19.2.13

How Does It Feel?

How does it feel to be Sachin Tendulkar this week?

How does it feel to stand on the threshold of a series which will surely, one way or another, decide your future?

How does it feel to know, deep down, that your powers are fading and that what was once (to you, if no-one else) commonplace may now be beyond you?

How does it feel to be aware that bowlers who you used to dismiss from your presence can now get you out in ways they could once only have dreamt about?

You're in the autumn of your career. They know it, you know it, and they know you know it, even if, with your unshakeable determination, and pride, and refusal to be beaten, you're doing your best to deny it.

Professional sport is a harsh, unforgiving mistress. And professional cricket, where, ultimately, numbers are all, is tougher than most. As someone once said, time waits for no man, and this - fighting against the dying of the light - is what it usually comes down to. Some players have to face the reality that it is over in their third Test, or their fifth, or their fiftieth. No man has ever had to think about it in his 195th. We are all in uncharted territory.

There was a time when Australia set the standards for the whole world. Few could live with them, but you always could. In those innings at Sydney and Perth when you were 18. Those innings when McDermott, and Hughes, and Whitney, were, in Ian Healy's words, gunning for you. Or when you made 300 runs in the game back at the SCG to cloud Steve Waugh's final Test. Or when you made 155* to set up the win in Chennai and for once rendered Warne impotent.

You could do all these things and more. It seems increasingly unlikely that you will ever go there again, but the next few weeks will tell all.

As always, in times of stress and high moment, people have theories. Martin Crowe, no stranger to the ravages which time and physical decline can inflict on a pure technique, has advanced the view that it isn't your eyes that have gone, it's your legs. And someone else felt that you're hanging on simply because cricket is all you've known since you were a child on Shivaji Park and you can't conceive of a life without it.

I think there's something in that.

In any sport it is an awkward and uneasy thing for a great player to accept that his powers are in decline. Your old foe Ponting has recently done so, and it will be to his lasting credit that he got the timing of his decision so emphatically right. But it is hard. Whatever your outward modesty, you don't get to be recognized as the greatest batsman of your generation without an unshakeable sense of your own worth.

For you, though it is harder still. You have put more than twenty-three years of your near forty on earth into this. You are emblematic of what modern India holds itself to be - talented, positive, optimistic and immune to decline - and the end of your career will transcend the game in a way that no player's leaving ever could in the nations of the old cricket world.

No-one yet knows what the next few weeks will bring. But, if the worst comes to the worst, it is to be hoped that the decision will be yours alone.

For if it is taken out of your hands it will be the saddest and most inappropriate end to one of greatest careers the game has ever seen.

9 comments:

awbraae said...

Hypothetical situation: Tendulkar scores fewer than 100 runs across 6 innings in the first three tests. Do the selectors give him an ultimatum, i.e announce your retirement after the 4th test or we will drop you? Or has Sachin attained so much status that he will never be dropped or forced out?

Brian Carpenter said...

Interesting one. Much may depend on the selectors' perception of the public mood. If they feel they can drop him without being lynched, they will. If he goes on failing, they'll be failing in their job if they don't.

As I hint, I hope it doesn't come to that. I can see Tendulkar getting all four Tests, following which a decision will probably - unless he does really well - have to be made.

If his mediocre form of the last year continues, I hope he has the sense to call it a day before someone else does it for him.

yogesh said...

The times, they have been tough for Tendulkar. To his credit, what he has done well is to do what he does best- prepare. His recent knock in the Irani trophy is a precursor to him finding his feat, and the timing- in that order. A proud man, and a talented one at that- even the destiny can not deny him a swansong that he so richly deserves. For once let's just sit back. Let the music gather pace. This will be one unforgettable climax. Amen to that!

Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks, Yogesh.

You're right, he certainly stands a better chance with the Ranji and Irani runs behind him.

The next few weeks will tell all.

chrispscricket said...

An interesting start to those weeks.

I would have liked SRT to have scored a ton today- as reward for his part in a scintillating start to the India innings. Pattinson was bowling the fastest spell I have seen for some time; Starc not far behind him. Tendulkar's response was marvellous - a volley of boundaries. Dhoni, thrillingly, has capitalised on the advantage Tendulkar helped wrestle back from Australia.

chrispscricket said...

An interesting start to those few weeks.

I would have liked SRT to have scored a ton today- as reward for his part in a scintillating start to the India innings. Pattinson was bowling the fastest spell I have seen for some time; Starc not far behind him. Tendulkar's response was marvellous - a volley of boundaries. Dhoni, thrillingly, has capitalised on the advantage Tendulkar helped wrestle back from Australia.

Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks, as ever, Chris.

I think I fell into the trap of thinking that because he looked so poor against England (and NZ before that) SRT's slide was inexorable.

The innings in Chennai showed that it isn't. Well, not necessarily. He's made runs in Indian domestic cricket recently and those seem to have sorted out some general issues around his footwork and balance. You didn't have to see much of the Chennai knock to see that he was a different player - more technically assured and more confident with it. His thunder was stolen by Kohli's beautiful innings and Dhoni's epic, but it looks as though he's on the road to something like recovery. I can see him getting more runs later in the series.

Of course some might suggest that a younger Tendulkar would have left less of a gate and not been bowled by Lyon, but I seem to remember Michael Vaughan doing a very similar thing to him when he was a lot younger.

live score said...

I think that Sachin should retire at least now when he is performing but it seems that he hasn't learnt from his previous decision about his retirement from ODIs and T20s. The only good decision about retirement which someone has made is I think Mike Hussey so Tendulkar should learn from Mike and announce his retirement

Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks live score.

I agree, now is the time. After starting the Australian series well he fell away again and it's hard to see anything other than further struggles now.

Hussey and Ponting got it right. This is Sachin's last chance.

If he doesn't take the decision himself, the Indian selectors should do it for him, but I can't see that happening pre-South Africa, with 200 Tests up for grabs.

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