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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Alvida Sachin from across the border

Today, the 23rd of December 2012, hundreds of millions of cricket fans around the world woke up to the news that the legend that is Sachin Tendulkar has announced his retirement from One Day Cricket, bringing to an end a 23 year old career. He retires from One Day International cricket as the leading run scorer in the format having scored over 18000 runs across over 400 one day games. This includes his 49th ODI century which he scored in the Asia Cup match against Bangladesh in Dhaka earlier this year. It will be a long while before cricket is able to produce a legend like him or some one challenges his run record in the game. 2012 can be labeled as some what a year of departures, just recently another legend,'punter' Ricky Ponting, the former Australian captain called it quits after the test series against South Africa.

For some time now, especially since the end of the 2011 Cricket World Cup in which India was triumphant that there have been calls by many for Sachin's axing from the Test and One day squad in light of his decline in form. Many of his supporters believe he was under pressure from the BCCI and his fans to go for one record after another, the record of reaching his 100th international 100th was the most talked about one, it was something that was expected out of him, every time he came out to bat the commentators debated whether this was the match that Sachin would reach his 100th international century. It finally happened in Dhaka during the Asia cup this year. It is entirely possible that maybe Sachin himself might have wanted to call it a day many months back, but the pressure of the fans and the cricket board to keep playing made him stay around. He after all had the reputation of being undroppable, he was after all the legendary little master, the one batsman tens of thousands of people flocked to stadiums to watch bat. The biggest evidence of that is the enormous support that the IPL franchise the Mumbai Indians got from opposition supporters at all of the grounds they played their IPL gaames. Sachin Tendulkar was not just for the Mumbai walas but for all of India and most of the cricket watching world.Some of India's home series where Sachin chose to sit out of such as the ODI series against England in 2011, the BCCI recorded lowest attendance of all time among home ODI series, confirming how much of a crowd puller Sachin was.

I have seen Sachin bat on the television for as long as memory serves me correctly. My earliest memories of Sachin while growing up were from the 1992 World Cup in Australia, followed by the Hero Cup in India. It wasn't until his 78th ODI that he scored his first ODI century, if I remember correctly this was in 94-95, and from then on it seemed as if they just kept on coming. My most memorable experiences of watching him Bat, include the One Day Century he scored against Sri Lanka in the 96 World Cup, the 141 he scored against Pakistan in Rawalpindi, his destructive batting in the 2003 World Cup and his first One day Century on Australian soil at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The last of which I had the privilege of watching first hand, I was present at the SCG, when the little master scored his first ODI century down under to ensure victory for the visiting Indian team against hosts Australia in the final of the Tri-Series. Being a Pakistani, Shoaib Akhter dismissing him for a first ball duck in front of a crowd of a 100,000 at the Eden Gardens is certainly up there.  The same Shoaib Akhter he tore apart in the 2003 World Cup at the Centurion. We were also hoping for final go at him in the upcoming series, alas that is not to be. The legend hat is Sachin Tendulkar has done a great service to the game, and legends of this magnitude do not come around every now and then, it may be another generation before we see the next little master be it from India or some other big cricket playing nation. He has out played and out lasted many legends that debuted around the same time as him, the likes of Lara, Akram, Inzi and the Waugh brothers. He cites his greatest moment, when India lifted the World Cup last year in Mumbai, his team mates lifted him up and paraded him around the Wankhede.

There will always be debates over whether this was the right time or not for Sachin to retire, for many of his die hard fans he should have kept going for a few more years, while some of his critics he should have signed off years back. His critics also kept emphasising that his presence in the team acted as an obstruction for many youngsters who were ageing while sitting on the bench. Like the legends Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting who also retired, maybe from Sachin's personal point of view, this was time to call it a day. He is yet to call it quits in the longer version of the game, but one can sense now that maybe that too is just a matter of time, maybe he is looking for that one final hoorah at his home ground, the Wankhade Stadium in Mumbai. Sachin you are already being missed and when ever you play your very last, that will indeed be a very day for cricket lovers around the world.

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