"Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his 33rd birthday on Monday. Most cricketers can have nine lives and still wouldn’t go beyond the foothills of his achievements. Yet, there is a call for his head. The Gulliver of our times is being held down by the Lilliputs. Liberate him and you would still enjoy the genius of this man who has been one of the greatest cricketers ever to walk on this earth."
The words were published in the Hindustan Times one and a half year back on April 25. The author on Tendulkar’s birthday was the best left-arm pacer of all times, Wasim Akram.
Probably at that time, Wasim was little too harsh on the master blaster’s critics as Tendulkar was going through a big slump, which saw India losing a Test series in Pakistan. In that phase, the Indian team also suffered defeat against England in Mumbai when the team was bundled out for just 100 runs in their second innings. If there were calls for his head on his then form, the critics were perfectly justified.
But at 34 and a half, Tendulkar seems to have rediscovered himself. In the nine meaningful ODI matches of the tour (three against South Africa and six against England), he has accumulated a mind boggling 544 runs at an average of 60.4!
Also, the fluidity is back in his stroke-play and so is the aggression. Sachin is outpacing Sourav in virtually every match, and Sourav is both happy and content to let him be. The predator is back and so is his aura. The chance right now is that even if Tendulkar comes to the crease on a wheel chair, he might end up scoring a ninety!
Ian Chappell, while discussing Tendulkar’s retirement during the miserable World Cup campaign, had said that people come to watch Tendulkar dominate, not just score. And if he is not looking to dominate, he is playing for the wrong reasons.
Certainly, Tendulkar was not dominating at that time. At times he did appear to be in the team because he was the "great Tendulkar". Because he had been the most prolific scorer (ODIs and Tests Combined) of all times. Because he was still the most marketable star.
Not now. He is playing as well in the ODIs as he has ever had. So it was surprising to see the reports emanating saying he will retire from ODIs very soon. Mercifully, his wife, captain, Board and Sponsors denied the report before Tendulkar too chipped in.
The current form dictates that Tendulkar should go on and on. With 344 runs from six innings against England, he is a good 89 runs ahead of India’s second highest scorer in NatWest series, Yuvraj Singh, and promises to breach 400 mark.
Maybe he needs to carry his form and aggression a little more in Tests where he could average just 38 from his six innings with five batsmen, including Dhoni and Kumble, leaping ahead of him. Probably, the rumours of being tired of Tests would have seemed more logical!
The confusion, and then "sources reporting" started after Tendulkar talked about his physical state. But that is but natural. If even two days gap between the ODIs is not enough for Tendulkar, it is because so many ODIs and Tests have already been played on this tour. The first match of the tour was played ages back on June 23 in Ireland. Such long schedule can even test young souls like Dhoni and Karthik, what to talk of a 34-year old who has been battling the foes relentlessly for last 18 years.
The sure way not to get tired is not to score runs! If he is scoring runs, Tendulkar will certainly get tired. And looking at such a satisfying tour of England, whatever be the result in Lord’s, India will love a tired Tendulkar, not a retired one.