’s T20 captain Mohammed Hafeez didn’t gloat. Rather, he paid a straight-from-the-heart tribute: “Sachin’s a legend and, as a cricketer, I feel sad.… I, personally, and Pakistan will miss him.…”
Umar Amin, one of the younger lot, elevated Sachin to space where mortals have no place. “If cricket is a religion, then Sachin is God.”
Coming from a Pakistani, that’s a big statement, but it reflects what Sachin has meant to millions, transcending boundaries.
A unifier and a massive crowd-puller.
Some regard Sir Vivian Richards as the greatest Test batsman, pushing Sachin to No. 2. That could be argued. But, in ODIs, there’s no debating where The Master stands.
Apparently, those closest to Sachin desired that he make himself available for the three ODIs versus Misbah-ul Haq and his men, idea being to give himself the chance to get back among the runs before the four-Test series against Australia.
Sachin, however, took an entirely personal call and spoke to Board president Narayanswamy Srinivasan last night. He later sent an email as well.
The Board, in turn, issued a statement on Sachin’s behalf. It read: “I have decided to retire from the one-day format of the game. I feel blessed to have fulfilled the dream of being part of a World Cup-winning team. The preparatory process to defend the World Cup, in 2015, should begin early and in right earnest.
“I would like to wish the team all the very best in the future. I am eternally grateful to all my well-wishers for their unconditional support and love over the years.”
Ideally, even for quitting one format, there ought to have been a media conference, with Sachin saying more than a few words. That didn’t happen.
Without actually retiring from T20s, Sachin has never made himself available for the shortest format after India won the inaugural World T20 in 2007.
“A young combination did it.… I don’t wish to unsettle it,” Sachin told The Telegraph a couple of years later, after the selectors weren’t able to convince him to again wear the India colours in T20.
Sachin’s solitary T20 appearance was in India’s debut match, in Johannesburg, six years ago.
Mark Greatbatch in the 1992 World Cup, and the Sanath Jayasuriya-Romesh Kaluwitharana combination in the 1996 edition, gave opening in limited overs cricket a new, explosive dimension. But Sachin lifted it to an incredible level.
“A living legend,” is how Pakistan’s coach Dav Whatmore saluted Sachin in an exclusive chat. He added: “With so many accolades being showered, I don’t know what else to say.”
Sachin’s ODI debut was in 1989, but he took to opening five years later, himself suggesting to Ajit Wadekar (the cricket manager/coach) that he be given an opportunity.
Well, Sachin blasted 82 off only 49 balls, and the Auckland turnout witnessed the emergence of a game-changer like never before.
“A revelation,” is how Whatmore put it.
Four years later, Sachin took the Emirate of Sharjah by storm and gave Shane Warne “nightmares”. Recently, Warne clarified that he’d been joking when he talked about nightmares featuring The Master.
But a clarification after 14 years?
It’s not official, but it’s not all over for those who worship Sachin. He’s expected to be available for the Tests versus Australia.
Maybe not after that, though.