How we wish there had been no full stop to the careers of Pele, Diego Maradona, Michael Jordan or Don Bradman. We just couldn’t have enough of their dazzling brilliance on the sports arenas. But then reality bites, it’s a day that comes. Retirement is the most difficult decision, especially when you have ruled the turf. Few have been blessed to finish with grace.
It’s the turn of our biggest sports icon, Sachin Tendulkar. The cricket world is keenly watching the master’s last moves. Can he get it right for the final time? Regarded by the Australians as a modern-day Bradman, it has been with some anguish that the cricket fraternity there has watched his struggle against ageing in the current series, two months shy of turning 39.
Australian batting great Neil Harvey, who was part of Bradman’s team on his farewell tour in 1948, believes Tendulkar will be better off if he quickly comes to terms with the fact that he’s past his best. The verdict is significant as Harvey too has been an admirer of Tendulkar’s game, like his illustrious teammate.
Rivals in the same boat
Harvey said Tendulkar might face Ricky Ponting’s fate if he continued to play beyond his time, pointing to the unceremonious axing of the modern day Aussie great from ODIs.
“Ponting should have retired when he lost his captaincy 12 months ago, for the simple reason he has no future in Australian cricket; it’s the same as Allan Border and Steve Waugh, who played too long to become liabilities. They played for their own interests. He should have gone gracefully, instead of going through the ignominy of being dropped,” Harvey, who played 79 Tests from 1948 to 1963, told the Hindustan Times.
“It’s a classic example of playing for yourself and Tendulkar is going the same way,” he said. “I agree with Kapil Dev (who said Tendulkar should immediately retire from one-dayers). He has been disappointing. He normally doesn’t stop at 70 and 80. The body is not as strong, the reflexes have slowed and the footwork is slow.” However, he would like the players to make that call themselves. “They should admit when the time’s up and leave when on top. Many players keep on playing, not for the future of Australian or Indian cricket but for themselves.”
Harvey felt the current generation’s reluctance to leave has a lot to do with lucrative careers. “They are not doing it (leaving) because of the money.” Tendulkar’s dilemma is different. It’s not about the money; his glorious cricket career has got stuck on the 99th hundred. “He has been trying all summer, he hasn’t done it and has a game or two left.”
Legacy will be intact
As far as his legacy is concerned, he will be better off with 99 hundreds than getting a hundred against a weaker team.
It will not diminish his greatness, said Harvey. “I don’t think it matters, why should it? A lot of blokes have got out for 99. If your time’s up, it is up! May be, he will get it against a weaker team like Bangladesh, it will depend on how badly he wants it.”
Harvey said Bradman served a good example by making the retirement call at the right time at 40 when he played his last Test, but Harvey revealed he had taken the call on retirement before his final tour. “Don didn’t want to go to England. He knew at that stage of his career, he had become like what Tendulkar is now — that is, not as good as he used to be. But there was pressure on him from England (cricket fraternity) and he went as a favour to England.”