I have known Sandeep Patil for over two decades, first as a colleague and then as a coach. Having worked with him professionally, I know he is a stickler for timing. I might add here that he pretty much does his own thing without worrying about what the next guy is up to — one would say to the point of being oblivious of what is happening around him.
To read in the media that he had an explanation and clarification to offer — on a purported conversation with Sachin Tendulkar over the latter’s retirement plans — was very unlike Patil. For an otherwise reticent chairman of selectors issue a press release must have been more than important for the mandarins at the BCCI, it seems.
Dousing the fires
The speculation from the media that Patil had spoken to Tendulkar on his retirement plans and allegedly given an ultimatum had rightly disrupted the peace and harmony of a smooth passage in the tenure of this selection committee, given that Indian cricket’s “ on field” performances had been encouraging and promising.
Any matter that has to do with Tendulkar is always a grave one in India. When it is a celebration, it bonds the nation, when it is contentious it divides India.
The space it gathers in the media makes it a national subject for debate.
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So the clarification from the chairman of selectors can be justified. It also sends out two messages: one, that the speculation is the figment of someone’s imagination and, two, the chairman was instructed to give this clarification to douse any speculation over past discussions on the issue.
Tendulkar’s availability to play Test cricket is known to all including the selection committee. His availability is indicative of his desire to play Test cricket and end all discussion on his imminent retirement plans. So, the question of his retirement is a non issue at the moment. The decision to select a player to represent India/ BCCI lies solely with the selection panel in consultation with the captain or the other way — which makes him available for selection subject to the various parameters that hold for others.
Form, faith, fitness, experience, become key grounds for selection. So, to select him, if we were to go by the book, it would be the selectors’ and the captain’s call.
Sachin’s 200th Test appearance may be a landmark for cricket fans but it may not be so for the player himself.
Over a 23-year career it becomes another important match with a focus on performance. After all, even a Beethoven did not count his performances after a certain stage in his illusthis trious and celebrated career.
If performances could be guaranteed, Eric Hollies would not have been the man to deny the great Don Bradman a Test average of 100. So, to assume that Sachin will score in every Test match he plays would be expecting too much even from a human with exemplary skills, ability and work ethic.
Forty is not quite the age to looking too far ahead in international sport. It would certainly be a day-to-day feeling, a situation where one lives for the moment or stay in the moment. The desire, urge and the joy from playing the game is something only the player in question can gauge and derive for himself.
The world at large might have a view and an opinion of the situation but to convince someone who believes otherwise would be very difficult. Tendulkar may still visualise flashes of heroics that he can offer to the game and more importantly his team. To deny him the choice of turning that dream into reality would be a tad unfair. To question his good form or lack of it is fair but to question his ability would be unfair at this stage, specially when he has not started the season.
Great performers rarely get inspired by rehearsals so to be judgmental of his form in short format gigs like the T20 would be unmerited and futile at this point in time.
A new season is a good time to keep an eye on form, specially when one has not played too much cricket out in the middle.
The feet, the poise, the balance, the reflexes will all tell you if age has caught up — and believe me age can catch up overnight. The two Tests that Tendulkar plays against the Windies should tell him a story that he will assess quite brutally. In his case it might not be only runs. It could just be the feel and the poise he feels in the middle that has given him this feel- good mindset through a long, long career For someone, who, like Dravid has been brutally honest with his cricket, it will be a Test of looking inwards and being able to put a finger on the right button on where he stands in the scheme of things.
Having watched him as most cricket lovers across the world have over two decades, one suspects he will be brutal, honest and razor sharp in assessing himself — not so much in the runs he makes or does not make but more so in the form and feel of holding his poise that he has done so admirably over two decades.
This may make life easier for Patil and company and help them breathe a little comfortably because the last thing this committee would want is to sit in on a meeting to debate the fate of arguably India's most skillful batsman.
(The writer is a former captain of the Mumbai cricket team.)
Reproduced from Mail Today. Copyright 2013. MTNPL. All rights reserved.