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Sachin’s traumatic duel with time

The prolific master of modern cricket is caught in a battle with a merciless monster. He has conquered the highest peaks of batting with the single minded devotion of a feverish monk, offering nirvana to the millions of followers who swore by his mantra. The great man built an edifice of timeless proportions, but then time itself is a relentless tyrant that does not indulge either reputation or rare skill. Over the past few months, the tyrant has begun to chip away at the great edifice of Sachin Tendulkar. It is time to admit that despite his understandable reluctance, it is time for the master batsman to walk down the stairs and make truce.

It does not matter too much if Tendulkar failed to read the turn or the length on that delivery from Monty Panesar. It also matters little if the great man was the victim of a heavy front foot that would not reach far enough, fast enough. It might have been that the nearly three and half pound bat is weighing heavier than it did in the halcyon days of the past. No matter what it is, the little master’s castle is under siege and the emperor’s robes are fraying at the seams.

Sachin has certainly earned his right to enjoy a lean patch – but then what lustre does it add to a distinguished warrior as him to suffer scores of 15 & 8, 25 & 13, 19, 17 & 27, 13 and now 8. In another day and time, the man would be due a big score any time now. And make no mistake; that does not change even as he approaches his 40th birthday. The undeniable question is if the great man can consistently perform at a level that befits his stature for a sustained period of time. On recent evidence and the undiminished power of time, the honest answer would be the obvious even if the man in question is an incarnation of some divine spirit.

Wise men, they say, learn from the foibles of the feeble. But Sachin doesn’t even need to stretch that far. If only he had the energy and inclination on Sunday night to tune into the frenzied action from Interlagos – the great man can witness another prolific master walk away into the twilight bruised and battered from a misguided effort at racing against time. Michael Schumacher may not admit as much, but for everyone that follows the engineering driven sport of Formula One, it is only too obvious that the German is but a lame shadow of his flamboyant Ferrari days.

The Wankhede stadium has absorbed many decibels of roaring approval each time its most celebrated cricketer walked out to the middle with a willow that refused to be tamed. But on this winter morning, as Sachin trudged back to the pavilion with a grimace pasted to the boyish face that unleashed a billion prayers, the iconic stadium was witness to a silent tribute that was equally deafening for its calm intensity. Sachin is a rare combination of divine talent, unwavering determination and tireless hard work. So it is only logical that he brings his will to bear and eventually construct yet another innings of substantive brilliance.

As we faithfully wait for that moment to present itself, it is increasingly clear by the passing Test that Sachin needs to sit down with his family, friends and managers to determine the timing of that epochal final walk on a date of his choosing in the not too distant future. And in stating the obvious, the intent is not to add to the growing chorus. It is only to walk up to the foot of the monumental edifice of Tendulkar, hold a placard and beg the master to prevent sundry pretenders from chipping away at its glorious veneer. After all, it is a wonder that shall be celebrated for generations to come.

Given his immense determination, he might well have the appetite for suffering indignity in the name of perseverance. But since Sachin’s work is destined to be hoisted on the wall of cricketing fame as one of the treasured portraits of the game, he owes it to his countless admirers to leave the canvas hanging without any evident damage from the merciless pounding of time.

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