During the last week of December 2012, I spent most of the time travelling in trains. On one such afternoon after a hearty lunch and good sleep, I was going through my Facebook account on my mobile. The first status said, “RIP ODIs.” Curiosity got the better of me, and I scrolled down the timeline to another update that said, “End of an era! Cricket will henceforth be remembered as – Before Sachin (BS) and After Sachin (AS).” I started searching for other updates and the timeline was full of shocking status updates from fans who were discussing whether Tendulkar should have retired from the ODIs.
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Being a Tendulkar fan, it was a shocker. But as per reports, he had been contemplating about it for the last few months and the news was just round the corner. Finally, there it was. In my previous article, I had mentioned how Tendulkar struggled with the bat in 2012. While he has entertained the cricketing fraternity for 23 years, it was a tough task to digest the fact that the Little Master had given up on the coloured jersey in the most unceremonious manner. That too when a much-awaited series was about to kick off.
India and Pakistan were playing in a bilateral series after a gap of five years. The excitement of the series was marred to a certain extent by Tendulkar’s announcement. The step was ta
ken all of a sudden and no one had a clue about what made the Master Blaster retire in such bizarre fashion.
When India were to play Sri Lanka in the final of the ICC World Cup 2011, the cricket fraternity predicted Tendulkar would announce his retirement at his home ground, if India go on to lift the coveted trophy. The fans thronged the Wankhede Stadium, not only because India once again made it to the final of a World Cup, but more importantly, to see Tendulkar bat, probably, for the last time in ODIs. What followed that night was a double bonanza for the fans. India clinched the World Cup and Tendulkar said he had no plans of retirement.
So, Tendulkar’s announcement ended all speculation about his retirement. It was good news for the cricket fans as their cricket world wasn’t complete without the Little Master. The fans were relieved as they would get to see more from the Little Master. That wasn’t the case and with each innings, Tendulkar looked uncomfortable at the crease. While he contributed with the bat in the England and Australia series, his performance in the ODIs was under scrutiny. Since the World Cup, he played in a suffocated environment where whenever he went on to bat, the hundredth century was expected.
Tendulkar the legend found it hard to live up to the expectations of the fans who wanted nothing less than a century from the Little Master. Over the last one and a half years, Tendulkar had seen lots of ups and downs and surprisingly lost temper at times as well. He was a dejected figure when Southee bowled him in the home series, when he raised his bat as if he was about to hit the stumps.
Speculations were rife that the master will retire. His every move was being connected with his retirement. When his wife Anjali came to watch him bat at the Nagpur Test, we all thought it was a signal that Sachin would soon call it a day. Reports also said that Tendulkar had discussions with the board members about his future in the team.
I reckon each and every cricket fan wanted to see him bat for one last time in the ODIs. With Pakistan series scheduled just at the right time, Tendulkar left his fans in a state of shock by suddenly drawing curtains to his ODI career and also by spoiling the New Year party for most of his fans.
It will always remain a mystery as to what made Tendulkar retire in this manner from the ODIs. A player of his caliber didn’t even hold a press conference to announce his retirement, neither did he give his fans a chance to watch him bat in the coloured jersey, for one last time. The Indo-Pak series was played with the same rivalry, but the difference was felt with his absence.
The beginning of 2013 hasn’t been impressive for the Indian team. The determined Pakistani side has outclassed Team India in all departments of the game. Watching arch-rivals win a series on home turf is painful; realizing that they did so with a team without Tendulkar is even more heart breaking. For sure, there is nothing to be happy for the Tendulkar fans, beginning 2013.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)