Legendary Formula One driver Michael Schumacher won his last F1 race at the Chinese GP in 2006. He announced his retirement in 2007, but surprisingly made a comeback in 2010. By then, things had changed; and probably the greatest F1 driver of all time failed to continue his magic on the race track, which was being dominated by the new drivers. But it was his passion towards the sport, the feeling of sitting inside his speeding machine that kept him going. While he was criticised by many for still being a part of the sport, it was something which was his passion; and thus, it took the German some time to finally call it a day.
Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting are going through a similar phase. Both have done exceptionally well for their respective teams and are legends of the game, no doubts about that. Punter is hailed as one of the finest batsmen, captains and fielders the game has ever seen and he has played a major role in Australia’s dominance over world cricket for several years. Tendulkar on the other hand is arguably the greatest batsman of all times. He has almost all the batting records in his kitty and has inspired the youth to watch and play cricket in a way that none has done. His mere presence can lead to panic in the opponent’s dressing room, which is a morale booster for his junior teammates.
But in recent times, Tendulkar and Ponting have both struggled to score runs at fluency. Curtains have been drawn on Ponting’s ODI career while he is almost on the verge of leaving Test cricket. Tendulkar too, hasn’t been able to deliver with the bat and critics have pitched in for his retirement. Both of them are passionate towards the game but unfortunately haven’t managed to score as many runs as expected. And fans are aware what cricket means to both of them, but to a certain extent, their consistent failure is hampering the performances of their respective teams in some way or the other.
The big question is: which of these two legends is under more pressure? The Australian selectors follow the ‘perform or perish’ policy. It was his poor form in just one series that drew the end to Ponting’s ODI career. The Aussie is under tremendous pressure as most of his teammates are performing well. While Clarke is in an incredible purple patch, others like Michael Hussey, Shane Watson and David Warner have been scoring big every now and then. Ponting himself has admitted that he`s now at the mercy of selectors and the end could be near after back-to-back failures against the Proteas in the ongoing series. It is just a matter of time when he is asked to retire from all formats of the game, if not dropped.
Meanwhile the ‘cricket God’ himself is living on the edge. The master, who recently got the monkey off his back by scoring the much-awaited 100th ton, hasn’t lived up to the expectations with the bat. While we thought he would be able to score fluently after his 100th ton, that hasn’t been the case and New Zealand, England have all breached through his defence time and again – a sight too painful for Indian fans and his teammates.
But when compared to Ponting, Tendulkar seems to be under less pressure. After a spectacular career, we all can expect that the Little Master will be given the opportunity to announce his retirement in advance, rather than being unceremoniously dropped from the squad. The reason being the Indian selectors have never followed the perform-or-perish policy; and apart from a few players, none has performed well for India recently. The future seems bleak. The Little Master too is going through another tough phase, not as much as Ponting’s maybe, but one where his every inning, every move is being related with cricket.
While Ponting has been a part of three World Cup victories, Tendulkar has given the cricket fraternity uncountable memorable moments. Punter had shown the world what it was like to be the skipper of the World’s No. 1 team for almost a decade. No one can forget what he did to the Indian bowlers during the much hyped 2003 World Cup final. Tendulkar, on the other hand, played some of the best knocks the game has ever witnessed in all parts of the cricketing world.
Australia and India have always played competitive cricket. It is impossible for the fans of both the countries to imagine cricket beyond their heroes. But sooner or later, that stage will arrive. We all would want a fitting end for their spectacular careers and would want the two legends to leave with their heads held high.