In his formative years, Sachin Tendulkar won 13 one- rupee coins that his coach Ramakant Acherekar would put on top of a stump and challenge bowlers to bowl him out at the nets to win the coin.
The same Tendulkar now cuts a sorry figure as let alone top bowlers, even mediocre ones like Trent Boult of New Zealand have managed to disturb his stumps in the recent past. In the last three series on home turf, he has been bowled as many as six times.
That has nothing to do with Tendulkar forgetting the art of batting. It is a clear case of age catching up. He is on the verge of hitting 40 and however good you might be, time does not wait till eternity.
His hand-eye co- ordination has gone down and more importantly, the man whose defence and cover drives would often be what coaches would ask their wards to copy, is now anything but picture perfect.
The gap between bat and pad — a rarity in his pomp — has been the prime reason for him getting bowled so often in the past year and a half. Also, for a player who used to have time to play six different shots to the same delivery is now, more often than not, late on the ball and meets it way behind the ‘ perfect’ point of impact.
It is surprising that while the new bunch of selectors — led by Sandeep Patil — have been quite clear in their policy towards the senior players – perform or perish – the yardstick seems to be different when it comes to the ageing legend.
According to sources in the BCCI, the selectors had been clearly instructed that if he failed to score in one of the first two matches against Australia, the selectors would have to meet Tendulkar to discuss his future plans. But with an innings of 81 against Australia in the first Test in Chennai, he seems to have saved his place for the time being.
But the question is for how long? Till when will Tendulkar be given leeway on the basis of one- odd performance after numerous failures? With the fourth Test in Delhi being the last the team plays at home for quite some time, unless a series against Sri Lanka in September- October is confirmed, his bat doesn’t look to have a bright future.
Having failed against pace bowlers on the low and slow tracks in the sub- continent, it will be all the more difficult for him to perform on fast and bouncy tracks in South Africa. And if that was not tough enough, the South Africans have the best lot of fast bowlers at present with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel leading the pack.
After the tour of South Africa comes the trip to New Zealand. For someone who has been an epitome of consistent run- making, Tendulkar doesn’t boast of a great record in Kiwiland. Having stretched his ODI career to an extent where the fans where more relieved than shocked at his decision to retire, one hopes the same wouldn’t be the case with the Master’s Test career.