Sovereign of cricket to call it a day

With Sachin Tendulkar formally announcing his decision to retire from cricket at the conclusion of his 200th test match against the West Indies on November 14, I think it is only appropriate that I rerun a post I wrote on March 16, 2012.

His record so far is 198 Test appearances scoring 15,837 runs at an average of 53.86. From his 463 one day international matches he has has amassed 18,426 runs at an average of 44.83. He is the only batsman to score 100 international centuries — 51 in Tests and 49 in one day internationals.

While Tendulkar needs no more praise for his unquestionable genius in cricket, I think people get carried away while paying tributes to him. For instance,  Narayaswami Srinivasan, the president of Board of Control For Cricket in India (BCCI), has been quoted as saying , "No one has served Indian cricket as Sachin has.” A measure of emotional hyperbole on the occasion may be forgiven but Srinivasan makes it sound as if Tendulkar played the game gratis for 24 years.

What he should have said is cricket has served Tendulkar as much as he has served cricket. The rewards for him, both in terms of enormous wealth generation and ceaseless adulation, have been absolutely commensurate with his talent. So let’s take the bit about “service” out of it.

Here is what I wrote in March, 2012:

In the world of cricket there are some truly great batsmen playing precariously close to their genius. And then there is Sachin Tendulkar, who tickles genius as if it were an infant.

Twenty two years after he began his career as a 16-year-old whiz kid against Pakistan, Tendulkar has yet again delivered on every ounce of his great promise. He has just scored his 100th century. Other than the human weakness for well-rounded numbers (as in 100 100s), Tendulkar’s performance against Bangladesh today once more underscores that the man may have occasionally played below his genius but has never lost it.

The landmark century came a little over a year after his last century which he scored against South Africa. It would have been fitting had Tendulkar scored his 100th century by playing his trademark blistering straight drive past the bowler, but we will take what he gave us today which was a more modest single.

Of all the great strokes in cricket, there is none more dismissive and humbling of the bowler, particularly a fast bowler, than a straight drive past him. It is the batsman’s way of telling the fast bowler, “Suck on this, sucker” or something to that effect. What it tells the bowler is that “I think nothing of your bowling.”

Tendulkar’s straight drive is a work of art and needs to be forever installed in a great museum.

As of today, he has scored 51 centuries in test cricket, which is the original  long-form five day version of the game, and 49 in the quicker one day internationals.

In a country where cricket is a default religion, Tendulkar’s long-coming 100th century was becoming a source of national depression. Not that 99 centuries would make him any less of a player than he has always been but, as I said earlier, people like neatly rounded numbers. Let me grant this much—100 100s looks visually more elegant than 99 100s.

Now that he has accomplished it, a huge burden of expectation has been lifted from Tendulkar’s shoulders. He can choose to retire but I doubt if he would because not only his billion fans but he himself probably believes there is still a lot of cricket left in him. The next landmark could be his 50th 100 in the one day version of the game. Of course, there is no limit to such landmarks because they are, after all, just numbers. It is up to Tendulkar to determine when to hang his bat and gloves and pads and, yes, genius. Perhaps he would score 50th 100 in one day games soon and call it quits.

I wrote the following on February 28, last year.

Does it make any more sense to let Sachin Tendulkar play cricket at all? I think it is time to consecrate him inside a shrine where he is the only deity in front of whom the cricketing world stands transfixed, looking bewitched and saying "Kudart ki leela aparampar hai (Nature’s spectacle is relentless)." Once their awe is suitably struck the rest of the cricketers can then go on to pursue their own lower levels of deficient cricket.

For a long time I have felt that Tendulkar gets out purely on compassionate grounds or out of sheer ennui bred by a genius not fully challenged or tested.

Watching Tendulkar score yet another century against England yesterday, I began to think all over again about the futility of judging Tendulkar using cricket’s usual set of benchmarks or even judging him at all. For me it has come to a point where I would not mind if Sachin Tendulkar just walks out of the game even before his straight drive has bruised past the bowler. While he is leaving he can say, "Is this the best you got?", something which is totally out of character for him but still.”

Sachin Tendulkar is the ultimate sovereign of cricket. Let him do whatever catches his fancy, including retire.

***

I also wrote this on September 3, 2013:

It would be a neat conclusion to an epic career for him to score a double century in the 200th test. In fact, I would recommend that he score precisely 200 and declare his innings. That way he can satisfy the lust for silly symbolism that often characterizes his subjects.

In so much as anything can be ordained in cricket, here is a scenario Tendulkar might consider. Let him hit his trademark blistering straight drive past the bowler and score a boundary to complete his double century, take off his helmet, raise his bat skyward and then walk off the field amid a deafening standing ovation. Let there be a shower of marigold and roses even as Tutari players offer a pitch-perfect finale to the steady accompaniment of the Dhol. Let Lavni dancers in their nauvaris escort him back to the pavilion. How about that?

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About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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