Give Tendulkar some leeway

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We have not seen the last of Sachin Tendulkar in Test cricket yet. But the end cannot be far away. As in the case of a fading Roger Federer, once the greatest of them all, Sachin too faces a fade-out. We may not see again the Sachin who was unabashedly adored by millions the moment he walked into the arena. The whispers against him, being heard for a while now, have been growing more strident by the day.
In a sense, we are lucky to see him at all 24 years after he made his Test debut. But then time does not stop for anyone, not Sachin nor Federer. Both are in clear danger of diminishing their incredible sporting image, Sachin somewhat less so as he figures in a team game and any good innings immediately brings back images of his being just another knock away from being somewhat near his old self again.
The threat is clear to any ageing sportsman. In Federer’s case, empirical data is readily available in his not reaching, for the first time in many years, any of the four Grand Slam finals. In Sachin’s case, the averages tell the same kind of empirical tale although the odd innings like the one in the Chennai Test would engender a hope greater than what could be fulfilled considering the ravages of time on reflexes.
Whatever be the state of the little master’s batting, he deserves more than being brushed aside as a selection risk for the South African tour by the foisting this ‘Sachin farewell’ series.
This plan had been on the anvil for a long time now with Sri Lanka the likely visitors to fulfil the 200th Test record until they became politically untouchable because of the Tamils question and the fact that the Board’s — still-in-self exile president N. Srinivasan is also a Tamil and so not impervious to those ethnic pressures.
It has been in the air for a while now that the chairman of selectors feels it is time to move on and that the tour of South Africa was probably one too far for the champion. Whether the news is authentic or not, the question would certainly have cropped up at selection meetings. Instead of forcing an abrupt retirement decision on him as they did with the ODIs, the selectors may have thrashed out the issue with BCCI’s top honcho. As a person very interested in Sachin’s final hurrah being appropriately grand, NS could only have tried to help.
The way the decision was arrived at in a meeting at which the chief was present suggests he is still the power in the board even if he is not always in the chair. For this "Sachin Plan’ had been on the anvil for more than six months and ever since the first Test against Australia was rescheduled to be held in Chennai to accommodate the little master’s wish that he get his eye in at Chepauk, a favourite haunt of his in Test cricket after England had managed to cut him to size on the designer turners ordered by skipper Dhoni.
The series may seem too contrived for some but it’s a practical plan. How it works would, however, be unpredictable in a game of uncertainties. If the champion does go on to make a big hundred in one of two games he might be posing a dilemma to himself and the selectors.
It would be unfair to believe Sachin should be forced to see it as a great farewell feat and hang up his boots nor can he demand he be picked forever. It’s going to be a tricky time even for someone who would have been in the game for 24 years come November 15.
Given that we are a sentimental nation, it would be foolish to be overtly critical of a legend who may have stretched things a bit. The legendary all rounder Kapil Dev was allowed the privilege, so why not Sachin? What happened to Viv Richards on the eve of the World Cup of 1992 should not happen to Sachin.
Dropped from the team on the grounds that the West Indies never played a former skipper in the XI, the champion batsman was seen Down Under walking around distractedly buying tribal art while he should have been in the middle batting for Caribbean pride. Timing retirements can be nightmarish for the stars - just see the careers of Dame Melba or Frank Sinatra. Give Sachin a bit of rope please.

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