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Tuesday , December 18 , 2012
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England end long quest, India grapple with two questions

Calcutta, Dec. 17: Alastair Cook was no more than 42 days old when David Gower led his men to victory in the 1984-85 series. This afternoon, Cook became the first England captain to win in India since then, ending a 27-year wait.

Time for celebrations in the England dressing room/on the flight home for those not featuring in the T20s; time for pointed questions over India’s performance. Or, the lack of it.

The two questions which have gone viral centre around individuals. Have we seen the last of Sachin Tendulkar in the India cap and has Mahendra Singh Dhoni captained India for the final time in Test cricket?

Much as former captain Rahul Dravid, who has raised the level of discussions on television, would like “emotions” to be kept aside, that’s easier said than done.

The most pronounced buzz has been Sachin-centric. That he’s set to go the way of Ricky Ponting, Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman. That we’ve actually seen the last of him on the park. That an announcement will be made in Mumbai, sooner, not later.

But such a quiet goodbye? Neither being chaired off the field nor accorded a guard of honour by teammates and possibly the opposition as well?

Strange things happen, but it would be very unlike Sachin to leave not on a high, but on a low. Not on his terms, after such a phenomenal 23 years, but when many have begun asking “when”?

One can assume that Sachin won’t say anything till he’s reviewed his position in the company of elder brother Ajit, wife Anjali and mother Rajni.

Perhaps, that bit is over.

Whatever, for everything Sachin has done, from encouraging a nation to dream big and to challenge itself, he deserves to choose the timing of his retirement.

Let’s allow him space.

Indeed, in a recent chat with The Telegraph, Australia’s coach Mickey Arthur went to the extent of saying: “Sachin has earned the right to decide when he wants to leave the game.”

Coming from a videshi, that’s a big statement.

In the city for an event, another icon, world chess champion Viswanathan Anand, said: “Sport always favours young people, but that’s not everything. So, I think Sachin should continue as long as he enjoys the game.”

Sachin turns 40 in April.

To talk of Dhoni. It’s to be seen whether Sandeep Patil and his colleagues respect former England captain Michael Atherton’s sentiments and retain him for the Test series (at home) against Australia.

Largely thanks to designer wickets, India’s captains have rarely lost at home but Dhoni has to live with this 1-2 defeat.

Just as bad, Dhoni has lost former captain Sunil Gavaskar’s backing. After supporting him through the lows, the Little Master has declared that young Virat Kohli is “ready for the mantle”.

As for the series, England planned to emerge victorious, not finish second-best.

From Kevin Pietersen’s patch-up with team director Andy Flower and some others, to quickly correcting the wrong of not fielding Monty Panesar in the first Test, England got it right. So much so, that losing the toss didn’t matter!

Besides, Cook, the Man of the Series, led from the front. It helped that England have terrific support staff... Flower, batting coach Graham Gooch (a former captain) and spin bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed, who wore the Pakistan cap for 14 years.

To recover from 0-1 down in India is a stellar achievement for any visiting team. It’s a “frontier” Steve Waugh was desperate to conquer. He couldn’t, in 2001.

Those calling for Dhoni’s head have conveniently forgotten that, in Duncan Fletcher, India have a handsomely paid coach. He’s been there right through the worst period since the revival under Sourav Ganguly 2000 onwards.

Why not sack Fletcher?

A poor start to the 2012-13 season cost Roberto Di Matteo his job at Chelsea four weeks ago, a mere six months after the London club won the prized Champions League.

That’s accountability.

Footnote: In an SMS to this reporter, Sachin has clarified he’d suffered only a “spasm” while fielding. He didn’t, however, respond to a query on speculation over his future.

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