On clamour for Sachin’s retirement

In a country grappling with terrorism and communalism, destitution and corruption, female foeticide and kangaroo courts, it is incongruous, even petty, to argue over whether a cricketer should retire from the game or not.

The clamour for Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement is quite strident, bordering on the uncouth, as if his departure alone would change the fortunes of the team.

Yet, such is India. There is little resembling equilibrium when it comes to praise or rebuke that we reserve for our sporting stars.

Starved of reasons and heroes to rejoice over, cricket is the de facto opium of the masses. Where more than a billion cricket experts rub shoulders with each other, opinions are divided and passions run high when contrary convictions collide.

Certainly, views acquire immoderate overtones when it comes to Tendulkar and his ‘retirement’. Even when he was in his heyday, scoring heavily, many found fault with him. It is hardly surprising then that they should bay for his blood now that those customary hundreds have suddenly dried up.

For me, nonetheless, it will be a sad day when he retires; for many others, too, maybe.

Yes, I have been an unapologetic admirer of Sachin Tendulkar ever since he hit the international cricketing circuit as a young 16-year-old. He seemed to be the best thing to have happened to Indian cricket, perhaps even to the country itself.

He made our collective chests swell with pride. We were thrilled to count this divine gift, this genius, as an Indian.

He was, as the television ad-line goes, ‘neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride’. We were obsessively possessive about him. He was the jewel in our crown.

For me, he still is. Doesn’t matter that he isn’t the Sachin of yore, doesn’t matter that the ravages of time have dulled his reflexes, doesn’t matter that he no longer terrorises bowlers like he once did. Yet, he will always be an all-time great: his dignified conduct brings a certain majesty to the game, an incontrovertible stateliness that is as rare he is.

People wallowed in satisfaction whenever he scored big – and he did more often than not – as if they themselves had put one across a Pakistani spinner or an Aussie pacer. The joy that bubbled through them was almost physical in intensity and as gratifying as could be.

The result of the match didn’t so much matter: if India lost – which also was more often than not -- it caused a twinge or two of woe, but then one moved quickly on, happy that the curly-haired imp had scored a ton. If India won, well, that was just the icing on the cake.

They experienced personal grief when the boy-man, who’s carried the crushing weight of a billion expectations for over two decades, got out cheaply.

They paid hard-earned money and thronged – they do that even today, albeit not in the multitudes they did then – the stadia to see the little guy smash fearsome international bowlers all over the park.

His sublime cover and straight-drives, especially those off the back foot, will remain indelibly etched in the minds of all those who have seen him unleash the shots with metronomic regularity.

Nobody questioned his skill or motives. He was, and is, in the team to score runs, he hates to fail, and he loves to win: a man who has earned as much respect and adulation from his teammates as he has from cricket fans across the world. He has tried to do everything to keep Indian cricket’s pennant flying high.

And I am not even dwelling on the time (for almost an eternity) when he single-handedly shouldered the burden of the Indian team, or on the sheer mountain of runs he has scored, or the records he has to his name, or…..

But controversy sells and since it is fashionable to condemn him, the legend of Sachin Tendulkar has also spawned an unsavoury assemblage of detractors.

I often encounter a strange manner of men who cannot hide their delight when the Indian cricket team loses or when Sachin fails. These critics revel in a kind of perverse, inexplicable glee and betray a peculiar elation as if they dearly wanted him to fail.

They glow with smugness when he obliges and then simper on long into the night, happy that he did not get enough runs, as if implying, ‘I told you! He shouldn’t be in the team’.

Some of these guys are close friends of mine, with whom I have had many innocuous squabbles over this, but woe is me for I have yet to crack that riddle: the pleasure one derives at the defeat of the national team or a national icon. Not that one wants people to mope over a loss, but to see some individuals jump for joy at a debacle seems just a tad inelegant.

Then there are those who pay left-handed compliments to Tendulkar, striving to appear neutral and knowledgeable: ‘Agreed he is a good player, but….’, ‘Nobody is denying his contribution, but…’ Always, ‘but’. Pretending to appear unbiased, these critics trawl through statistics to find some lever to hammer Sachin with. It’s like when you make a premise, faulty or otherwise, and then work backwards to conjure up data to fit your theory.

And these gentlemen are not irrational folk who harbour personal enmity against a player; it’s just that they get their kicks hauling him over the coals.

Well, it’s a free country, to each his own.

Yes, Sachin has not been playing as well as he is expected to. Tough when the towering standards you yourself have set need to be met, if not bettered, every time you go out to bat. But then the fan has an undeniable right over his object of worship: right to be dismayed at the idol’s failure, right to cry with him in his grief, right to question him when he plays a rash shot. Yet, it would be refreshing to see decorum even in this complex relationship: much like Sachin has maintained throughout his illustrious career.

Be that as it may, I dare say there are more people who admire Tendulkar than otherwise. He has been a splendid mascot, a sincere ambassador for the game and the nation.

To have kept his emotions in check for 23 public years in a sport that evokes as much passion as religion, and not trigger any controversy is astonishing. To keep success from going to his head despite enjoying the status of a demi-god in a cricket crazy nation is even more astounding.

But that is not what he is in the team for: not for his ambassadorial qualities, not for his stoic calm, not for keeping off controversies, not for being the gentleman and statesman he is, not for having scored a 100 hundreds: he’s there to score runs now, and score lots of them.

And since he isn’t getting any, maybe it is time for him to hang up his boots.

All good things eventually come to an end and so will Sachin’s glittering career, sooner than later. But till then, it would be graceful to just let him be. When he does call it a day, it will be a poignant moment.

Indeed, long after he retires, one debate will continue to divide people: whether he was the best batsman India or the world has ever produced.

For me, he will remain the greatest batsman I have ever seen. As for the fusspots, they can contest all they want. Who cares!

Also read:
Looking for the lost Tendulkar
Tendulkar needs to call it day
The persona behind the legend
Tendulkar keen to prolong career


Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

On Now: Hyderabad vs Rajasthan

On Now: Hyderabad vs Rajasthan

Rajasthan stumble in 134-run chase at Abu Dhabi. More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

As two of the most glamorous sides in the Indian T20 league, the focus of the match between Mumbai and Bangalore will invariably be on the middle-order… More »

BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srinivasan, says Manohar

BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srinivasan, says Manohar

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Pietersen ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Pietersen ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Beleaguered Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Beleaguered Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have an emphatic 8-3 lead in the head-to-head with Punjab, with one game tied More »

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad… More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

New-look RCB will play their first game of IPL-7 on Thursday. More »

IPL: News Line

IPL: News Line

A round-up of all the news from this season of the IPL. More »

Shane Watson issues moral warning

Shane Watson issues moral warning

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

Nepal players call off boycott

Nepal players call off boycott

Thaw in relations after formation of an advisory committee that would work in tandem with the Cricket Association of Nepal. More »