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Always ahead

His thinking is extraordinary and he is always a step or two ahead of the game. He has done what he feels is best for himself. VVS Laxman writes.

india Updated: Dec 24, 2012 02:58 IST

It came as a shock to hear of Sachin's retirement from limited-overs cricket. Nothing in life is permanent and Sachin isn't getting any younger, but even so, it was a surprise when the announcement actually came.

No one is in a better position to decide how he wants his career to pan out than Sachin himself, and while I would have loved to see him go on forever, I respect his decision.

Team over self
It would have been easy for him to retire after the World Cup last year. He would have gone out on a high, with everyone eulogising him, but that's Sachin. He has never thought about himself and about personal glory. It has always been how he can contribute to Indian cricket.

After the World Cup victory, he had nothing more to achieve, but his passion to do well for the country kept him going.

I have seen from close quarters the terrible injuries he has had to endure, and I am sure he would have been tempted at some stage not to put his body on the line again. But such is his commitment to the team's cause that not only did he continue to battle pain, he has also continued to perform for the country.

Unfair demand
The last few months have seen a clamour for his retirement, leaving me deeply pained. Till he got to his 100th ton, everyone was talking about when he would get there. Once he reached that milestone, the attention turned to when he was going to retire.

Yes, it hasn't been the best phase of Sachin's career, but knowing how much pride he takes in his performances for the country, he must be hurting a lot at not living up to his standards.

Sharjah blitzkrieg
I consider it a privilege to have had the best seat in the ground when he destroyed Australia in the sandstorm match at Sharjah in 1998. From the non-striker's end, I saw him single-handedly ensure that we made it to the final, and he did so by demolishing the attack.

The strokes he played were exemplary - good ball or bad, it simply had to go to the ropes. Between overs, he hardly reacted when I spoke to him. You could see from his eyes that he was in the zone. He was not aware of the tension in the air, the buzz in the crowd. It was him, the Australia attack, the ball and boundary ropes.

The transition came when he started to open the innings in 1994. Suddenly, the pressure was on the opposition bowlers because he was at them from the first ball, all aggression and fire. Apart from being able to pierce the field or hit over the top, Sachin was also an excellent runner between wickets, so brilliant at rotating the strike and frustrating the opposition captain.

To get a double hundred, at nearly 37, also showed his fitness and hunger. It was a great achievement and we all felt proud that he was the first to get 200 in ODIs. But we must also not forget that he was a very handy bowler, either with his medium-pacers or spin.

In a crunch situation, he often volunteered to bowl, most famously in the Hero Cup semifinal when he bowled the last over with South Africa needing six runs, and ended up conceding only three! His thinking is extraordinary, and is always a step or two ahead of the game. One-day cricket will be poorer with his retirement, but Sachin has done what he feels is best for himself and Indian cricket.

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The writer is a former India batsman