If Sachin Tendulkar plays in the ODI series against Pakistan and England to prepare for the subsequent Test series against Australia, it will reinforce a familiar pattern: it doesn’t matter what happens to the team, captain, coach or talented players waiting for an opportunity; it’s more important to let Tendulkar have a crack at a last hurrah.
You could argue that getting Tendulkar back into form will serve the team objective of presenting the Aussies with a strong batting lineup. But in giving in to this wishful dream, we will be denying an opportunity to a Rahane or Rohit or Tiwary to prove their mettle in Tests just as Pujara and Kohli have done following the retirement of Dravid and Laxman. We will also be losing out on the chance to blood a newcomer for Tests in home conditions, which would have been in the team’s best long-term interests.
What if Tendulkar fails again in the Australia series? This is quite likely, you know, considering the 12 flops and a solitary 50 he has managed in his last 13 Test innings, most of them at home. We will then be left scratching our heads over whether to throw in a debutant to take his place on the tough South Africa tour.
It is understandable that Tendulkar is loathe to slink away with a whimper after a long career. But that is his own fault. He had a resurgence of form in 2009-10, notching up lots of runs on flat batting wickets, before riding on the back of a World Cup winning team to emerge as a hero despite his modest contribution in that campaign: his only notable knock was in the semifinal against Pakistan at Mohali where he was given five lives.
Still, his army of media managers could have used that World Cup moment to enable Tendulkar to exit on a high note. But then he got greedy. Perhaps in his heart of hearts, Tendulkar knew the real heroes of the World Cup were Dhoni and Gambhir, Yuvraj and Raina. He wanted something more, where he could stand out - like a glorious tour to Australia, but we all know how that turned out. Or maybe the magnitude of his endorsements made it really hard for him to let go.
Whatever the reason, the point is the resurrection of India’s Test cricket remains on hold now while this man tries to nurdle a century to save his own face. The suggestion that his experience is needed at this juncture to rebuild a team in transition is a joke. The newcomers Pujara and Kohli are the ones getting centuries; it’s Tendulkar who is being propped up at the cost of the team, captain, coach and, most of all, the fans who want to see good cricket.
With a handicap like that, how can the Indian team be expected to win? That’s something to be kept in mind the next time you hear the chorus of Mohinder Amarnath, Sunil Gavaskar and Krishnamachari Srikkanth singing for a change of captaincy. No captain can be successful if fundamental issues are ignored, and what can be more fundamental than selection based on current form rather than past records?