Sachin Tendulkar’s ‘retirement’ from the Indian Premier League was well-timed. He ends his IPL career as part of a champion team. By announcing he will play no more he has only yielded to what many had been expecting him to.
Tendulkar did not quite belong in this crude format of the game. Neither does Rahul Dravid.
“My heart bleeds when I see Dravid playing those cross-batted shots,” said noted coach Tarak Sinha, who cites the former India captain as a model of correct batsmanship when teaching the young kids at his club.
In Tendulkar’s case, it was apparent that he was not enjoying himself. For someone who is known to not miss even optional training sessions, he was confined to the bench for five matches — crucially, in the last three games — on account of injury. Introspection must have compelled this icon of the game to decide enough was enough.
In the inaugural season in 2008, Australians such as Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Mathew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds were on the “prize-catch” list. Now, after six editions, the IPL has seen the last of Gilchrist, Tendulkar, Ponting and, probably, Dravid.
Along the way, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman and Anil Kumble chose their time to quit — Laxman and Kumble are now among the support staff.
With every passing season, more and more people are beginning to believe that this annual extravaganza is not as clean as it had first appeared. With so much at stake, there has been a growing concern that not everything is left to chance.
After recent spot-fixing scandal broke out, more and more cricket-watchers view the on-field developments with suspicion — having lost faith, they will never be able to regard cricket as entirely kosher, even when these icons are involved.
For Tendulkar and Dravid, it must have been embarrassing to be part of a league that stood tainted for many reasons.
One of their colleagues says: “When they play, the others are motivated. It also gives the league a kind of licence, and elevates the stature of the competition.” The lure of lucre stands out as the biggest source of inspiration for most, the icons and the greenhorns.
Former Test batsman Ashok Malhotra says: “What happened to the Shastris, the Gavaskars, the Sidhus and their voices? Has money shut them up? Cricket is at a crossroads, but these so-called guardians of the game have taken their moolah, and kept their traps shut.
“The Board chief (N. Srinivasan) has judged our cricketers to perfection. Throw money (their way) and buy the voices that matter and can create problems. Alas, the entire country can now see through cricket and cricketers. Let’s get together and get rid of Srinivasan, money or no money.”
It could be different when the IPL returns next year after being ravaged by the spot-fixing scandal.
The league may have fewer icons on the field, and perhaps the support bench too.
But, as an avid cricket watcher wondered, will their absence make an impact? Perhaps not! They did not grow into icons playing this brand of cricket.