England in India 2012-13 November 29, 2012

Allow Tendulkar his struggle

People want him to retire because they want to live with happier memories. That's selfish. He works hard to be an India player, and is not going to give it away just because we don't find it pretty

Old Father Time has consumed another one, after Rahul Dravid, Mark Boucher, VVS Laxman and Andrew Strauss earlier this year. Thursday has had the feel of one long twilight. You would have thought that whoever took Ricky Ponting out would have to drag a kicking and screaming man with his pads on, wanting to play one more hook. However, even he has left in what is seemingly a tame manner. Father Time works quietly. You know he's always there, but in the end he always gives the impression he just crept up. Removing the bails off Ponting's stumps is but a distraction for him, keeping him from moving on to others.

Moving on to other remnants of his era. A stocky allrounder who has defied laws of average by not getting injured, and then coming back within a week when injury finally caught up with him. And others who made their Test debut even before Ponting's, about 17 years ago. A man with a protective gear one size too big and a stance that shouldn't have lasted 18 days but has endured for 18 years.

Only last week, Jacques Kallis had Ponting on the floor with an outswinger. Around the same time, Shivnarine Chanderpaul finished Man of the Series in Bangladesh. So the focus of mortality has been deflected to the only other survivor among those who were playing Test cricket in 1995. Seamlessly, ruthlessly, and out of pure human nature. At least in India, almost everybody has reacted to the news of Ponting's retirement with "what about Sachin Tendulkar?"

By the time he goes out to bat at Eden Gardens, Tendulkar will have gone 23 months without a Test century, the longest such period in his career. When Monty Panesar trapped him lbw at his home ground, he had gone 10 innings without reaching 30, again the longest ever. Without a doubt this has been his leanest phase.

People are struggling to come to terms with his mortality. They want him to retire because they want to live with happier memories. That's selfish. Allow the man his struggle. He works hard to be an India player, and is not going to give it away just because we don't find it pretty.

This is fascinating to follow too. It is not easy for someone like Tendulkar to be playing below the level he is used to, to swallow his ego, to struggle against bowlers he could have dominated without breaking sweat, in order to keep doing something he can't imagine life without. This phase might end up telling us more about Tendulkar than all those years of prosperity.

It is understandable for people to find it painful to watch him misjudge the length of spinners, to get rattled by a Brett Lee bouncer in an ODI in Brisbane and start playing ugly premeditated strokes, to have his place in the side questioned. However, question the form all you want, not his utility to the team. Dravid and Laxman have just retired, you need some experience in that middle order, someone who has played in South Africa before - provided he feels he is fit enough to last until that tour.

As for Tendulkar's place in the side, let's also apply the same yardstick for some others. Gautam Gambhir has struggled for longer, Yuvraj Singh has looked more out of sorts, Zaheer Khan is less fit, and R Ashwin is less athletic than Tendulkar. The elephant that nobody used to speak about is now hiding other people's failures just because he is so big. During a Test that was the biggest failure of Indian spinners - on a designer track, after winning the toss, and with runs on board - all we saw was people telling Tendulkar it's time to go.

It's not that Tendulkar is getting any preferential treatment from the Indian selectors, it's just that Indian cricket is going through a phase weak enough to justify his continued selection. If the cupboard was brimming with such exceptional talent, why would we keep going back to Suresh Raina and Yuvraj?

There is something we can safely agree on, although it is not fair. Tendulkar will not be dropped; he will have to save the selectors that pressure, and take it all upon himself. In a country where it is big news that he has reportedly told selectors it is their call, Tendulkar's retirement is not a standalone decision.

In a perfect world, he would just be dropped when he merited it, and asked to go and score runs in Ranji Trophy if he wanted to come back. That's not going to happen. That's not how Indian cricket works. Even in this non-utopian world, had he seen a fixed No. 6, a proper replacement for Laxman, he would have felt the need to make way for another youngster. There is no one putting that kind of pressure on Tendulkar right now.

