Sachin Tendulkar’s dipping form and his recovery from surgery have created enough doubts in the minds of cricket fans as to whether he will actually be able to get big runs against Dale Steyn & co in South Africa. It is therefore not surprising that the BCCI has left no stone unturned to ensure that Sachin gets to play his 200th Test Match in India and, what’s more, score heavily too by squeezing in the India–West Indies home series.
Before settling on the West Indies, we learnt that the BCCI had pondered over other options too. First, the world’s richest cricket body had prevailed upon the ICC to award Bermuda Test match status so that they could play a series against India which may have allowed Sachin to score his elusive triple century, maybe even break Lara’s record. More importantly, it would put enough runs between himself and Jacques Kallis,who is within striking distance of overtaking Sachin as the leading run scorer in Tests.
Not taking any chances, BCCI bigwigs had used their clout to ensure that Dwayne Leverock was not included in the touring party. As cricket fans will no doubt recall, Dwayne had taken an impossibly brilliant, diving, one-handed slip catch to get rid of Robin Uthappa in the 2007 World Cup match and the tour organizers understandably didn’t want the little master to be pressurized by the imposing sight of the portly Bermudian in the slips.
BCCI had also worked the channels to confer Test status on Canada. With the Canadian national squad featuring names like Ashish Bagai and Balaji Rao, Sachin would feel extremely comfortable as though he was playing in a Ranji match and go on to plunder runs, was the thinking behind the move.
Back up plans in case the West Indians declined to tour included persuading the tiny island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis to secede from the West Indian cricket board and declare itself as an independent Test playing nation. Rajiv Shukla was also in touch with the Mynamar military junta to string together a half decent playing XI, given Myanmar’s rich cricketing legacy as a former British colony.
However, for the moment, it looks like Sachin will play his 200th Test against the West Indies. There have been mixed reactions to this announcement with some die hard Sachin fans saying this entire exercise would be a blot on the illustrious career of Sachin. On the other hand an ex official of the CBFS in Sharjah said that this is a novel way of granting a benefit match for a player who is still playing and it may start a new trend for feting cricketing greats on the verge of retirement. With excitement building up over Sachin’s 200th Test outing, young Arjun Tendulkar has asked the media to back off and not put undue pressure on his dad.
(PS: please direct all brickbats to Rajdeep Sardesai)