At first there were three, now there's one. For around a decade, Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting were the dominant batsmen in world cricket but following the Australian's retirement announcement, the Indian maestro will stand alone.
While Tendulkar might still be
upright, he's no longer dominating attacks. It'll be interesting to see if Ponting's announcement has any affect on Tendulkar's future.
Ponting's decline was partly age related but it was also hastened by allowing himself to be talked out of batting at number three.
Some players are born to bat in a prime position and Ponting was a number three. The moment he acquiesced to move down the order, he was admitting there were some doubts creeping into his mind. Despite coming into the South African series with plenty of runs under his belt, those doubts arose again after a couple of failures.
Following his retirement, Ponting will be remembered as one of Australia's finest batsmen. He'll also be admired for the way he played the game. He was fiercely combative and everything Ponting did on the cricket field, whether it was batting or captaining, was done with the purest of aims; to help win the cricket match for his team.
True to his word
Ponting declared before the start of this international season that he would know the right time to go. He was true to his word and left before each new innings had his team-mates on tenterhooks, hoping this would be the one where he broke out of a lean trot. On the other hand Tendulkar, at almost two years older, has the Indian population waiting with baited breath for him to brush aside a slump.
Playing for stats
Tendulkar's decline has gathered speed since he concerned himself more with the statistical side of batting rather than constantly seeking a match-winning contribution.
The accumulation of centuries became his search for the Holy Grail.
No player is indispensable and the Indian selectors should know better than most. Following the retirement of that wonderful servant Rahul Dravid, he's been adequately replaced at number three by Cheteshwar Pujara.
The selectors have no excuse for not hastening the succession process, as they've had the choice of a number of ready-made young replacements. Australia would willingly trade one of their prominent young fast bowlers for a choice from the skillful group ranging from Rohit Sharma to Unmukt Chand.
Part of being a good selector is about giving a young player the best chance to succeed.
Promoting him when he's in prime form is an obvious move but other more subtle decisions can also lead to a successful conclusion; like selecting the player to debut at a favoured ground or against lesser opposition.
When it comes to ageing star players, the selectors can maintain the status quo and know that sooner or later their indecision will be vindicated when the champion finally posts a score.
However, in the meantime, young players will be denied an opportunity and eventually their "right moment" will pass.
India are fortunate to have skillful and youthful replacements but there's more chance the Dalai Lama will be replaced than Tendulkar moving aside.
Consequently, it's up to Tendulkar to replicate Ponting's decision and make sure the timing of his retirement is as exquisite as one of his flowing cover drives.
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