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As dramatic as his career was, Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell happened to be a prolonged affair. Rediff.com’s Bikash Mohapatra summarises The Master Blaster’s gradual retirement from the sport in four acts.
There won’t be any more speculation.
No more of those endless Prime Time debates on the idiot box. And, certainly, none of those strongly-worded articles by former cricketers and columnists.
Instead, the next couple of months will be devoted to eulogizing, arguably, the biggest sporting icon this country has ever produced, even as he prepares for the final chapter of his cricketing career.
Yes, Sachin Tendulkar has retired.
The upcoming two-match series against the West Indies will be the master’s last.
In a 24-year career, Tendulkar ensured most cricketing records were accrued to his name. And, with this latest decision, he made sure he will call it a day with a final one, the second Test of the series – likely to be played on his home ground (the Wankhede) – being his record 200th appearance in the game’s longer format.
More importantly, by announcing his retirement one last time, Tendulkar has put an end to the barrage of criticism that has been hurdled at him in recent times. Truth be told, some of it was justified.
For a batsman of Tendulkar’s stature, the last three years were well below par. The batsman, who has 51 Test centuries to his credit, failed to reach the three-figure mark since his effort against South Africa at Newlands (Cape Town) in January, 2011.
Besides, there were repeated remarks about his technique, reflexes and even eyesight -- failure to read the ball, something that used to be a feature of his batting in his heyday – for that matter.
And the batsman himself complicated things further. For, just like his long and illustrious career, Tendulkar’s farewell also happened to be a prolonged affair.
Unlike most eminent cricketers before him, or many of his contemporaries for that matter, the Master Blaster’s did not leave the game at one go; instead, he preferred to quit in installments.
While his billion-plus fans were thoroughly entertained by his record breaking on-the-field exploits in 24 years as a professional cricketer, they also witnessed another endless saga, albeit off the field, in the last quarter of his career.
It’s pertaining to the retirement of their favourite player. Dramatic as his career was, Tendulkar’s gradual exit from the game also had its share of drama. In fact, it is kind of a play, with four acts to be precise.
Though not quite of Shakespearean proportions, it’s been engrossing enough to make his namesake (playwright Vijay Tendulkar) proud.
Click NEXT to read how it all panned out…
Farewell to T20 Internationals…
Tendulkar played just one T20 international in his career -- against South Africa in 2006.
When Team India visited the Rainbow Nation for the inaugural T20 World Cup, one that it subsequently won, he gave the tournament a miss. It was assumed that the player would no longer represent India in the game’s fledgling format.
The assumption was right. However, there was never a formal announcement to that end. It came in February 2009, just ahead of the two T20 games against New Zealand.
The master, while confirming his retirement from the same, explained he felt that team was a “winning combination” and he did not want to “disturb” the same.
At the same time, he clarified that he skipped the inaugural T20 World Cup because of fatigue -- after a long series in England -- and not because he had decided on quitting.
Tendulkar, at that juncture, pledged to continue playing in other T20 competitions like the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Champions League T20.
No more One-Day Internationals please…
For one with more than 400 One-Day games under his belt, Tendulkar failed to win the most coveted tournament in the format: the World Cup.
Despite excelling with the bat every four years -- he was the top scorer in the 2003 edition when Australia thrashed India in the final -- it took him six attempts to finally lay his hands on that elusive trophy.
His contribution in the tournament was significant. He scored two centuries -- against England and South Africa -- and averaged 48. Despite failing in the final he had the privilege of winning the coveted title on his home ground.
It was felt that the batting legend would quit on that high. He had 18,000-plus runs, 49 centuries and the World Cup.
However, he did not.
Tendulkar, though, drastically cut down on his One-day assignments, preferring to be choosy. He featured only in 10 more ODIs after that memorable triumph at the Wankhede, the penultimate of them being the Asia Cup game against Bangladesh, in which he scored a record 100th international hundred.
His last One-day appearance was against Pakistan in March last year. His decision to quit the format came ahead of the same team’s tour of India that December, just before the first match, to be precise.
By then, the team, as well as the fans, had got used to his intermittent appearances in the game’s shorter format. The decision, nonetheless, came as a shock. Fans took time to fathom its implication; the team felt it almost instantly. The series was lost.
Quitting on a high…
Mumbai Indians is the most high-profile franchise in the Indian Premier League, and Tendulkar their icon player.
However, despite spending millions the Mumbai franchise just could not put things together in the early years.
The sixth edition, earlier this year, ended that wait.
A comprehensive win over MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings at the Eden Gardens was always going to be the perfect IPL swansong for Tendulkar. He believed likewise.
The 40-year-old had missed the bus when the Harbhajan Singh led the Mumbai side to the Champions League Twenty20 title in 2011. Rohit Sharma’s side ensured he did not miss it this time.
The batting icon decided that the triumph -- against Rahul Dravid’s Rajasthan Royals -- was his final T20 match.
Here comes the final announcement…
Following India’s comprehensive 4-0 thrashing of Australia in March, Team India’s next Test assignment was supposed to be an away series against South Africa.
With Tendulkar two matches short his 200th Test, it seemed imminent that his landmark game would happen on foreign shores.
Then the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the Cricket South Africa were at loggerheads regarding the scheduling, and the former, thanks to its financial might, was quick to seize the opportunity and make sure the legend achieved the milestone in front of home fans.
An ad-hoc series against the West Indies was announced in no time.
What followed the announcement were reports in the media that the said series served as an ultimatum from the selectors to the player. With the selectors looking to build a team for the future, the legendary batsman was being given a respectable send off. Both the parties were quick to refute the same.
However, Tendulkar’s announcement on Thursday put an end to all the speculation.
The second match against the Caribbeans will not only be the 200th of his career, but also his last. That will bring down the curtain, for one last time, to a seemingly unending saga.
Tendulkar’s exploits with the bat will be remembered for a long time. The drama surrounding his protracted retirement, however, will be forgotten in quick time.