The man who inaugurated the age which bears his name is set to formally bring it to an end himself. Players who were part of this golden period made their debut after Tendulkar did and quit or faded away while the great man was still playing.
Twenty four years ago this week, everybody predicted big things for Sachin. No one, however, could even conceive of either 200 Test matches or 100 international centuries then. Sachin extended the limits of the possible not just on the field, but in our minds as well.
The last 40-year-old to play for India was the great all rounder Vinoo Mankad. The oldest was Amir Elahi who played for both India and Pakistan, and was 44 when he played his sixth and final Test. C K Nayudu was nearly 37 when he led India in their inaugural Test match.
He wasn’t the first 40-year-old to play for India, though. That honour, if indeed it was an honour, belonged to Rustomji Jamshedji, a left arm spinner whose only Test was the first on Indian soil; he had blown out 41 candles on his birthday cake a month earlier.
Cota Ramaswami was 40 when he made his debut with innings of 40 and 60 against England in 1936. Two other players in the 40-plus list are among the biggest names in Indian cricket – Lala Amarnath and Vijay Merchant.
To be playing at forty is, like significant last-wicket partnerships or some intriguing marriages, the triumph of hope over probability. So many elements have to be just right – fitness, form, motivation, state of mind.
Facing the pressure of not just the opposing bowlers, but of the media, and youngsters awaiting a break has to be more attractive than chucking it all in, and taking up either fishing or golfing, or the sportsman’s version of it today, which is reminiscing in the commentary box.
To be the critic rather than the criticised, to hand out advice rather than receive it at every corner, to shed the weight of responsibility – the temptation is to quit rather than to carry on. Yet, remarkably, Sachin carried on.
It is possible he may be persuaded to play Ranji cricket for Mumbai. One hundred first class hundreds might be out of reach (he has 81), but there is the intriguing possibility of playing first class cricket alongside his son Arjun. How’s that for pressure?
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