From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.34 :: NO.13 :: Mar. 31, 2011
After three long weeks watching the World Cup — in my part of rural Cambridgeshire the matches sometimes begin at 4 a.m. and others finish just before TV's Ten O'Clock News — we grew so tired of the big hitting, the high speed fast men and the repetitive advertisements that we began to worry about Sachin Tendulkar's future.
Not that we visualised his later life ending in penury. Even from so far away we hear stories of great riches, splendid houses and a lifestyle every Lottery winner might envy.
It is a fair bet that — even if India do not win the World Cup — this will be Sachin's tournament, a glowing triumph in a cricketing career filled with glory and a wonderful climax to a marvellous sporting life.
So there is probably no need for us to wonder how he might fill in the hours when — like that other veteran of veterans Sir Alex Ferguson — he wakes one morning to find the game all too much for him.
Sachin may not realise it now but one day he will suddenly come to the conclusion that there must be more to life than aching hips, groaning knees and ankles that swell in the night.
I hope that so far he has none of these complaints but I feel I must tell him that the day will come. The super fit Sir Richard Hadlee needed hours and help to get out of bed at the end of his career. Tom Wass, another Nottinghamshire bowler almost a century before Hadlee, bowled such ferocious leg breaks at pace that his fingers stuck to the palm of his hand before he called it a day.
I also know a dozen or more former cricketers who need medical help to straighten out fingers, especially if they turn to the apparently less demanding task of writing.
Sachin will not need to work but surely such an active brain will require some satisfaction when he puts his bats, gloves, helmet and pads in the attic for the last time.
No doubt a dozen international firms will invite him to be their message carrier, beyond question cricket's administrators will ask him to join their brains trust and as for media work, both on TV and in the papers, he will be inundated with offers.
After the cheers, the thrills and the glamour of cricket, will these roles bring him satisfaction? Most of the cricketers I have spoken to who have chosen to live on the edge of the game after their retirement made no bones about it. Ten years on they yearn for the days when they had to fight for wickets, runs and catches.
There is one exception and if Sachin is wise — and the question of retirement is even at the back of his mind — he will have a long chat with Mike Atherton before the World Cup comes to an end.
Atherton was able — like Sachin — to pick and choose his way forward when he laid his old cricket bag aside. Once a joker painted FEC — for Future England Captain — on the box. No one suggested for a minute that it later stood for Forgotten England Captain and, happily, Atherton never missed his old life.
“It was as if that was a different person who played all that cricket,” he said.
Recently he has won a second successive annual award for his writing in ‘The Times' and it is admirable stuff. A recent article about Kevin Pietersen's return home injured seemed to me to miss the point but it was a fine piece of journalism.
Pietersen is not in the same mould as Atherton who took pain killers for the last 10 years of his career and never wanted to shirk his duty as player and captain. Neither could Atherton play the Pietersen game; like the double century that won the Ashes six months ago.
Atherton has shown Sachin one path down which he may care to walk but can any cricketer put to one side so many achievements?
Just to prove my point I will finish by showing the top dozen century men from both Tests and ODIs. Tendulkar is first, of course, but for how much longer? We trust he will devote his considerable discipline and concentration to another life.
The list goes: Sachin Tendulkar 99, Ricky Ponting 68, Jacques Kallis 57, Brian Lara 53, Rahul Dravid 43, Mahela Jayawardene 42, Sanath Jayasuriya 42, Matthew Hayden 40, Mohammad Yousuf 39, Mark Waugh 38, Sourav Ganguly 38, Virender Sehwag 36.
This list proves so many points. Note how many Asian batsmen are included, all from the modern era and the absence of Don Bradman from an era when international one-day cricket was unknown. The Don admired Sachin among all the modern players and there is no harm in conceding that if he had played in this era Bradman would have been hot on his heels somewhere around the top.
What a contest that would have been. We can only imagine the rivalry, the headlines, the television hype as they approached the century mark step by step.
No matter. Sachin's feats deserve to be applauded and it would be appropriate if an updated table were to be created in stone and erected to honour him — maybe at Lord's but more to the point in Mumbai — where all cricket lovers will want to pass by and marvel. Long after his day is done.
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