Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting are two of a kind having played 192 and 167 Tests respectively till the end of the Mumbai and Adelaide Tests. One is 39 years old and the other 37. Both legends. Walking into the twilight of their careers.
They charted their career with mind-blowing performances. They top the all-time batting records with 51 and 41 Test centuries. They bring tons of experience and an Everest of runs. Tendulkar has scored 15,562 runs while Ponting has 13,366 runs in Tests, leave alone their runs and centuries in one-day cricket.
They have been entertaining and have destroyed all attacks in the world in the last two decades to leave their mark as the game’s greatest batsmen.
Ironically, the two are shaky, uncertain and teetering on the brink. Tendulkar and Ponting, so accustomed to be in the limelight and be among runs, are a poor shadow of the past. Take the case of Tendulkar’s last ten innings which have been astonishingly low. The sequence being: 8, 25, 13, 19, 17, 27, 13, dnb, 8, 8.
This is one of the poorest runs since 2004. That time he was affected by tennis elbow but came back strongly to make a strong statement with the bat. It sadly reflects the decline of Brand Tendulkar. His defence has been breached at an alarming rate — five times bowled and twice leg-before. The last big innings came in 2011 when he was on a high, slamming 146 against a strong South Africa attack at Cape Town.
The magic has waned although the maestro has said he has plenty of cricket still left in him. Tendulkar, who has completed 23 years of cricket, struggled against the left-arm spin of Monty Panesar in the Mumbai Test. In both the innings, he was beaten by flight, turn and bounce and was out bowled and LBW. A few years ago, he would have smashed the bowlers, trusting his defence and his strokeplay. Sadly, these days, the body is perhaps not willing to take the hard grind.
Thus comes the question. Is Tendulkar given a long rope even as Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, the other legends of the game, were not given the same run? Are selectors lenient towards him? But trust Tendulkar he would not like to go this way. Yesterday after India’s loss, Tendulkar went to the nets and batted for a long session against left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha. He is eager. The seriousness and the intent are there but will there be any other fairytale return to form and then quit the game the way he wants.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was candid not to speculate on Tendulkar’s last game or retirement. “When it comes to Sachin, the best thing is not to speculate. He may come and play few more Test matches. Let us wait and watch. Enjoy the cricket the way he plays,” he said.
Ponting, too, is trotting on the similar path of Tendulkar. The former Australian captain was bowled in his last two innings at Adelaide, raising question marks of his future. The last ten innings read: 60 n.o., 4, 14, 7, 41, 23, 57, 0, 4, 16. However, Ponting’s last big innings was 221 against India in January this year at Adelaide.
Australian captain Michael Clarke, like Dhoni, has also come in support of his beleaguered teammate. “The one thing we need to keep in mind, he was the leading run-scorer in Shield cricket leading up to this summer. So he’s batting well.
“We could all get out early in our innings. Every single one of us, the start of your innings is the toughest time to bat, especially when you’re facing the best attack in the world,” he said.
The national selectors of the both countries would surely talk with the legends and set their agenda. But the question still lingers. Is it time up for the two legends?
Realistically speaking, it is their call to call it quits or not. But as the sun sets on their illustrious careers they should be given their chance to end in a blaze of glory.