|My wife (middle left of the screen, not the dude in the singlet) celebrating India's World Cup win in 2011.|
From standing on the outside looking in there seems 3 major foundations that the current Indian test team will build around during the coming series against Australia.
The first is the characteristic tortoise paced pitches. These graveyards are littered with the exhausted bones of pace men both past and present and the Indians hope they will have enough space for a few more.
The second is Harbhajan taking wickets, which he does so against Australia with particular aplomb (as well as doing or saying something irritating. Or both!)
The third is Sachin Tendulkar.
Unfortunately for both Indian and world cricket it seems that one of these pillars is crumbling faster than said sub continental pitches, and it’s not Harbhajan’s wicket taking ability.
Last summer Tendulkar arrived in Australia amidst a fever hotter than a murg saagwala.
The anticipation of the little masters looming 100th hundred drew out fans from all over the nation. People would pack their cricket lunches over conversations on whether or not today would be the day.
Those conversations went on for 4 months and were never satisfied.
Tendulkar, while not statistically failing in the series, nonetheless failed to reach a career milestone in a significant cricketing contest for what seemed to be the first time (it must be reminded that he subsequently made his 100th hundred in a ODI versus Bangladesh.)
And while the excitement may have outstripped the potential achievement, the disappointment in Tendulkar’s inability to deliver in one of crickets highest profile contests hinted at what hard times lay ahead.
Like a waning Kung Fu master still trying to see off a younger apprentice, 2012 may prove to be the year Tendulkar’s stone was finally taken from his hand.
From January through to December last year Tendulkar averaged just 22 runs in 16 innings, a record that is hard to draw comparisons to because there has seldom been a top order player that has survived long enough to have one similar.
But there has seldom been a player like Tendulkar and this is precisely why he continues to play.
India will never drop the man considered the greatest since Bradman. And his overall career statistics and public popularity suggests doing so would be akin to sacking Santa Claus.
But eventually even Santa Claus is shown up to be to a figment of your imagination, and you move on with memories of the good times that no longer exist.
Tendulkar’s form has gone the way of a memory, one that has been lost for a while and that all of India would dearly love to regain. But on current form this seems as unlikely as Harbhajan keeping his rather pointed opinions to himself.
Tendulkar has exceeded 30 runs just once since January of last year. Less a dry spell than a full-blown Martian drought. As alien a predicament that Tendulkar has ever found himself in.
And while you could never write off a player who has made more centuries than anyone else, this recent record suggests Tendulkar may be heading towards a similar elongated, heartbreaking and inevitable end as that of Australia’s own grand master, Ricky Ponting.
At some point in the near future Father Time’s incessant knocking on Tendulkar’s fortified door will become irresistible.
Tendulkar is a great cricketer but he is only a man amongst (younger) men.
Like Ricky Ponting before him Tendulkar’s record and contribution to Indian, and indeed global, cricket deserves more than a slow disintegration into irrelevancy.
Neil Young once sang, its better to burn out than fade away.
If this is to be Tendulkar’s final series, it would be fitting for there to be one last spark. A final burning innings the master blaster can sear onto the memories of his millions of fans.