Sachin declares his ODI innings over
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The semi-retirement comes in the middle of his worst slump (last Test hundred was in January 2011; last 50 in January 2012) and on eve of the Indian team's selection for the T20 and ODI games against Pakistan. Late on Saturday night, Tendulkar called up BCCI president N Srinivasan and secretary Sanjay Jagdale to convey his partial withdrawal from international cricket.
It is learnt that the 39-year-old, after labouring over the decision for days, finally made up his mind after he had a heart-to-heart with his Mumbai senior and chairman of the national selection committee, Sandeep Patil. In these times of change in Indian cricket, the selectors had made up their minds to move on and Tendulkar was ready to make way.
On Sunday, in a press statement, Tendulkar in a way hinted at this. "I feel blessed to have fulfilled the dream of being part of a World Cup-wining Indian team. The preparatory process to defend the World Cup in 2015 should begin early and in right earnest."
Tendulkar hasn't played the shorter-version format since March 2012 but still the official ODI retirement isn't inconsequential in the context of his future in the game. 'No' to ODI is seen as a 'yes' to Tests. At least for the series against Australia early next year.
While that will see him add to his tally of 194 Tests, the ODI chapter is closed. Finally, forever. That 50-over format run count that has been tirelessly ticking since 1989, has finally come to a standstill. 'Matches: 463, Runs: 18,426, Hundreds: 49' is how Tendulkar, the ODI player, will be remembered statistically.
These unreal numbers that seem unattainable today were unimaginable when Tendulkar first played an ODI as a 17-year-old at Gujranwala, Pakistan, in 1989. The ODI record holders of that era were Alan Border (Most matches: 192), Vivian Richards (Most runs: 6,442), Desmond Haynes (Most hundreds: 16). Tendulkar's impact on ODIs and how high he took the bar during his time in coloured clothing can be understood by comparing the two set of un-matching numbers. Between 1989 to 2012, the record books saw 192 grow to 463, 6,442 to 18,426 and 16 to 49.
The story of ODIs and the Tendulkar tale have run parallel. The 50-over format topped the popularity charts in '90s, the period Tendulkar was in peak form. He grew up from a teen prodigy to India's Man Friday and his run tally swelled by close to 9,000 runs. He became the highest run-getter in the 1996 World Cup and the year 1998 saw him score 1,894 runs, a calendar record streak no one has matched till date. India lost every other game in the '90s (they had a 50 per cent win-loss record in ODIs back then) but the hope of a Tendulkar special, a regular affair then, kept the disillusionment away and the fans interested.
The turn of the century saw sporadic highs for both — the ODIs and Tendulkar. The T20 discovery and instant exceptiblity pushed the ODIs to the background while the 30-plus star shared the burden and the spotlight with younger stroke makers around him. But there were days when ODIs and Tendulkar would make the upstarts seem pale and out-of-depth. His double hundred in 2010, the first ever in the 50-over format, and the World Cup triumph next year were the highs that even the phenomenal '90s couldn't match. They were to be the missing pieces of a colossal jigsaw that had been magically growing for over two decades.
As India's most famous No. 10 jersey gets folded up for ever, ODI fights a losing battle to keep up with the scores of T20 leagues mushrooming around the world.
Though expected, Tendulkar's decision to quit ODIs means the final goodbye might be round the corner. Maybe, after the Australia Test series. And for those who can't think of cricket minus Tendulkar, this is a hard realisation. One tweet summed up the mood for the hardcore Tendulkar fans. "So this is what Mayans actually meant when they said that the World will end. Thank you, and Goodbye Sachin."