The moment that fans of Sachin Tendulkar have been dreading the world over could come by the end of this year, as senior BCCI officials are likely to ask the master batsman to hang up his gloves and make way for youngsters.
Tendulkar, who will reach the landmark of 200 Test matches, in the home series against West Indies, has been a pale shadow of himself in the last two seasons and has struggled for form and runs. In his last 17 Tests, Tendulkar has scored only 872 runs with a highest score of 94 at an average of 31.14; and his last Test century was in Cape Town in January 2011.
A report in Bangalore Mirror claimed senior officials of the BCCI have confirmed to the daily that Tendulkar, who has given no indication of any plans to hang up his boots so far, will be asked by board officials to step down and make way for newer talent.
The report also said that senior BCCI officials, who converged for the BCCI's Annual General Meeting in Chennai on Sunday, feel that the 40-year-old Tendulkar has outlived his usefulness. The BCCI has apparently zeroed in on the individual, who will convey the message to Tendulkar, but the identity of the person is being kept under wraps. Bangalore Mirror reported that when contacted, BCCI President N Srinivasan refused to comment on the development.
BCCI officials told Bangalore Mirror that the home series against West Indies has been explicitly organised for Tendulkar to reach the 200-Test landmark after which he is likely to be nudged aside. The reason for the haste on the part of the Board stems from the fact that as long as Tendulkar keeps himself available for selection, no selection committee will dare drop him, the report added.
"At the same time his (Tendulkar) batting frailties have become too stark to ignore," the senior BCCI official told Bangalore Mirror. "He could not face a bowler like Monty Panesar in home conditions. He was further exposed in the series against Australia. Now the tricky bit is who will let him know this..."
On September 18, Sandeep Patil, chief of the BCCI selection committee, categorically refuted media reports that he had spoken to Tendulkar and given him an ultimatum to take a call on his Test career after his 200th Test. BCCI vice-president Rajeev Shukla had also reiterated that no conversation had taken place between the chief selector and Tendulkar. "There is no truth in the report. We have spoken to both Tendulkar and Patil, no such conversation ever took place," Shukla said.
At the time, Patil had said that Tendulkar is likely to tour South Africa following the home series against West Indies.
A senior BCCI official told Mail Today on September 19: “There was no formal conversation between Tendulkar and Patil. What actually happened is that the duo did have an informal chat and Patil just wanted Tendulkar to give the selectors an idea as to how long he wants to play for the country, as the selectors want to plan accordingly when they pick squads post the West Indies series." The report also said that Tendulkar will take the final call on his career after gauging his own performance in the two Tests against the West Indies and if he does end up scoring runs, he might still carry on for some time.
Meanwhile, Tendulkar has apparently expressed his desire to play his 200th Test match at his home ground, the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. The Cricket Association of Bengal has also thrown its hat in the ring to host the landmark match. However, the underlying fact is that neither Kolkata or Mumbai can host this match, according to the BCCI's rotation policy.
A senior BCCI functionary told NDTV: “Since Sachin has expressed something, it is difficult to say no. Plus from a sentimental standpoint, he deserves to play in Mumbai.”
A formal decision is expected on October 3 when the fixtures committee announces the dates of the December Test and ODI series against the West Indies.