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Millennium Post

‘Sachin failed, team failed’

It seems an era has suddenly come to an end. Abruptly. As Sachin Tendulkar announces his retirement from One-Day International cricket,  noted cricket writer Gautam Bhattacharya tells Promita Mukherjee about why the god of cricket’s sudden decision has left him shocked.

Despite speaking to people very close to Sachin Tendulkar, I was told that he was dilly dallying. It seemed like he was confused. I was certain that he would play the series against Pakistan. I am shocked and surprised.

Sachin always fancied doing well against Pakistan, given the strong Indian nationalist that he is at heart. So it is very surprising that he would quit now. It shows his state of mind now. I spoke to him before he left for Nagpur when he called me from the team bus. He looked all set for a hundred in Nagpur post his 76 in Kolkata. I got a call from Mumbai two days ago. People very close to Sachin told me he was contemplating retirement. I was told people close to him were convincing him to play the series against Pakistan as a dress rehearsal for the Australia series.

I am used to a Sachin who has always guarded the national frontiers so well that we had no reason to worry. You didn’t require an Alzolam to go off to sleep. When he failed, the team failed, and the nation had difficulty going to sleep. I remember his room in Centurion in 2003, the day after he demolished Pakistan with a 98. It was pitch dark and the only light was coming from the television set which showed Brett Lee bowling in some other World Cup match. Sachin clearly was concentrating on the Australia match. I told him ‘India is celebrating Diwali and the man who is responsible for that is sitting in darkness’. He laughed loudly.

Are external factors responsible for the decision? I won’t be surprised. All along I got the impression that he was playing for you and me which I haven’t found in any other Indian cricketer. In the 2007 World Cup after Sachin scored a duck and India crashed out, I went to his room to find out that he hadn’t changed, shaved or showered and only had one club sandwich in two days. He had not slept all night and wanted to know what was happening back home. With Sachin, there was assurance that at least he tried for you and me – the common man.

All along his career he batted on two different wickets – one for the common man and one for himself. His decision will be very hard for the team. He was looked up to like Vishma and guided the team. The Tendulkar I know would make sure team doesn’t get affected. The decision shows he must be very down mentally. I am still shocked...

PS: There are stories originating from the cricketing headquarters that the decision was not entirely Sachin’s. That he was given some conditions which were humiliating to him. And he decided to remove himself with his dignity intact. Apparently he has vowed to show glimpses of his past against Australia. Apparently he is well prepared to play Ranji for Mumbai. If all this is true, there is design in this apparent madness that yorked Tendulkar in an unfair manner. But who bothers to know all that! The No. 10 jersey will never ever be seen. For me and millions of cricket lovers, that is sadness personified.
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