Is Sachin headed the Ponting way?

Having spent nearly two years chasing Richard Hadlee’s then world record for the most Test wickets, Kapil Dev knows all about how difficult it is to take the final step.

India's Sachin Tendulkar leaves the field after being dismissed during the one day international cricket match against Sri Lanka in Brisbane on February 21, 2012. AFP

The former Indian captain’s assertion that Sachin Tendulkar must retire immediately is perhaps the first public demand for the head of international cricket’s most prolific run-maker. At 38, Tendulkar isn’t getting any younger, and his tribulations in the triangular series in Australia have left many wondering why he didn’t call it quits from limited-overs cricket after the World Cup victory in Mumbai last April.

The highest run-scorer and century-maker in the 50-over format, Tendulkar doesn’t have anything more to achieve in that version.

His dismal run Down Under will, in all probability, convince him that it’s time to call it quits, even if the fact is that the young guns who have been touted as the future of Indian cricket have themselves failed even more miserably.

Only on Monday, Australia’s selectors dumped Ricky Ponting from the one-day set-up, a day after he led the team to a commanding win over India while standing in for the injured Michael Clarke. Ponting, 37, is himself convinced that his chances of a limited-overs international comeback are all but impossible. Whether India’s selectors, under Krishnamachari Srikkanth, have the courage of conviction to nudge Tendulkar out for the Asia Cup in Bangladesh next month if the Mumbaikar doesn’t retire from ODI by then, remains to be seen.

Tendulkar arrived in Australia in early December with the spotlight trained firmly on him. He was constantly reminded – if he needed any reminding – by the fans, the experts, the pundits and the media that he was one hundred shy of the magical 100 international hundreds mark. Thirteen innings later, the hunt for that elusive 100th century continues; alarmingly, the signs that he isn’t far away have faded considerably.

In the first two Tests, in Melbourne and Sydney respectively, he had scores of 73, 32, 41 and 80.  Since then, nine international knocks have yielded a miserly 151 runs at an unflattering 16.78. In the tri-series, he has made just 90 runs from five outings, Tuesday’s 22 against Sri Lanka his second highest score.

The disastrous Test series has almost certainly claimed VVS Laxman, and possibly Rahul Dravid, as victims. Tendulkar could be the casualty after the triangular series, even though it will be argued that Virender Sehwag has fared worse, not unlike Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja. Then again, the very fact that Tendulkar is being spoken of in the same breath as the last three is a damning indictment of the little man’s disastrous recent form.

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