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Tendulkar at 33: Down and out?

Ageing is a fact of life. The genius may soon have to decide between Tests and ODIs, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 13:34 IST

Poor critics. Pen may be mightier than the sword, but certainly not the mighty blade of great Tendulkar.

Since India's biggest selling cricketing god has such a great record, it is almost blasphemous to have the 'Gulliver of our times being held down by Liliputians'.

Wasim would like the world to praise the Little Master come what may.

So what if Tendulkar's best years were in his mid-twenties when the Mumbaikar had Mark Taylor's Australians on the run in the 1998 Test series, and then Steve Waugh boys on the receiving end at Sharjah.

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Of late, Tendulkar is only struggling. Though he does deserve the praise for his resilience against injuries and criticism.

Tendulkar's Declining Average in ODIs

 Birthdays Mts Inns NO Runs Avg 100s 50s
 Between 28th and 29th 18 17 4 890 68.46 3 4
 Between 29th and 30th 28 27 4 1150 50.00 3 7
 Between 30th and 31st 19 19 1 915 50.83 3 4
 Between 31st and 32nd 15 15 1 508 36.29 1 3
 Between 32nd and 33rd 14 14 1 504 38.77 1 3

"Shame on all who dare suggest that Tendulkar stands between the team and the golden future," thunders Wasim. Rather strong statement coming from a top cricket analyst as India's future is not dependent on just one player post-Gavaskar and Vishwanath.

India has always moved collectively, with or without Tendulkar. Though the master blaster has undoubtedly been a key player for India, but so were Azhar, Kumble and Navjot Sidhu in the nineties, and Laxman, Dravid, Sourav and Harbhajan thereafter.

In a market that India is today, one's worth is measured in terms of immediate achievements. Unfortunately, and despite 'our best efforts', Tendulkar's immediate achievements are not much to boast about. Last one year has been disastrous for the birthday boy.

Tendulkar's worst five years in Tests (between Birthdays)

 Birthdays Mts Inns NO Runs Avg 100s 50s
 Between 32nd and 33rd 9 13 1 335 27.92 1 0
 Between 22nd and 23rd 3 4 2 58 29.00 0 1
 Between 16th and 17th 7 10 0 332 33.20 0 3
 Between 18th and 19th 5 9 1 368 46.00 2 0
 Between 23rd and 24th 15 25 1 1134 47.25 3 5

 Tendulkar in last two calendar years

 Year Matches Runs Avg 100s/50s
 2006* 6 146 20.85 0/0
 2005 6 444 44.40 1/3

If the Little Master indeed makes the trip to the West Indies, will he really be an asset for all his talent? It will be another of numerous comebacks from injury for the great man, and there is always a 50-50 chance of success or failure. Even if you are the greatest!

 Tendulkar before and after tennis-elbow

 Status Tests Runs Avg 100s/50s
 Before tennis-elbow 114 9470 57.39 33/37
 After tennis-elbow 18 999 41.62 2/4

Tendulkar indeed deserves, and will get the chance. He is good enough to prove all his critics wrong as he did in the ODIs against Pakistan in Pakistan. Kim Clijsters did that in the US Open in 2005, and Lance Armstrong did it throughout his playing career.

But if the performance fails to be Tendulsque, people would not like to forfeit their right to criticize.

In today's highly commercialized and democratic world, there are no sporting gods, there are only sporting icons. And they will have their share of criticism as much as the bouquets they will receive.

Past performances and reputations do not count in today's world. Public memory is short. People conduct after Tendulkar's dismissal, though shameful, proved that in Mumbai.

No one is infallible. Demands that the life puts on body in this highly competitive world are simply amazing. One of the fittest men in world cricket, Shahid Afridi wants to be out of Tests temporarily to save himself for the World Cup.

The likes of Shane Warne want to concentrate on only one form of cricket though Cricket Australia (CA) would desperately want him to be in the West Indies-bound World Cup team next year.

Ageing is a fact of life and the language of body is loud and clear, always and every time. Tendulkar may have to, soon, chose between the Tests and the One-day cricket.

Every Indian wants to see Tendulkar in full flow. Tendulkar is an addiction and the saddest day of Indian cricket in next few years will be the one when the great man says good-bye.

But surely, Tendulkar's stature does not take away anybody's write to speak out his mind, as long as the assessment is candid and factual, and not farcical and fictional.