Less than a year after his debut, Sachin Tendulkar sprints during the nets at Headingley in Leeds during the 1990 tour of England that would establish him as the special one. His first Test hundred, a match-saving effort, came in the second Test at Old Trafford. India were six down for 183 at one stage needing 408 to win. They finished the fifth day at 343 for six, a five-foot-five-inch, 17-year-old boy standing tall at an unbeaten 119. He finished the series with an average of 61.25. (Ben Radford/Allsport/Getty Images)
Calcutta, Oct. 10: In living his dream, Sachin Tendulkar encouraged India to dream big. But after 24 years, at 40, he’s decided to close an innings packed with as many records as folks in a queue at the nearest mega pandal.
Sachin can’t imagine a life without cricket. It’s hard for us to imagine Indian cricket without him.
As former India captain Sourav Ganguly put it, in a one-on-one with The Telegraph, “Sachin’s a once-in-a-lifetime cricketer.… He’s been that special.”
Five weeks after declaring that he was in “no rush” to retire from Test cricket (all forms actually), Sachin telephoned the board president, Narayanswamy Srinivasan, to convey that he’d like to “move on” after his 200th Test, which is two matches away.
The call, according to a well-placed source, was made “around 1.15pm” today, after which Sachin emailed a statement to Srinivasan.
Two hours later, the board issued that in the form of a media release. The same routine had been followed 10 months ago, when Sachin decided to retire from ODIs.
Sachin also telephoned the board’s general manager (game development), Ratnakar Shetty. Possibly, secretary Sanjay Patel too.
A confidant (and there aren’t many) insisted that nothing should be read into the “timing” of Sachin’s decision, but there’s definitely talk that the most prolific batsman ever may have been upset with the suggestion in some quarters that the board would ask him to pack his bags after his 200th Test.
“Nobody compels Sachin to decide anything.… Sure, he could have made an announcement at the end of last season, but he’s entitled to take his time. Also, there were no plans for a series at home, against the West Indies, till fairly recently,” the confidant added.
The two Tests against the West Indies will, as of now, be played between November 6 and 18. Strictly speaking, Sachin completes 24 years as an international cricketer on November 15.
Both Tests are expected to be the most viewed of all time.
Sachin may have a media conference after a few days. Till then, one would have to guess if totalling only 70 in five matches in the just-ended CLT20 hastened the decision.
Then, at 40, Sachin isn’t getting younger and it wasn’t long ago that he underwent surgery on his left hand to repair the damage caused by an injury during the closing stages of the last IPL.
For the holder of so many records (No. 1 surely being 100 hundreds in Tests and ODIs), it’s unbelievable that Sachin’s last three-figure knock in cricket’s premier format was way back in January 2011.
But Sachin isn’t to be judged on not getting a Test hundred for 33 months. He’s to be hailed for being a unifier of the extraordinary kind and for lifting Indian cricket to an incredible level.
“A great cricketer, yes, but I see Sachin as more than that.… To me, he’s been a symbol of unity in India.… People forget their differences when he takes guard,” Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Sachin’s first India captain, told this reporter.
While fans could be getting irrationally emotional, fellow MPs in the Rajya Sabha must be delighted. Sachin, after all, will be able to devote more time to the Upper House.
Footnote: Mumbai should be given the opportunity to host Sachin’s last Test, but New Delhi has come into the reckoning. Being the national capital is an advantage for the DDCA.
A BOY PLAYED ON AS A SPELLBOUND NATION GREW UP
How India changed between November 15, 1989, when Sachin Tendulkar made
his Test debut, and October 10, 2013, when he announced his retirement