There are two possible interpretations to Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from one-day games. One is that his departure from the ultimate stage, Test cricket, is nearing, which means the selectors need to prepare to plug that huge void. The other is that he’s saving himself for yet another record: the first batsman in history to play 200 matches.
India’s recent travails against England showcased the fragility of the middle order, once home to Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. Three of those titans are gone; now the fourth — a much diminished presence in the recent series — has one foot out of the door. There aren’t many young Turks threatening to knock down the selectors’ gates. Rohit Sharma has spurned his chances and both Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina seem to be more suited for the less stern examinations of one-day cricket. Cheteshwar Pujara may be a soothing presence more reminiscent of Dravid than Tendulkar, but he and Virat Kohli are two key pieces that could plug the jigsaw puzzle confronting the selectors.
It’s an awkward time for India. The wheels are coming off the batting, and the spin cupboard is looking bare. Fast bowlers, such that exist, are prone to injury and lacking experience. What beckons is a rapid descent down the rankings or, at best, a period of languishing at the middle of the table — galling for a side that was No 1 not too long ago.
So what about the interpretation that Tendulkar is preserving himself for a crack at 200 Tests? Surely, that would provide the middle order support through another difficult season. It would also gladden the hearts of India’s statistically minded fans. But it’s a bad idea. If Tendulkar were to go, India would struggle, yes, but that would force some soul-searching and perhaps, an emphasis on encouraging solid players to come through the ranks. India did manage to replace Sunil Gavaskar. One of his eventual successors, Virender Sehwag, won us many games. It should be possible with Tendulkar. As to the statistic, it is a load of nonsense. Tendulkar already has all the records he needs, and any more are meaningless if the team continues to lose.