By announcing their retirements earlier this year, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman managed to extend the career of their distinguished colleague, Sachin Tendulkar. They might have saved the selectors some embarrassed throat-clearing in their own cases, but how do you tell possibly the greatest all-round batsman to have played the game that his time is up?
Firstly, you must be sure in your mind that his time is indeed up. An average of 15 over the last ten innings, a Test century made nearly two years ago, a Test fifty 11 innings back might be pointers, but against that are two arguments. Tendulkar has come out of similar patches in the past, stronger and hungrier (although he was younger then). The second, and possibly equally important argument is that the Indian team is in transition, and it is comforting to have someone like Tendulkar in the team as the link between the present and the future. He turns 40 this year, and the spirit seems willing enough after 23 years at the top. But the flesh?
“I will take a decision during the home series in November,” he had said earlier. The decision will be based on how he feels about continuing rather than on how many runs he is making. But a series of clean bowled dismissals against the New Zealand medium pacers in the previous series and the failures against Monty Panesar in the Mumbai Test have probably advanced decision time.