India under the leadership of Kapil Dev had won the limited over championship in 1983. However, those days we did not have access to television and 24/7 coverage. We acquired a TV set, however, coverage of cricket match was suspended for some government sponsored broadcast. When cricket broadcast was resumed, India had almost won the match. I did not watch Kapil Dev catching Viv Richards, that turned the game on its head. After 1983, I left for foreign shores for higher studies. So I did not have much oppurtunity to watch cricket matches. I did not know when legendary Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri among others retired. I did not see Sachin Tendulkar debut. did not see his match winning performances. Post 1995, I have followed cricket quite regularly. I have seen Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly started playing for India.
In India, Sachin Tendulkar is considered god of cricket. He has maximum number of centuries to his credit. He has numerous records under his belt. He has been playing since he was probably 14 or 16 year old, today his age is 40 years. Tendulkar has played many stellar innings in his life. One I remember is against Australia in Sharjah. Sachin has single handedly won the match for India. Around the time I started watching cricket, two teams to beat were Australia and South Africa. However, to the best of my knowledge, Sachin has never won us against these two teams by his brilliance. He might have scored many centuries against these teams, but those feat have not led to India on winning side. My most bitter memory is world cup final in South Africa. Facing a devastating Australian attack spearheaded by Glenn McGrath, most Indian batsmen collapsed, including Sachin Tendulkar. Another being, test match against Pakistan in Chennai. After doing all the hardwork, Sachin got out when India needed just 20 runs, more or less. Under relentless Pakistani attack lead by Wasim Akram, Indian tail enders collapsed and India lost the test. There have been many such instances. Most recent being cricket test between England and India in Wankhede, Mumbai in Nov, 2012. Almost all batsmen failed, including Sachin Tendulkar, against English spin attack.
Around same time of the year, when Australian great Ricky Ponting announced retirement from test cricket. there was a murmur in India that our great, who is now 40 year old should also consider retirement. There are many defenders of Sachin. Many felt he has given so much to Indian cricket, he must retire when he feels like. Others felt, selectors are too small infront of Sachin to either drop him or ask him to retire.
In my view greatness of a cricketer should be judged not only by number of centuries but under what circumstance these centuries were made. From this point of view, I think many Australians come out as great players of cricket. Because, when going gets tough, Aussies get going. There are many big game players like Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and now Ricky Ponting, in recent times. Extremely competitive players, Aussies do not give an inch on the ground, fight till the end and extremely abrasive to opponents, often used as part of tactical maneuvre. Despite their greatness, many Australians are asked to leave by their management.
In India, greats are never asked to leave, So they continue, despite poor form and hand eye co-ordination in the hope of a better tomorrow. This may show great respect to the player who has contributed for the game, but is bad for younger players as well as for the game. Finally, many Indian greats rarely stand up, exception Dravid, Laxman and Kumble, to rescue Indian team. We have seen such abject submission in many crucial situations in India, abroad, in one day format and in test format. We must respect our senior players and achievers, we must take care of them but we must also retire them in their glory days.
I do not know inspite of scoring many centuries, is Sachin not mentally strong to face pressure cooker situations and deliver? Is there a chink in his mental armor? Is pressure of expectation of one billion Indian’s is unbearable on Sachin? I think being the best player in the world, we would always expect Sachin to rescue India when all else fails. Sachin , and his supporters, cannot get away with an excuse that cricket is a game of eleven players, when every one fails what can Sachin do. But they are wrong. Sachin is not any other player, he is the best batter of the world!