India may have easily trumped Australia 4-0 in the recently-concluded Test series at home, but the question marks over Sachin Tendulkar and his position in the team remain. It is all but clear that the selectors aren’t going to axe him, but how long can Tendulkar himself carrying on playing in the manner that he has been doing? The maestro has been struggling for too long now, and those who are trying to defend his poor scores by terming it as poor form must wake up to the reality. Tendulkar was turn 40 next month; his last Test century came in South Africa in January 2011.
The strongest argument against Tendulkar retiring is that India will need his services when they visit South Africa again, towards the end of the year. As per these pundits, Tendulkar will be the key with Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman having retired and Virender Sehwag unsure of his place in the Indian side. At the same time, it must be recalled that all the four big names mentioned above were part of the disastrous tours to England and Australia. Their name did not make a difference, their lack of runs did.
Dravid and Laxman did the right thing by hanging their boots post the debacle Down Under, albeit not instantly. It is about time Tendulkar does the same. When he is struggling so much at home, there are little chances of him doing well in the exceedingly tough conditions of South Africa. His recent performances have given a fair indication that the great man of Indian cricket is well and truly past his prime. Tendulkar was clean bowled time and again in the series against New Zealand by little-known bowlers, and against England and Australia, he registered only a half-century each.
It can be debated that India do not have a suitable replacement for Tendulkar at the moment. Well, there cannot be for a legend like him is a once-in-a-generation player. But similar theories were put forward when Dravid and Laxman were struggling. And look what has happened since their exits. Cheteshwar Pujara has made the slot at number three his own with some Dravid-esque knocks. Further, with no Laxman, Virat Kohli had moved up to number five and skipper MS Dhoni to six, which has only benefited the Indians, allowing them to slot in Ravindra Jadeja at number seven. Also, the axing of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir has given birth to a whole new promising opening pair – Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan.
On the question of who replaces Tendulkar, it could be none other than Sehwag. The Delhi batsman was after all a makeshift opener, who began his career in South Africa as a dashing middle-order batsman. Even if it is someone else, the fact that South Africa will be a tough place to debut shouldn’t be an excuse to keep a youngster away. Don’t forget India discovered Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid in England, and Indian cricket changed for good.
--By A Cricket Analyst