Is it time to call it quits?
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Ian Chappell has recently written an article asking Sachin Tendulkar to take a good look at the mirror and decide if the time has come for him to quit the game. Ian Chappell has publicly said what many in India has been murmuring for the last 1 year. It is an issue that every Indian will have an opinion on. Chappell’s comments will be a bitter pill to swallow for Sachin Tendulkar as indeed many of his fans.
As someone who has been a fan of Tendulkar from the time I watched him cart Abdul Qadir all over the ground in his first series, it is with a sense of sadness and disappointment that I read Chappel’s article. Disappointment because of the way he is being ridiculed and criticized when others in his team haven’t performed any greater than he has. Sadness because I do not feel that Chappel’s remarks is not entirely off the mark either.
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Chappell is spot on when he says that Tendulkar hasn’t worn off as well as Lara. There was a time when both of them would match stroke for stroke with each other. Tendulkar with his consistency and Lara with his huge scores were engaged in a healthy sporting rivalry. But about 3 years ago Tendulkar started having the first of his many career threatening injuries. His body was finally creaking under the burden he had carried for the past 16 odd years when he was the sole hope of an entire nation. These injuries definitely have had an impact on his playing form as he was constantly in an out of the team and never really got the opportunity to practice regularly let alone settle down.
Another thing that Chappell has got spot on is the style in which Tendulkar has been playing for the last few years. He seems to have lost his dominance at the world stage. Where earlier he reigned over the batting crease like an emperor now he seems more like a hard working employee. Where earlier bowlers would start their run up thinking how they can not get hit, now they start their run up with the confidence that it’s only a matter of time before they get him.
Lara to his credit has never changed his style of batting no matter what the situation was. He never lost his flamboyance. Tendulkar however has got into this strange mindset that he should curb his natural instincts and play the role of a grafter from now. He feels there are other younger players now to take on the role of a dasher. I am not sure what Tendulkar’s line of reasoning behind this is, but it definitely not doing Indian cricket any good. India needs Tendulkar for the simple aura he brings to the field. India does not need Tendulkar to graft and probe around like a player of average ability. The sight of Tendulkar doing that inspires the oppositions and disheartens his countrymen.
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If he is doing this on the advice of the team, then the management is really short sighted. It may make Sachin a better team man, maybe help him boost his statistics, but it will never help India win matches. If he has adopted this style because of injuries then he should think of adapting new shots or innovating new methods to score runs. It the reason is that he simply cannot play with freedom anymore or if he is not enjoying cricket or if does not have that ability anymore then the sad truth is that the time has now come for him to hang up his boots. Whatever be the case Tendulkar is at a crossroads in his career now and he has to take a decision about it. Because it hurts to see him drudging along when nobody wants him.
Sachin could take the time available between now and the next tour to decide on how he would want his career to end. He should have a clear idea on how he would want the world to remember him. If he is not able to take a decision then take a step backwards. Take a long break from international cricket. But the next time he steps out for an international match I would love to see him play with an uncluttered mind. He could go back to playing domestic cricket for a season and see if he still has that love for the game as he used to. If he is honest with himself he will get the answer. If the answer is bitter then he should retire as soon as possible.
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I want to see one of the greatest players this country has ever produced to ride off into the sunset with pride and dignity rather than being thrown out like a trouble maker from a bar. I would like to see him bow out with a last hurrah, a slap in the face of this ungrateful country who takes a sadistic pleasure in ripping the very heroes they have taken to their hearts. The same people who forget the times when they used to turn off the TV when he got out. But I realize that the bitter reality is that it is more of a fantasy than hope.