Not so long ago, two years to be precise, a certain 36-year old accomplished a sporting feat at the Captain Roop Singh Stadium (Gwalior) which was, until then, only a remote hypothesis. Needless to say, praise poured in from all quarters, yelling hallelujah at the great man, who, in spite of his age, swaggered his way through the terra incognita.
Later that year, the 36-year old went on to scale one more landmark, this time at the Super Sport Park (Centurion, South Africa) which, many believe that no other man would ever scale. Once again, columnists all over the world stood in the queue to wax lyrical about that little guy who defied age and kept scaling new peaks, while some of his peers bid adieu to the game and were probably teeing off at golf courses or more likely, writing or commentating about the accomplishments of their good old friend.
Last year, when a billion expectations and his own desperate desire weighed heavily upon his shoulders to win the grandest trophy of the sport-The World Cup, he motivated himself to be instrumental in getting the trophy for himself and most importantly, the billion others who wanted him to get it as much as they wanted it themselves. The critics, meanwhile, sung the same song-Sachin song, yet again. A few even hyperbolized that he’s growing younger as days pass by.
Those were the same critics (except for a few rational heads) who had called for the great man’s head, when he traveled through the most unremarkable phase (by his own standards, of course) of his glittering career. They cited his ‘ageing process’ and physical weariness that resulted in the loss of sheen. Some said if he stood against an honest mirror and asked if he must retire or not, the answer would’ve been a ‘yes’.
Thankfully, Tendulkar didn’t find the honest mirror, instead he listened to that ‘little boy’ inside him who finds his greatest joy on the cricket field and nowhere else. He knew that he still had in him the physical and mental strength to contribute to his team.
And he still knows it, for, he has himself said (in times of highs and lows) that he’ll stop carrying that magical willow to the crease once he finds the motivation in him comes down.
But no, once again all those critics who had cuckooed ‘form is temporary; class is permanent’ suddenly have a problem with him when he failed to score in five ODI innings in his double-decade long career. Suddenly, he’s now a bit too old for ODI cricket.
Suddenly, they find youngsters of great talent surging into the team. Suddenly, they find our national selectors not being assertive and showing a level of bias to ‘certain players’. Suddenly, they want the greatest ODI cricketer to reconsider his ODI career.
The team’s recent opponents-Australia-took a ruthless decision by axing their most senior (read: the most respected) player. They justified it by saying it was done in the better interests of the team. And Ricky Ponting, that most respected Australian cricketer, agreed to the team’s decision. ‘If they can chuck the great Ricky Ponting out, why can’t we do the same to our team even if there is not really any point in doing it?’ the critics seem to be asking.
The primary reason that supports their argument is that Sachin is eating up the places of potential youngsters, who will be a part of the 2015 World Cup team. And 2015 is four years away from now!
Okay let’s not get into all that now. How many youngsters’ places are being unfairly occupied by Sachin? Let’s take a peek at the stats of the ongoing ODI tri-series. No Indian batsman, except for Dhoni and Gambhir has averaged more than 40. So, shouldn’t the blame be on the collective batting failure rather than one person?
And no ‘youngster’ is really in scorching form that it is justifiable enough to take the great man’s place. For instance, the ‘rotation policy’ by which one of the top-order batsmen—Sehwag, Tendulkar or Gambhir—had to sit out to make place for Rohit Sharma didn’t make much sense as he averages less than 20 in the five matches that he has played so far.
A few also murmur (read: exaggerate) about Dhoni’s statement of the ‘seniors’ being a bit slow in the field and make a case for their argument by relating that to Sachin. Once again, shouldn’t they ask themselves that ‘was Sachin fielding like Jonty Rhodes when he scored well and all of a sudden he’s slower than Inzamam?’
Still, there are a few, who quibble about the selection panel being too respectful to him. ‘Shouldn’t every player be treated equally? Isn’t this a bias,’ they intend to ask.
Yes, this is a bias. But this is a bias which is totally fair. Sachin Tendulkar is not just a cricketer, a brand or an icon to the country; he’s a lot more than that. The amount of inspiration that he kindles, intentionally or otherwise, in probably every youngster who watches him is unquantifiable. And there had been no other sportsperson from India who impacted almost the entire country, being the ambassador of the nation. And the writer doubts if there ever will be someone who would emulate his legacy.
And, by the way, wasn’t he the one who voluntarily stepped aside from the T20 format when he felt the youngsters could play a larger role in that format? So critics, the selection panel is absolutely right when they think that he rightly deserves the right to choose his own date of bidding adieu to the game in whatever formats it is.
Maybe, just maybe, the writer feels that all those critics are like the fox from the Aesop’s tales, who waited for ‘something’ and when that didn’t happen, they called it sour.
“Keep your fingers crossed, guys”