Sachin Tendulkar Should Retire Now!

I need to start by highlighting this age old tradition of Indian culture – viz. Respect for elders. I must admit that I have been a firm believer of this particular aspect of our culture thanks to our education system and the Indian National Pledge that I took every morning in the school (“…I shall give my parents, teachers and all elders respect…”)

Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar (Image Courtesy: THE HINDU)

As I grew and grew enough to become a middle-ager, I realized that people become more and more selfish as they get older – the primary motives behind the same being the greed for money and power. If you look around or read all those corruption topics that came up in the last five or ten years, you will realize that in most corruption cases or charges, there was a senior politician involved (or he/she was the driving force behind the same)

Well, every theory has exceptions and hence before proceeding further let me salute those exceptional elderly and senior fellow citizens who selflessly dedicated themselves to the nation, society and their family and the overall growth and reforms.

Our ‘respect elders’ syndrome can be observed in many real life situations in India. In most traditional families, the oldest person (doesn’t need to be an earning member) still have the final say on the family budget, spending or even what social stand to take on particular issues. He or she is more like the final authority on all family matters and the current Television Serials in Hindi seem to endorse this idea even stronger.

Jokes apart, what this culture has offered our elders is to help them hang around as long as they want to in their respective roles and careers instead of helping with a bit of succession management at the right time. Whatever may be the walk of life, Our seniors just don’t retire!

I have several examples from various fields and domains.

Our first World Cup winning captain and national hero Kapil Dev had to be literally kicked out of the Indian team after a disastrous and stretched final couple of years in his career.

Hiding behind heavy makeup and wigs, our senior actors at 50 or 60 years of age would not mind running around trees with teenage heroines unless they are forcefully and gradually taken out by the industry and fans. This is true in any Indian language movie industry and at times they even depend on the fan clubs and paid fans to hang around by creating fake publicity for the movies released.

Our politicians like Muthuvel Karunanidhi or Deve Gowda never give up a chance to contest the elections or lead their respective parties even though they are on adult diapers, wheelchair and completely mentally/physically unfit to be a public representative or parliamentarian.

Some of our famous playback singers have sung for 1950s films as well as 1990s all for young heroes and heroines. At some point they were kind of forced out giving no opportunities. Why did they have to wait till then and lose respect?

Most of the Indian sportsmen that I know, retired only after they were told to quit or ignored for a couple of years for major tournaments or national selection. This is true not only for cricket but with athletics, hockey, football, tennis, badminton or you name it.

Even worse, we are now hearing an age row from the Army chief of India who potentially wants to hang around for another year. Where are we heading?

Not ready to age gracefully?

The real problem that we are facing hear is that most of us are NOT willing to accept the fact that the age has caught up and you need to take wise decisions about how to utilize your current age, knowledge and acquired skills efficiently?

At certain age people from any walk of life need to think of the following topics:

  • Succession management: How to prepare the next set of people in the line so that they can take up the mantle at the right time without disruption
  • Opportunity for all: Just like I did get a chance at my right age, isn’t it important that the NextGen get a chance as well at their right ages?
  • Utilizing skills, learning differently: How can I retire now and still add value to the domain I am/was operating in? This could include grooming youngsters, joining advisory or planning committees, assuming honorary positions etc
  • Beyond money, power, ranks and visibility: This probably is the only reason why people hang around despite being not in their best times

Sachin Tendulkar Retirement

Now, coming back to the topic of Sachin’s retirement.

In my opinion, Sachin Tendulkar has nothing more to prove (like the latest stupid number from Dhanush suggests) in his field. He has created many individual records, made hell lot of money and fans and more importantly played for the country for around a quarter of a century. He has to accept the fact that he’s 39 now and he got the rare chance to play for India at the age of 16. It’s time for him to do something else in life beyond piling up more personal records, degrade himself and go out. At the moment, it’s clear that he’s slowly degrading and even if he’s not, it’s high time he retired and passed the baton to youngsters. Moreover, with the likes of Ricky Ponting retiring from ODIs, there will not be anyone else who could potentially break his personal records unless the rules of the game and format change drastically. By the way, this is NOT just about Sachin Tendulkar but holds good for most other oldies too – be it Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman – and not so old underperformers like Sehwag.

I had actually mentioned about the need for succession plan in Indian cricket three years ago. If they had done it in steps, the current situation of youngsters not performing would not have happened.

And a final comment on retiring at the right time. Choosing to retire at the right time is all the more important if you are representing the country, a community, geographic region or a team. i.e. People like golfers or tennis players (sometimes actors and singers too) who represent themselves in individual performances may opt for late retirements. But that should not be the case with politicians, sportsmen, and bureaucrats who represent the country. And anybody’s legendary status does not automatically provide extra time for them to decide to go out on their terms! They have to think about the team and country ahead of their individual aspirations.

