Forty and out? Sachin Tendulkar’s big retirement question remains
India legend Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his 40th birthday on Wednesday, and Harry Kemble looks at his future in the game
India’s record-breaking batsman Sachin Tendulkar is planning a low-key celebration when he turns 40 on Wednesday.
The cricketing legend is known to shy away from the lavish parties that he is so often afforded in India – and his latest birthday will be no different.
In Kolkata – the City of Joy – the Little Master will attend a special cake-cutting ceremony, attended by the media and other dignitaries, before retiring to a small private party with his wife Anjali and close friends, ahead of the Mumbai Indians’ IPL match in the evening.
Yet despite Tendulkar’s attempts to dim the lights on his own party one question remains: when will he call time on his playing career?
For the last eight years, the argument has raged about when exactly the Tendulkar would end an international career that started back in 1989, aged just 16 and 223 days.
At the turn of 2006, Tendulkar went through a lean patch during his third tour of Pakistan and his first return to Karachi – where he made his Test debut.
He has accomplished everything in his 24-year career, having played in 198 Test matches and 463 one-day internationals – apart from Brian Lara’s Test highest 400 not out.
The Mumbai-born star has amassed 15,837 runs in Test cricket, averaging 53.86 while in ODIs he has hit 18,426 runs at an average of 44.83.
It is hardly surprising that he has become almost a religious icon in his home country.
His record across the world is unprecedented and his greatest achievement was when he notched his 100th international century last year.
But on turning 40, Tendulkar has joined a rather elite club of international cricketers – a club that only he is currently part of.
One player who knows what it is like to play against top-level opposition in your 40th year is Adam Gilchrist.
The ex-Australian batsman-keeper – who himself changed the parameters for wicket keepers across the world – joked that “it doesn’t get any easier” after your 40th birthday.
The 41-year-old, who is playing for Kings XI Punjab in the latest edition of the IPL, has endured a rough spell with the bat. His scores read: 15, 9, 0, 7, 26 and 4 so far in the competition.
Of course, it is difficult comparison to make when Tendulkar plays all year round, while Gilchrist is more akin to a club cricketer these days. But nonetheless it is a comparison worth making.
Gilchrist has seemingly struggled to dominate attacks in his six IPL innings so far, finding a variety of ways to get out in the competition’s latest edition.
Tendulkar, himself, has enjoyed mixed fortunes with the bat in the last two years since scoring his last Test hundred against South Africa in Cape Town in 2011.
His ongoing participation in the Test team has split India’s cricket adoring public almost down the middle.
Although you will never find an Indian who is not a Tendulkar fan, many hope that the batsman’s powers do not wane so much that the national selectors are forced to pull the curtain down on his career against the wishes of the man himself.
After retiring from T20 and ODI cricket, Tendulkar will play his next Test match this winter against the world number one team, South Africa, in their own backyard.
Versus the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, even the most devout Tendulkar supporter will question whether he making the right decision in playing on.
Then India move to New Zealand in the early part of 2014 and not to take anything away from the Black Caps (a fault that England were certainly guilty of on their recent tour) but it is hardly the swansong that Tendulkar’s stellar career deserves and then he will soon be 41.
When the question of retirement was put to him last week in New Delhi, Tendulkar lost his patience, which is no mean feat in itself.
“People have been talking about my retirement since 2005, but that does not worry me at all,” Tendulkar said to a group of reporters.
“Your job is to write, my job is to play. I will stick to my job and you stick to yours.”
It is difficult to imagine that the question has not come into Tendulkar’s mind, particularly after his respective retirements from both limited-overs formats.
But with one eye on India’s schedule it is hard to fathom how Tendulkar will, firstly, maintain his form and, secondly, ensure a befitting finale to his career without age creeping up on him.
Let’s hope that Tendulkar’s retirement party does not resemble his preference for birthday celebrations.