After a while – and it’s been a while – the mere mention of Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement is irritating.
But the true fear is this: Once he announces his retirement, the conversation will shift just as quickly to why; why did he announce his retirement; why now; what forced his hand; who can replace him?
Try as we might, there will be no escaping all the ‘retirement’ talk. The first time the question was raised it had some value and the thought – whether right or wrong -- was indeed genuine. But now it just seems like journalists ask the question because they can’t think of anything else.
Every press conference – the same question: ‘Are you thinking of hanging up your boots?’
Last night, at the Castrol awards, he was asked the very same question. This time, Tendulkar came up with a slightly different answer: “As long as there is a reason to wake up with a reason in the morning, it makes sense in continuing (playing cricket). The day I don’t enjoy wielding a bat in my hands, I will think otherwise. But that moment hasn’t come as yet. When I will get that feeling, I will confirm on that,” he said.
But you get the general drift don’t you... the man doesn’t want to go. He isn’t ready. If you’ve trusted him for so long, why not trust him to take the right decision one more time? Isn’t it better to just leave it at that?
There are even ads on radio stations in Mumbai that joke about Tendulkar’s retirement plans and more where someone impersonating Dhoni responds to Sachin’s decision to quit with a firmly tongue-in-cheek ‘Finally!’
One of these days, he might even lose his composure and have a go at some poor journalist, who was asked by his editor to ask that question one more time in that hope that it will finally trigger Tendulkar’s inner voice into action.
The journalists who ask the question, in turn, probably hope that Tendulkar will look at them and say, ‘Yes, I have decided to retire.’ Then the journalist will probably brag to his crew that it was his question which finally pushed Tendulkar over the edge.
But honestly, that isn’t going to happen. If indeed, then the reams that have been written about his retirement would have done the job long ago. (Suggested search term: Endulkar)
Hours after news of VVS Laxman’s retirement first leaked out to the media, almost everyone started talking about his 281 at Kolkata in 2001 or his many other brilliant knocks. A smaller group speculated on his decision to call it quits – why the immediacy? After all, the right-hander had been practising hard for the last two months to become ready for the NZ Test series.
But Laxman’s press conference put things into perspective for everyone.
“It was a tough decision but you have to follow your inner voice,” said Laxman in the press conference as he announced his retirement. “I’ve always read and listened to a lot of sportspersons saying that at the end of your career there will be a certain thought, a feeling within you which will tell you that the day has come when you have to leave the sport and move on.”
It was almost simplistic but it made the point. So if everyone can accept Laxman's inner voice telling him to retire, why can't they accept that, at the moment, Sachin’s inner voice is telling him to put his best foot forward for the country. Why is that so hard to believe?
Some of the comments on Firstpost and on Twitter, combined Laxman’s retirement with an opportunity to take a swipe at Sachin: So when will Sachin listen to his inner voice, they asked.
Well, here's why: Sachin’s record at the moment isn’t bad enough to force him into retirement. Laxman’s record was – which is why his inner voice was asking him whether he was good enough. Now, this isn’t an attempt to run down Laxman but for that sort of internal dialogue to happen, there has to be that trigger.
The 8-0 record that India had in Tests during the tours of England and Australia could have been that trigger. But the moment has passed. It claimed Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman but Tendulkar survived.
So now wait for another ‘moment’ or for Tendulkar to wake up one morning and not like the feel of the bat in his hand. But either way, for heavens sake, don’t ask the retirement question -- don't think India can take it anymore.
Rest assured, someday, it will happen.