So Sachin, will you be a gentleman and retire on your own at the peak or would you want to stretch it beyond 40 years of age, belittle yourself and get sidelined forcibly? Decide yourself! Ideally, you should have quit after taking the victory lap in ICC Cricket World Cup finals last year!

ICC Cricket World Cup format needs to change

The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 fever is on! This time around sub-continent got to host the mega sporting event which is the longest so far spanning over one and half months – probably IPL (Indian Premier League) is the only other cricketing – or any other sport – event which is of longer duration than this world cup. Unfortunately, due some poor quality of teams and unresponsive pitches, this event is turning out to be a major disappointment.

Cricket sells in the sub-continent, especially in India, no matter how frequently it’s being played. The spectators turns out in huge volumes to watch matches in the stadium and millions others get hooked on to their TV sets, even when a match between two unknown or unpopular teams is going on. This mentality of the Indian crowd is exactly what sells IPL.

When it comes to an international event that occurs only once in four years, people expect some minimum standard in the way in which the tournament is conducted. Unfortunately, the last couple of world cups have been disappointing due to multiple reasons, the main one being the inclusion of the so called ‘minnows’ or associate members. The duration of the event got drastically increased due to the inclusion of these teams that haven’t really brought any value to the game of cricket or for that matter even improving the game in those countries.

We need a shorter World cup event

Considering the number of nations that has been playing the game of cricket, I strongly believe that there needs to be only 8 teams that can participate in the World cup. This will make sure that the event is really eventful and exciting with 8 quality teams playing each other in say two pools – something like what was happening in the initial editions of the World cup.

Well, of course there are some associate member teams which has performed reasonably well in patches but their game quality hasn’t quite improved over the years. For example, for years there has been teams like Kenya, UAE, Canada etc playing the game but are they really improving over the years? Even Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have started deteriorating their quality of cricket. In my opinion, only Sri Lanka has been the real improved team over the last twenty five years that grew from minnow status to a decent test team – especially after producing some great leadership and amazing players in the last twenty years.

I am not saying that the minnows should be totally stopped. But there has to be a case whereby the incompetent ones are eliminated pretty fast in the first 5-6 days of the tournament and may be one out of them picked to play the round robin format with the other teams. At the moment, there are 42 matches being played in two pools and half of that matches have very predictable result.

The other option is to have a World cup qualifier or pre-event for all teams and top 8 teams selected. Yet another approach could be choosing only the top ranked 8 teams or so by default.

I hope ICC looks into this matter without getting pressurized by the power-hungry, money-hungry BCCI and those who want to mint money out of such long tournaments – of course at the expense of general public’s sentiments and rich sponsors. At the end, if they don’t change the format, it’s not going to benefit the game anyway.

Indian Cricket needs to transform for good

The Indian cricket has always been revolving around the batsmen and their stardom! Barring one Kapil Dev or Anil Kumble, it was always about those flat pitch heroes and tigers at home who would demolish any bowling attack in the world for sixes and fours. The crowd would roar at 200 decibels when Tendulkars and Sehwags hit fours and sixes but mostly would give an indifferent applause when a fast bowler takes a wicket after 15 or 20 overs of toiling. It’s a fact and it’s unfortunately part of our culture.

Unfortunately, the ‘celebrated’ batting lineup would cease to exist in an year or so as our heroes prepare to retire soon. This would definitely leave a huge void for a team that’s so much dependent on batsmen. Unfortunately the upcoming heroes are not even 50% as competent as our current batting heroes, nor they have the temperament to play longer versions of the game. This makes me think that, it’s about time we recognized our bowling unit and upcoming fast bowlers and changed the composition of the team to favor bowlers and batsmen equally.

After the Kapil Dev and Javagal Srinath eras, we were fortunate to identify 5-6 good quality fast bowlers in the past six to eight years. Unfortunately, since we had to help our batsmen (and even Anil Kumble) for home matches, we ended up making dead pitches forever until our pace bowlers consistently developed injuries. Their plight and cry were never heard nor they were recognized like the way batsmen were felicitated. And the result was, many careers were cut short and/or ended with mediocre career statistics whereas the flat pitch heroes kept on evolving.

Change the system

I could think of the following game changers if we have to sustain for long term as a good cricketing nation.

