10 out of 10 all the way!

Pics. PTI

Sachin Tendulkar’s choices now are beyond counting. I guess he has enough rupees in the banks to lie back and take it easy if he so wishes; and we know he has enough years ahead to cut out another career or maybe more than one. Travel well, Sachin, and may all your old images be in Technicolour, just as our memories are, writes Ted Corbett.

You will all have noticed that Sachin — look, that’s what everyone calls him so why should I go in for the pomposity of Sachin Tendulkar as if he might be Prime Minister, although of course he may be one day — chose to announce his retirement on the 10th day of the 10th month and used at one time to wear a number 10 on his shirt.

I hear he is not superstitious — well, no more than any other sportsmen and who can blame them when the gods of sport rule their lives and, at a whim, make them winners or losers — except in the matter of which pad he dons first.

Anyway, the announcement seems to have worked out all right for him, because the bosses have agreed he can play his final match, the match to end all his matches, in Mumbai where he was born and bred and learnt all that patience, discovered that batting was easier if you kept the blade straight and bowling more effective if your arm brushed your ear as you delivered the ball.

Sachin — a name you will realise that can be easily pronounced by the citizens of almost every cricket playing country and names are important for sportsmen — grew under strict guidance. I remember Sunil Gavaskar telling me that the best thing that happened to Sachin was that he was allowed to bat day after day until the rhythms of cricket came naturally to him.

That is, in essence, the way of English professional cricket. Once a lad is found to have talent — from W. G. Grace to Wally Hammond to Graham Thorpe — he is drafted into every match that can be found for him. So it does not matter if a lucky bowler finds a super ball or one that hits a stone or is caught by the wind. The next day the lad will be batting again and if the judgement that he has enough skill is correct he will learn something in every innings.

Funny, if you watch as much cricket as I did 1980-2008, what odd things you remember about each player.

With Sachin it was the way he walked off after his maiden Test hundred at Old Trafford; slowly, with dignity, as if he might still be in the zone, as if he did not want to leave the area of his triumph, as if he wanted to extend the dream. Who could blame a young kid who must have known at that moment he was going on to great things.

Legends Tendulkar and Brian Lara during the CLT20 event recently. Both have been subjected to intense public scrutiny and come out with flying colours.-

(For Brian Lara that realisation came earlier. “I had to grow into an adult cricketer early,” he told me. “I made a few runs in a boys’ match and the local paper said I would captain West Indies one day. For heaven’s sake. I was six!”)

Sachin had a different farewell a couple of years later when he made a century in Sydney. When he got to three figures he was the only batsman left; the tail was a run-free area; it was all down to a lad still young, still in the early stages of a career that might prove great, that might be a disaster.

Eventually, after Sachin had hit and hit and hit, the innings came to an end and Merv Hughes, big, rough, cynical Merv, rushed down the pitch and shook him by the hand, heartily, sincerely, affectionately, as if Sachin were his own boy. More impressive came the second congratulatory hug, from Dean Jones, who raced from somewhere in the deep long grass to show his own appreciation of Sachin, already a wonder boy and soon to be a cricketer’s cricketer, a match-winner, one of the unforgettable few.

He went on to make many a big score but never the sort of giant, record-breaking, you-will-never-forget-this-innings, that comes more readily to some batsmen than others. In fact there were 100 centuries in Tests and one-day internationals which will always be the starting point for any in memoriam piece about him; just as Don Bradman’s two-ball duck in his final innings is always the most astonishing fact about the greatest of run-scoring machines.

Sachin has chosen to leave the game when there are clearly more days ahead; or perhaps he guesses that his days are fading and does not want it to be true of him, as it is of so many, that all sports careers end in failure.

He has not just chosen the right moment to quit but given us time to think what it will mean to the game when he is no longer Super Sachin when the sight of him heading for the pitch brought the crowd to its feet, cheering and clapping; adoring his greatness.

Happily he has been at the top of world cricket for nearly a quarter of a century without an act that brings discredit to him or his team or the game. Few sportsmen can make that statement but it was always so clearly going to be the case that we think it hardly worth mentioning even though, in the era of celebrity, it is his greatest achievement.

His choices now are beyond counting. I guess he has enough rupees in the banks to lie back and take it easy if he so wishes; and we know he has enough years ahead to cut out another career or maybe more than one.

Travel well, Sachin, and may all your old images be in Technicolour, just as our memories are.