The legend and his injuries

2006 Mar 31 by DreamCricket

Four months ago, it looked like the tennis elbow ailment would be the most serious of the setbacks. And now comes yet another surgery, this time on the shoulder.

There has been a national obsession with the state of Sachin Tendulkar'’s health and fitness ever since his back pain of 1999.

By an unfortunate coincidence, his more serious injuries have invariably occurred with a World Cup looming.

The back crisis erupted during the series against Pakistan with the World Cup in England just months away. This naturally led to intense speculation as to whether he would be fit in time for the mega-event in which he has always excelled.

Perhaps understandably Tendulkar kept under wraps the finger injury which he suffered early in 2003 during the disastrous tour of New Zealand with the World Cup in South Africa round the corner.

He had publicly expressed his dismay and exasperation with all and sundry enquiring after his health four years earlier and this time decided to keep the injury to himself and his family. That he emerged as the highest scorer in the World Cup remains a tremendous tribute to his courage and resilience.

It has hardly been four months since he returned to the team late last year after it looked like the tennis elbow ailment would be the most serious of the setbacks. And now comes yet another surgery, this time on the shoulder.

Apart from the finger injury and a bruised toe in 2002, Tendulkar’'s fitness woes have largely revolved round parts of the anatomy which are prone to wear-and-tear through constant use.

We are always being reminded that he has been playing international cricket year round since 1989. However, it needs to be emphasized here that ever since he was 12 years-old, cricket was an integral part of his life. Even at that tender age he would put in many hours of practice and often play in more than one match in a day during Bombay'’s hectic cricket seasons.

One can only speculate as to how much his body went through during those early years.

Of course more than just the body, the human mind too can become jaded and stale in such circumstances. Tendulkar has dismissed out of hand the question of whether he is contemplating retirement. And only he can answer how much that fire still burns in him.

To be sure his last cricket wish remains unfulfilled--to be part of a triumphant Indian team that lifts the World Cup. West Indies in 2007 will surely be his last chance. He will have to get used to the intense scrutiny over the state of his health. And if he does get back later this year as expected, will the shoulder too impede his stroke-play as he has admitted the tennis elbow did?

It is a sad fact of Indian cricket that apart from Sunil Gavaskar (and Vijay Merchant three decades before him); no player has chosen the right time to call it a day.

Tendulkar has Gavaskar among his greatest admirers and advisors and surely the original Little Master would have whispered a few words of wisdom in his ear. So too his wife Anjali and brother Ajit.

My feeling is the World Cup next year will be his last bow. Indian crowds have short memories. But when Tendulkar makes his final exit from a cricket field, let us hope we can all gracefully and gratefully stand and applaud the end of a wonderful innings.