Some people have had the audacity to compare Sachin with the greatest batsman of all time, Sir Donald George Bradman. Yes, the Australian batsman was really the greatest cricketer ever to have played the game with a Test average of 99.94, which would have turned even 100 had he scored just four more runs in his last innings but fell for a duck. Who knows, if he had decided to stick around to get to an average of 100, he might have got some bad scores and ended up with a lower average.
After England defeated India 2-1 in the four Test Series in 2012, a lot of fans and even some former players wanted it to be the last series for Sachin, who averaged just 18.66. Former England captain Michael Vaughan rightly said: "There is no one strong enough in Indian cricket to go and knock on his door and say time is up. But for the good of the team senior players have to retire so the rest can move forward and build a new era." And this wasn’t the first time post World Cup that he did not perform as per the requirements of the team.
He struggled against England in England with an average of 34.12 and then against Australia in Australia, averaging 35.87. India lost 8 straight Test matches (4 each against England and Australia) away from home. New Zealand came to India in August 2012 for two Test matches and while India won both the matches comfortably, Sachin’s form and performance came under scrutiny once again. The Mumbai batsman’s average was 21 with scores of 19, 17 and 27 and he was comprehensively bowled by the Kiwi pacers on all three occasions. This led the great Sunil Gavaskar to express concerns over Sachin’s reflexes and said that they may have slowed down.
Winning a Test match in the second innings outside Asia would be the most satisfying feat for an Indian batsman and the biggest contribution he can make for his team because it is something that is not easy and does not happen often. If we look for match-winning second innings knocks of 50 or more outside Asia, we find that VVS Laxman has done it four times, Rahul Dravid has done it three times but Sachin could not do it even once.
The last great Mumbai batsman (before Sachin), Sunil Gavaskar, in his final innings, smashed 96 runs on a bowler friendly wicket. He left when he was 37 years old and in a tremendous form. Gavaskar scored four centuries and six half-centuries at an average of over 58 in his last 25 innings. On the other hand, Sachin in his last 25 innings scored four fifties and no hundred at a terrible average of 28. And if Sachin is not to be compared with Gavaskar because of different eras, then let us compare him with his contemporaries.
Steve Waugh’s last 25 innings saw five centuries and six half-centuries at an average close to 65. Even Ricky Ponting, who retired at the age of 38, was criticized for his poor form towards the end of his career. In his last 25 innings, he averaged 38 with a century and a double-century to his name. And finally, we take a look at Brian Lara’s last 25 innings in which his average was just under 45.
The effect of Sachin’s madness on people can be determined by the fact that the government changed the rules of India’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna only to accommodate the so-called God. Also, to ensure that Sachin comfortably gets to his 200th Test and a chance to bid adieu at his home ground in Mumbai, the BCCI organized 2 Test matches against a fragile Test side in West Indies at the cost of a proper 3 Test series against the strongest Test team in South Africa. India was scheduled to play 3 Tests, 7 ODIs and 2 T20s in South Africa which was reduced to 2 Tests and 3 ODIs.
"If I was in his shoes, I would have gone a year earlier. Only because he is Sachin Tendulkar, he could get a run for three years. Nobody else in the world or Indian cricket would have got that much of time."
The above are the words of the former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, a few days before Sachin Tendulkar actually retired.
Cricket is a team sport and not a game of personal achievements. It is said that no individual is bigger than the game. However, the cricket world saw an exception to this statement the way Sachin was treated by his nation. Whenever he faced criticism, some fans argued that Sachin has carried India for over 20 years; can’t India carry him for two? The answer is no. Still it did but it shouldn’t have.