Madhav Mantri, the oldest living Indian Test cricketer who as team manager watched a 17-year-old Sachin Tendulkar score his maiden Test century in 1990, feels that the national selectors have the right to take a decision about the batting maestro’s place in the team, but wanted the question of retirement to be left to the player himself.
Mantri, 91, the maternal uncle of Sunil Gavaskar, said that the selectors have no right to discuss retirement with Tendulkar.
He, however, said that the selectors can give him a rest if they want.
“The final decision on picking him in the team should be taken by the selection committee. But whether to retire or continue playing is his own decision,” Mantri told MAIL TODAY. “The selection committee cannot discuss it with him. How can they go and tell him to retire on their own? Whether to select him or not is the selectors’ decision,” the former India wicketkeeper said.
“In a normal case, a player will be dropped because of loss of form, but Tendulkar is a great cricketer and he knows whether he’s batting well or not. If he’s not scoring runs, they can give him a rest. He needs only a game to get going,” said the man who was a national selector from 1964 to 1968.
To emphasise that retirement was a very personal decision, Mantri cited the cases of former England Test players Jack Hobbs and Elias ‘ Patsy’ Hendren.
They announced their retirements at the start of the county seasons in April, in 1934 and 1938 respectively, and stuck to their word despite giving tremendous performances.
“At the end of the season in September, Hobbs had scored 17 centuries. When the press asked him why he was retiring since he was in terrific form, he said that previously he was taking three hours to score a hundred, now he took four. It means, he told them, he had become slow and it was not in the interest of his team,” said Mantri, also a former BCCI treasurer.
“And when someone asked Hendren the same thing, he said it was always better to retire when people ask you ‘ why’ and not ‘ why not’.” Mantri, who played four Tests between 1951 and 1955, said that the ideal age for retirement is 35 years, though there are exceptions.
“Sachin made his debut at 16 and spent a few years learning by watching greats. From 20 to 30, one is at his best, physically and mentally. After 30, the reflexes while batting and fielding start deteriorating,” he said.
“But because of your experience you carry on for another five years, from 31 to 35, by our standards. Thirty- five is the best age to go out. But there are exceptions. CK Nayudu, one of the greatest cricketers produced by India, carried on after 35.” Mantri felt that Tendulkar should not strive for 200 Tests if he is struggling.