  1. Convert half our pitches to super fast bowling tracks
  2. Play more away matches with countries like South Africa, England and Australia than the usual Sri Lanka
  3. Change the composition of the test team to 5 batsmen, 1 WK batsman, 5 bowlers
  4. Reassure and develop fast bowlers and fast bowling allrounders

3rd one has to be a very strong decision and that is the only way we can avoid injuries and shame to our bowling unit. Based on the pitch requirements it can be either 4 fast bowlers and 1 spinner or 3 pacemen and 2 spinners. However, this can work very well ONLY if we have a fast bowling all rounder.

Why a fast bowling all rounder is important?

If you look around all top performing international cricket team, they always had a fast bowling all rounder such as Jacques Kallis, Shane Watson, Abdul Razaq, Dwyane Bravo, Angelo Mathews etc. All these teams had such all rounders in the past as well. India, barring Kapil Dev or Mohinder Amarnath, didn’t quite have any such top performing all rounders. All that we get to see is mediocre batsmen with no technics but could turn their arms a bit to do crappy spin bowling. The fact is that unless you find somebody in that critical #7 position, you are always going to pick 7 batsmen (including wicket keeper batsman) and four bowlers thereby having to fill the gap of the fifth bowler with part-timers.

How good fast bowlers evolve?

Good quality fast bowlers and fast bowling all-rounders can only be evolved if you have the pitch infrastructure to suit the same. This will also help good batsmen as they try to negotiate fiery bouncers and genuine fast bowling thereby making them successful abroad as well.

In short…

It’s all about the pitch infrastructure now! If the authorities have the guts to do something about it, we can be a great cricketing team who can perform consistently better than even Australia under any given conditions. We need a balanced team that give equal opportunities for batsmen, pacemen, spinners and the wicket keeper. If not, Rainas and Gambhirs will continue to thrive and become major heroes at home! There’s no dearth of money here with the authorities, it just needs one bold step!

Pakistan (cricket) – Whither?

It is very sad state of affairs that we all get to see and hear from Pakistan. They have been going through tough times ever since the terrorism struck Sri Lankan cricketers touring Pakistan earlier last year. Before that as well, various touring sides had multiple issues going to Pakistan – be it Taliban attacks, internal political uncertainties, Benazir Bhuto’s assassination and aftermath. The fact remains that the terrorism and political instability has spoiled cricket in this beautiful cricketing nation.

If you carefully analyze the problem faced by Pakistan cricket and Pakistan in general, the entire thing boils down to only two issues – The lack of democracy and education. Even the religious extremism, terrorism, poverty, unemployment – you name it – are byproducts of lack of good governance and focus on education.

For years together Pakistan has been under military rule or been governed by incompetent leaders who never had any vision for the country. The situation is continuing even now. If the country itself is run under uncertainties on a daily basis, what kind of economic growth and development can one expect?

So the need of the hour is:

– A stable government (not run by military leaders and incompetent politicians)
– Educational system revamping
– Focus on law and order within the country then worry about neighbors and the world

Unlike many Indians, I do not believe that terrorism is only bound to happen in a particular nation or a religion. It is really bad to finger point an entire nation due to some bad set of uneducated people. If you think that way, India is one of the terrorist nations as well because the internal problems such as Thelegana issue or Naxalism is as bad as terrorism. However, due to strong leadership and visionaries, there has been a lot of improvements and strong growth in India in the areas of health, eradication of poverty to some extend, education, homegrown technologies and agriculture. Pakistan needs to learn from such efforts and forget focus on religious issues etc.

It is important for strong neighbors like India and China to have greater political stability in Pakistan. That is the only way in which the entire region of South Asia can be a strong economic powerhouse. The current situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan will only lead to the USA deploying more forces in this region thereby threatening the next superpowers India and China. As long as each country manage the situation very well, we do not need any global police here and South Asia as a whole can grow big.

Coming back to cricket and the recent match/spot fixing allegations, I personally believe that it is the result of lack of education and ethics that needs to be built into each citizen by their leaders. Shahariyar Khan, the former PCB chief, made a very strong point recently. The captain of the team has to be an educated individual and has to instill certain culture and ethics to the youngsters who join their team very early in their lives. The Indian team has been lucky enough to be led by individuals with higher ethics and good education most of the time. Cricketers such as Saurav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni have been excellent ambassadors of the game. On the other hand, the leadership in Pakistan cricket, PCB and the government itself has been shaky and everyone played only selfish roles all this while.

What Pakistan cricket probably needs as an immediate fix is a very strong individual – somebody like Imran Khan – at the PCB and they also need a strong captain. Part of the problem will be eliminated by this and the rest of course is with the government itself.

I sincerely hope that Pakistan cricket will come out all this mess soon. India and Sri Lanka could help Pakistan in that process by resuming their cricket tours to Pakistan.

Let the normality prevail at the earliest!