When the Indian team was announced yesterday, one of the first things people wanted to know about was whether Sachin Tendulkar had decided to play or not. The rest of the team was inconsequential.
Were we troubled by the fact that Irfan Pathan was dropped despite being India’s highest wicket-taker since his comeback or whether Ravindra Jadeja deserved another go or by the fact that Praveen Kumar was given the miss too?
No, we really weren’t.
But to see Sachin opt out of another series was in the least bit… galling. Yes, he is a Rajya Sabha MP now but does that mean he can pick and choose when he wants to play? Also does that mean he can just waltz into the team without playing proper cricket? If someone does well in Sachin’s absence, should he be dropped as soon as the master batsman makes himself available to play for India again?
There was a time when the thought of Tendulkar not opening the innings for India was incomprehensible. We wanted to see him come out and smash the bowlers around. He also did things that no other batsman in the Indian team could. It doesn’t feel that way anymore.
India, on an average tends to play around 13 Tests and 30 ODIs a year. But over the last three years, Tendulkar has played less than half of those matches.
In 2009-10, Sachin Tendulkar played 14 ODIs for India. In 2010-2011, that number came down to 11 – buoyed by matches India played in the World Cup. In 2011-2012, after much deliberation, he played ODIs in Australia and the total number of ODIs, he played was 10.
Indeed, in a certain sense, we have got used to an Indian ODI team without Sachin. It doesn’t feel odd anymore. The opening slot is settled. Virat Kohli has done well at number three. We probably still need a Yuvraj – as and when he is fit – in the middle order but the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Manoj Tiwary will be trying to fit in there.
Is it fair that these guys were chucked aside no matter what their records are to accommodate Sachin again? Time and again, the selectors and others have spoken about the need for the seniors to come out and talk about their future plans. It’s time Sachin does the same.
How difficult can it be for Sachin to come out and say that “these are my goals”? There isn’t much left to achieve and he probably wants to continue playing Tests – which is why he hasn’t announced his retirement. So why is he still trying to keep his options open? It’s not like he’s been forced into a corner.
Selection Committee chairman Kris Srikkanth said: “He obviously would like to extend his career. He will focus on Test cricket in a big way and must be aiming at the England series, followed by Australia.”
Now, what does focussing on Test cricket in a ‘big’ way mean? The BCCI and Sachin leave things open to interpretation and then complain when people interpret them. So much has been left up in the air and it would take so little for a clearer picture to emerge.
Surely, the BCCI and Sachin can’t be in the dark as well.