Sachin Tendulkar is a maximum five knocks away from retirement. And one must put emotions aside while conceding that India’s greatest batsman is most likely to quit without a blaze of glory. Tendulkar’s only international century since January 2011 came in a losing effort against Bangladesh. But even that glaring reality can be brushed aside when one speaks of Tendulkar. You’d always make an exception for him.
But this is the first time in 24 years when he has looked fragile and completely out of it, although Mumbai finished the opening day of their Ranji tie against Haryana on a strong note.
Consider this: The Tendulkar of old would have shown television cameras the bat manufacturer’s name after executing a straight drive. He’d have shown you how remarkably straight his blade was. That was the Tendulkar full of poise and perspicuity.
But on Sunday, he didn’t feel like the boss despite hitting one of those trademark shots. His seven-ball stint at the crease ended in the most slipshod way. Tendulkar hardly pushes at a delivery in a sloppy way. There’s always been a degree of fortitude in his approach.
But Mohit Sharma’s ball pitched on off, just short of good length and nipped back a bit with considerable bounce. Typically, Tendulkar, with his strong wrists, would have played the ball really late — one of his great qualities — to perhaps steer it fine.
Otherwise, he would have left it since there was so much bounce. He is one of the few Indian batsmen who can leave the ball on length and not just line. And a man with that level of skill just prodded forward in defence and the ball brushed his elbow and his thigh pad before crashing onto the stumps.
It was the bounce that did him in, after facing just seven deliveries. He would have survived on any other surface in India. And that’s saying a lot about the lively track here.
The Tendulkar of old would have gauged a wicket very quickly. He would have walked over to non-striker Ajinkya Rahane and checked how the surface was behaving.
But on Sunday, there was just that hint he was accepting the dismissal. It seemed to be keeping with his recent media comment that he wasn’t enjoying the sport any more.