Mumbai: There is a limit to the pain that the faithful can endure. There comes a time when even the most devout raise doubts about the deity.
For millions of Sachin Tendulkar fans, that day arrived at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday, when the master batsman looked all at sea against the left-arm spin of Monty Panesar.
The way Tendulkar pushed and prodded, and generally struggled to put bat to ball before he was put out of his misery, the realisation would have dawned on cricket lovers — it is high time that the curtain came down on the illustrious 23-year career.
A few months ago, there was a raging debate about Tendulkar’s technique and reflexes when he was repeatedly getting bowled off the seamers.
It was argued that age was finally catching up with the cricketing god.
A hundred for Mumbai against Railways in the Ranji Trophy had raised hopes that a second wind was around the corner and the visiting Englishmen were about to pay, but the first two Tests of the series have shown that it is not the case.
Scores of 13, 8 and 8 are a sad reflection on the current state of one of the all-time greats in the game.
It is ironical that one of Tendulkar’s most illustrious contemporaries, Ricky Ponting, is also going through a similar phase, and is probably just one bad Test away from getting the axe. But while the Aussie selectors are known to be ruthless in getting rid of the dead wood, their Indian counterparts don’t display such spine.
Tendulkar can do worse than emulating his idol Sunil Gavaskar, who bid adieu when he was still making runs. In fact, his last Test innings – an epic 96 against Pakistan on a square turner in Bangalore – is still remembered as one of the greatest knocks by an Indian.
Tendulkar last reached three figures in a Test in January 2011 and the wait for his 100th international ton lasted for more than a year.
When it finally arrived – against minnows Bangladesh in the Asia Cup – the slow pace at which he scored was a reason for India’s defeat.
Tendulkar has achieved whatever there is to achieve in the game and his crowning glory came on his home turf last year when India won the 50-over World Cup.
Now, it is the same Wankhede Stadium that was witness to the most brutal example of his waning powers. It is argued that with advancing age, footwork gets slow and one is especially susceptible to express bowling.
Now, it is evident that Tendulkar can’t even deal with decent tweakers. For a country which prides itself on having the best players of spin bowling, it is the last straw.
Tendulkar has admitted that he has been thinking about retirement lately. If he goes through his last few innings, he may not find it too difficult to arrive at a decision in this regard.