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ONE SHORT

There is no sense of shock or surprise at Sachin Tendulkarís retirement from one-day internationals. It was a decision that was long overdue. In fact, Mr Tendulkarís retirement from first-class cricket is long overdue. He is playing cricket on borrowed time. There is no logical explanation for Mr Tendulkarís continued stay at the wicket. He himself has offered none except to say that he will continue to play as long as he wants to play. This is no explanation at all. Neither is there a word from the selectors regarding why he is considered for selection. Is it because he is Sachin Tendulkar who cannot be touched because he is an idol? Such an attitude, if harboured at all, does not augur well for the future of Indian cricket. A cricketer should be eligible for selection on the basis of performance and not on the basis of his past deeds. Mr Tendulkarís retirement from ODIs is welcome. He has served his country and the game of cricket with honour and this honour has been reciprocated. Mr Tendulkar is considered, without dissent, as one of the greats of the game of cricket. He cannot ask for more for the simple reason that there is nothing more to get.

What Mr Tendulkar has not adequately considered is the harm he can bring upon his reputation if he continues to play, as he intends to at the Test level. Against England, in the recently concluded series, Mr Tendulkar crossed double figures twice ó 13 and 76. No one, not even his admirers ó and their numbers are legion ó will argue that in that innings of 76, he was anywhere close to his top form. This is not surprising since Mr Tendulkar is not fighting bad form, as top batsmen often do at some point in their career. What he is battling against is age and the latter is a more relentless bowler than Glen McGrath. No batsman can win against the deliveries of age. The sooner this realization dawns on Mr Tendulkar the better for him and for Indian cricket. He has shuffled across to leave ODIs; this actually falls short of what he should actually do. He should leave first-class cricket even without looking at the umpire. He should walk with his head held high. Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid ó two of Mr Tendulkarís most distinguished contemporaries óhave left the game and this has done no damage to their reputation. At his peak, Mr Tendulkar was a fast learner. The time for learning is never over. He should learn from his contemporaries.