On relative performance alone - yes, it has come down to that and why shouldn't it? - we can't ask Tendulkar to retire. It's the age that is not on his side, and it will be wrong if he plays all the home Tests and retires before the South Africa tour, sending a virtual debutant to the vultures. If he feels that barring unforeseen injuries he can make it to South Africa - and he is the best judge of his fitness - he should continue. It is not the ideal situation, but India are hardly the ideal team.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vikram on December 2, 2012, 18:32 GMT

    Like millions it was Sachin who lured me into watching this beautiful game..Since the age of 6 i would switch off d t.v set everytime sachin got out only to switch it back on after a few mins and see India's fate in the contest..Ups and downs came in his form but now i can't watch him bat..it really hurts..the tentativeness d fear of getting out is writ large on his face..Yes he is no Superman at 40 but what really disappoints is his approach..Can't watch wicked english witch take down my hero,Tendulkar d lion Aslan on Dhoni's turning stone table:P..One last time roar and take down d enemy...All we millions wish to c is some decisiveness nd confidence in approach...with greatness assured all we wish is to c dat vintage spark dat boyish charm dat zeal to contribute back on ur face Tendya:)

  • Dheeban Chakravarthi on December 2, 2012, 8:10 GMT

    All this retirement talk is just sensationalist talk from petty people. Just because a batsman hasn't scored a century for a while, he is in bad form? 73s and 80s don't count? Just the series before last series, he made 73 and 80 in the first and second tests against Australia. 30s, 40s and 50s hint at a batsman in poor form. In fact, Tendulkar looked very fluent and good as the Australia series began. All the experts commentating at that time agreed how Tendulkar has been in such good nick even if those are not getting converted a hundred or double hundred. Just a few bowled dismissals against New Zealand and couple of good deliveries against England, Tendulkar should retire? I haven't seen much from Tendulkar that shows he struggles. He looks to be in good nick, and I hope he shuts you all up like so many times he has done in his career.

  • Ganesh on December 2, 2012, 7:47 GMT

    Everyone who is talking so much about Sachin's retirement, can you guys answer one question? It has been 4 yrs since Ganguly's retirement and we are still searching for a good replacement for him... Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina etc are still struggling to cement there place in the side.. You guys are harping continuously about not giving youngster a chance but there is no one to grab the opportunity that is open currently...

  • akash on December 2, 2012, 7:09 GMT

    Some people here have commented that they hate to see Sachin scoring a century in Kolkutta for it would mean that delaying his retirement. Scoring a Test Century is not an easy thing, they must understand. I think they are thinking too much on how we build a team for the future. We are already missing at least one of Dravid and Laxman in this present team with Sachin out of form and except Pujara none of the others showing enough fight. It is in the interest of India team that Sachin gets back in form and plays another year or two of Test cricket.

  • Srinivas on December 2, 2012, 6:22 GMT

    Had Sid ever answered the following - what good is it to anybody, either to Indian Cricket or to the youngster, that instead of giving a chance for a youngster to fail, struggle, duck, get hit, get cleaned up, take it on the chin, soak it in and learn the tricks of the trade and then succeed, the powers that be are hapelessly and hopelessly letting an almost 40 year old player to go on and on with his woeful underperformances - he would have never come up with this article, unarguably his worst piece.

  • Al on December 1, 2012, 23:07 GMT

    Right now Tendulkar is the biggest liability in the Indian team. Patil should show some backbone and drop this biggest non-performer of all time!!!

  • srinivas on December 1, 2012, 21:23 GMT

    being a tendulkar fan for 20 years and also related to medical field i will advice tendulkar to check his eyes first. faulty vision changes reaction time. please dont mind tendulkar- it is just a sincere advice from a man of same age and you might have played same balls of panesar with a lot of dignity 20 years ago. nothing gives me more pleasure than the resurrection of tendulkar in cricket.

  • Deepak on December 1, 2012, 16:26 GMT

    Yes then we need to wait Sachin To come to form(May be against Bangladesh..?) If he struggle for another 5 years then is that acceptable? Is the same treatment given to Rahul/VVS do Board waited for them to score and retire or pushed for retirement?

  • Ahmed on December 1, 2012, 16:06 GMT

    Somebody has been saying we have not yet got perfect replacement for Sachin, if that is the case he mightl be playing 2017 ODI World Cup also.

  • Prabhakar on December 1, 2012, 14:21 GMT

    Should people wait and allow SRT to perform and if so, for what? To let him bow out with satisfaction? I don't think he has anything to prove. Even if he performs now, certainly, he is NOT the future of Indian cricket by any means at 39+. Sad but true. SRT is being paid now-a-days for his reputation but NOT for his performance. Take it and don't try to paint the picture any different.

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