It looked as if it was waiting to happen. A rare sight which is fast becoming a common one — stumps all over the place and Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar walking back amid the ruins.
Since the time Sachin took guard on Monday, with India at a precarious 83 for two chasing 261, New Zealand knew what exactly they needed to do to get rid of the world’s best batsman.
The plan was set — attack the stumps, and Sachin’s defence would be breached. Twice in the series, the master blaster had been bowled through the gate.
A hat-trick followed in the second innings of the Bangalore Test. Fast bowler Tim Southee crashed through Sachin’s defence and was fittingly rewarded with the prized wicket. Not one to let emotions get the better of him, it was uncharacteristic of Sachin to lift his bat in rage with the intention of almost smashing it to the ground.
On his way back to the pavilion though, he pulled himself back and shook his head.
Sachin faced 34 balls and hit five fours for his 27, but all the while New Zealand bowlers kept the ball up to him, making him play every delivery.
They waited patiently for Sachin’s defence to fall apart. After 78 minutes of battle in the middle, Sachin caved in, setting tongues wagging it is time for him to retire.
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Senior cricketers have also started suggesting that Sachin should call it a day. Captain of the 1983 World Cup winning team Kapil Dev said: “From what we have seen in the last three months, he (Sachin) should have announced his retirement after the World Cup ( 2011) or even earlier.
It's important to know that every cricketer has his time. Having served India for 22-23 years, there surely is no greater cricketer than him. But he should have announced his decision to retire from the shorter format soon after the World Cup.” Sunil Gavaskar and Sanjay Manjrekar wondered whether age has made Sachin slow on his feet after he was clean bowled in the first innings of the Hyderabad Test. When his stumps were shattered for the third consecutive time on Monday, Abbas Ali Baig felt Sachin was perhaps overconfident.
Ajit Wadekar, also a former coach of the Indian team, said it was wrong shot- selection that caused his dismissals. “He seems to be going through a bad patch,” Wadekar added.
So what ails Sachin’s batting? Is it the fact he has not scored a Test century in 24 innings, spanning more than a year? Or is there something wrong with his technique? Or is it, if someone dare ask, a mental thing? Fact is that Sachin’s last century came in January 2011, against South Africa in Cape Town, and since then he has got out twice in 90s and once in 80s.
And he has hasn’t scored a half century in the last seven innings.
Sachin has ruled out retirement as of now. Even if he is thinking about his future, he hasn’t shared it with the media so far.
Former India captain Sourav Ganguly felt the little master’s presence was justified in the team. “Sachin knows when he has to retire. He is just going through a lean patch as he is playing after quite some time. There is no dip in his ability. He cannot be judged in just three innings. And he is obstructing no youngsters’ entry into the team,” he said.
If the captain’s words make any difference to a player’s performance, Sachin has every reason to believe Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Backing the senior- most player in the team, the India captain said: “The good thing is that whenever people talk about Tendulkar’s form, he comes up with a brilliant performance and I’m waiting for that. I don’t really get worried about that.”
Also read - Has time caught up with Tendulkar?
Sachin Tendulkar is facing unprecedented calls to retire after a string of failures fuelled speculation that time had finally caught up with India's cricket icon.