As Sachin Tendulkar faces questions over his future, an erudite French football manager battles against his doubters in England.
One is arguably the greatest post-War batsman to play cricket, the other is a legendary manager who is considered to be one of the most astute football coaches around. The former has broken almost every possible batting record that ever existed, while the latter transformed a ‘boring’ team into a side that is much-admired for its style of play today. Both of them possessed the Midas touch for a long time in their career but seem to have lost it in recent times and now face questions about their future with their respective teams. Is their time up?
Sachin Tendulkar and Arsene Wenger seem to have encountered an insurmountable challenge in the twilight of their careers. The former is presently enduring one of his leanest patches ever and as he approaches the age of 40, even Tendulkar’s most ardent fan wouldn’t hold sanguine expectations of his return to form now.
Meanwhile, miles away in London, Wenger hasn't been able to convince his doubters either. As Arsenal faces the prospect of an eighth consecutive trophy-less season, it’s unlikely we would see the Frenchman bask in the glory of a major triumph with the Gunners ever again.
The story of Wenger’s reign at the north London club, whenever it will be written, can be distinctly divided into two parts. The rupture is so sharp and evident that one doesn’t need Francis Fukuyama’s services to identify it. The first is a tale of success and the infusion of an aesthetic football culture into Arsenal which helped the club win many trophies and admirers from across the world.
The latter half, though, would be a narration of the Frenchman’s failed project which heavily relied on untested youngsters and his struggles with the rise of insanely-rich clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City. In fairness, in the initial years after 2004, Wenger had nobody but himself to blame for his club’s failings. The now 63-year-old’s insistence to not buy a senior experienced figure then significantly contributed to his side’s inability to impose itself in matches against fellow title rivals, a fallacy which largely contributed to Arsenal’s slide down the pecking order of English football.
As a consequence of trophy-less campaigns, many star players left the club and ensured Arsenal remained a team in transition. However, before the beginning of this season, Wenger made a serious statement of intent by buying Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.
Having assembled a squad capable of challenging the big Manchester clubs, the Gunners’ French manager would have looked forward to the present season with cautious optimism. Unfortunately, it all came undone when his two best performers from the previous season, Alex Song and Robin van Persie decided to move to Barcelona and Manchester United respectively.
Courtesy: The Independent
It’s hard not to sympathise with Arsene Wenger. Though the 63-year-old’s dedication towards the game remains undimmed, it’s evident that he himself hardly believes that glory days at Arsenal will return anytime soon. Having suffered at the hands of market forces and wantaway players, the second half of Wenger’s reign at the north London side has been severely impacted by the vagaries of modern football. Moreover, the feeling that the Frenchman’s tenure is coming to an end has inescapably enveloped the Emirates Stadium nowadays.
Sachin Tendulkar would readily identify with Wenger’s current troubles. The sense that end is nigh for the batting maestro too, refuses to go away. Having not struck a Test century since January 2011, many believe that Tendulkar’s days in international cricket are numbered. However, it can be argued, the 39-year-old is a victim of the high standards he sets for himself and of his divine image which rests permanently in the mind and heart of the common Indian fan.
Having scored in excess of 34,000 international runs, Sachin faces the tough task of satisfying the appetite of his fans, who expect nothing but an extraordinary display from the ‘master-blaster’, whenever he comes out to bat. As a popular saying goes, “Cricket is religion and Sachin is God.”
Transported into the realm of divinity, Sachin can’t afford to dish out moderate performances on a regular basis. The average Indian cricket fan, who grew up in a culture dominated by tales of mythical and godly figures and who pays his obeisance every morning to a divine idol or a stone, naturally expects his favourite hero to deliver an ethereal performance whenever he steps onto the field.
When Tendulkar fails to do so and is bowled by an Anderson or a Bracewell consistently, the horrified aficionado is rendered clueless as his faith in the divinity of the legendary batsman is immeasurably shaken. To expect an ageing Sachin to perform at a consistently high level even now would, in addition to being irrational, be unfair to him. Whether he should retire now, though, is a personal choice of the 39-year-old.
The identities of Tendulkar and Wenger have been almost inseparably aligned with the Indian cricket team and Arsenal, respectively, for years now. However, it’s tough to ignore that the duo’s association with their respective sides is now nearing its end as age and time catches up with them.
But before they bid a final goodbye, hopefully these two illustrious individuals will leave us with one more beautiful memory which we could cherish even years after they’re gone. After all, every fan yearns for it.