Monty Panesar bowls Sachin Tendulkar into 'retirement zone'

Monty Panesar has batting legend’s number… is it time for Sachin to quit?

General Douglas MacArthur famously said during his 1951 farewell address to the US Congress: “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”

More than half a half-century later, MacArthur’s famous statement could just as easily apply to India's cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar who continues to polarise opinion both at home and abroad about his future in the game.

Tendulkar is assured of an iconic place in the history and is arguably the greatest batsman to grace this planet since Don Bradman.

He still retains the enthusiasm and passion for the game which he enriched since his arrival on the world stage just over two decades ago.

His phenomenal records especially his century of centuries is unlikely to be eclipsed even in the next century.

However, he risks fading into oblivion with his determination to soldier on despite an alarming dip in form.

Having made his international debut at the age of 16, the question being asked is whether he is being fair to the new generation and depriving another talented youngster from blooming.

His continuing run of low scores in the home series against England, has rekindled India's national debate whether he is worth his salt in the team.

Tendulkar hinted that he would make an announcement in November about his future. But it does not seem to be coming.

At a time when MS Dhoni's captaincy is also under fire after India suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of England in the second Test in Mumbai, Tendulkar's has come under  intense scrutiny by the Indian media for his failures.

England's match winner left arm spinner Monty Panesar dismissed him in both innings for eight - castling his stumps in the first innings and trapping him leg before in the second as India were skittled out for 142.

It's an almost Bollywood-esque tale. Just like how Ajay Devgn’s ‘Son of Sardar’, despite being the underdog, matched up to Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’, there’s a similar story that’s being played out on the cricketing field, with England’s Monty Panesar taking out India’s prestigious Sachin Tendulkar with shocking ease.

The manner of his dismissals and the run of poor scores has raised the perennial question whether Tendulkar is past his prime and should retire gracefully.

But not everyone believes he should be made the scapegoat for India's failures.

Sunil Gavaskar, who first set tongues wagging while analysing Tendulkar's tendency to get bowled in the home series against New Zealand, caused an uproar when he told a TV channel on Sunday that it was time the 39-year-old legend discussed his plans with selectors.

Former captain Kapil Dev also echoed his former teammate’s view.

“Either selectors should speak to him or Sachin should himself have a word with them. The problem is that Sachin does not speak about it openly and the selectors have also been mum about it till now,” Kapil told a TV channel.

“This results in confusion amongst the fans and also invites criticism from everyone, especially when Sachin performs badly. Selectors should talk to him openly. He (Sachin) is a hero and one feels really bad to see fingers being pointed at him,” he said.

But Gavaskar made an about turn on Sunday calling criticism of India's batting icon to be unfair.

Speaking on NDTV's Left, Right and Centre on Monday, Gavaskar said: "Even Virat Kohli did not score in the two Tests. Is anybody questioning him? Even MS Dhoni did not score. Why single out Sachin all the time. We are all the time finding faults with just one person. We tend to pick on Sachin Tendulkar and I don't think that's quite the right thing to do."

Gavaskar though admitted that Sachin's recent form is a cause for worry but he could do well in the remaining two Tests.

He said: "It is a cause for worry. It is a cause for worry because he has scored so prolifically in the previous seasons. But then if he has scored so prolifically in the previous seasons, he could still do it in the remaining Test matches."

Tendulkar has been battling poor form for some time and his last 10 innings have yielded just 153 runs at an average of 15.3, the lowest by an Indian top-order batsman in the corresponding period.

The 39-year-old's last three figure score in Tests came in January last year against South Africa.

A senior Indian board (BCCI) official Rajiv Shukla also rubbished talked that it was time for Tendulkar to go.

"He will hang up his boots when he thinks it's time for him to go. He does not need any advice on this. Before making a comment on his performance you have to see his colossal record and his past performance," Shukla was quoted as saying in Times of India.

India's cricket expert Ayaz Memon believes that the selectors cannot think about dropping him.

“You cannot afford not to have him, because he brings with him huge experience which the team needs now (with the series at 1-1).”
 
Names like Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwary and Shikhar Dhawan crop up if Sachin was to be dropped, but then again, blooding a youngster now could prove to be an even worse decision.

“If you throw in a youngster at this position, you might become more vulnerable. You just have to believe in Tendulkar and hope that somewhere he’s going to come good,” he was quoted as saying.

Although his reflexes are slowing down, Tendulkar is not willing to throw in the towel.

Tendulkar summoned India's best bowler in the match Pragyan Ojha to bowl at him during batting practice on Sunday, the Times of India reported.

It is a sign that Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is not willing to go away quietly in the twilight of his career.

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