Farewell to the Little Master Blaster

Sachin Tendulkar will play his 200th and final test match tomorrow. That sentence may mean absolutely nothing to you. But then you can consider yourself in a minority, and should read on. When tickets went up online to watch this greatest of all Indian batsman’s swan song, the selling website received 19 million hits within the first hour. NINETEEN MIILLION people inquired after tickets. The ground doesn’t hold that many.

I saw Tendulkar bat 6 or 7 times and, true to form, never saw him make more than 45. I think I'm his jinx. Perhaps the England team should have taken me with him to India every time they went on tour ? God knows I've written and asked them enough.

I saw Tendulkar bat 6 or 7 times (that’s me, 5th from left, the tall Indian bloke with the moustache) and, true to form, never saw him make more than 45. I think I’m his jinx. Perhaps the England team should have taken me with him to India every time they went on tour ? God knows I’ve written and asked them enough.

Whether we like it or not, Indian Cricket— and its governing body, the much-loved, virtuous, high-minded and incorruptible BCCI— is the driving force of the world game. The numbers just stack up against all else: Revenue and fan base for starters make other nations’ figures dwindle into insignificance. It’s difficult to put an exact figure on the audience in the sub-continent, but if you said 800 million people watch the game, you wouldn’t be a million miles away.

If the Poms and the Aussies think the world is anxiously awaiting another in a rather irritating extended run of Ashes Test matches, they might think again. The cricketing world at large is on the edge of its seat expectantly anticipating the last walk to the crease by this little man on his home ground in Mubai, desperate for him to do well.

In a nation increasingly force-fed the monotony & banality of Twenty20 Franchise Tournaments, served up on dirt-brown platters of lifeless wickets, it is somehow refreshing to know there is still interest in the longer form of the game — even if it is a one-off to recognise one of the greats. And while an ever-growing number of our sporting idols are being exposed as at best, cynics, at worst cheats, it’s been great to watch this man go about his business, not just brilliantly, but honestly, humbly and often with a smile on his face.

And as India is a country obsessed with stats, and cricket is a game which thrives off them, it’s worth having a quick butchers at a few numbers and quotes surrounding Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar:1-650_042312063322

Height : 5ft 5″ (1.65 metres)

Test Debut (vrs Pakistan) 1989, Karachi

In his debut first-class match for Bombay in the 1988/89 season, he scored 100 not-out aged 15 years 232 days

England Coach Andy Flower: “There are 2 kind of batsmen in the world. 1: Sachin Tendulkar. 2: all the others.”

Holds the record for scoring 1,000 One Day International runs in a calendar year, having done it six times, in 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2003

Shane Warne: “Sachin Tendulkar is, in my time, the best player without a doubt — daylight 2nd, Brian Lara 3rd.”

18,426 runs and 49 hundreds in ODIs

Test Best: 248 not out, which he made against Australia in 2004 at Sydney.

First batsman to hit a double-century in ODI cricket as he scored an unbeaten 200 against South Africa in Gwailor, February 2010.

199* Tests at 53.72 runs per innings.

President Barack Obama “I don’t know about cricket but still I watch cricket to see Sachin play. Not because I love his play but because I want to know the reason why my country’s production goes down by 5 per cent when he’s in batting.”

Numbers of fellow pros who have a bad word to say about him: 0

Numbers of fellow pros who have a bad word to say about him: 0

Time to Chuck in the Towel

It comes to all of us at the end. Whether it’s because the state tells you that you’re too old for employment, or when your body isn’t able to carry on – even when your mind thinks it can. Some of us are lucky enough to be in a job which allows us to choose the timing of our retirement. For most of us, the decision is out of our hands.

If you’re a journalist or even a photo editor, you can probably work until your eyes or your liver can take it no more. For some of us, the age of 46 is probably as good an age as any at which to retire; others will go on until they snuff it at their desks/the bar/toilet cubicle. Lots of us can’t wait to go, but there are those who wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if not go to work.

If you’re a high court judge you can go on and on until you’re deaf, frail and incontinent. Come to think of it I dunno why I don’t apply. Even politicians seem to go on for as long as they please, though if you stay on too long you risk become a figure of fun as did Michael Foot, Ted Kennedy, or Nicolas Sarkozy.

Boxers are often guilty of staying in the game past their sell-by date. Surrounded by spongers and yes-men, not enough are told not to fight again. Who’d ever tell Mike Tyson “don’t go into the ring again, Champ, or you’ll get a whopping” ? Not me, that’s for sure. Left with cowards and scroungers, Champ decides to have ‘one last fight’ and more often than not suffers the inevitable clobbering.

While we’re on sportsmen, there are those who have the foresight to plan ahead for that time when they no longer compete. Some become successful TV pundits:- John McEnroe, Richie Benaud, Gary Lineker or Michael Johnson spring to mind; Some become fvcking awful ones: Colin Montgomery, Michael Vaughan, Willie Carson. Then there are some who are so desperate to become TV stars they’ll appear on anything, anywhere to further their career: Tessa Sanderson, Matthew Pinsent, Kriss Akabusi but fail even to become children’s entertainers.

Some leave sport altogether and are quite happy to work in the real world, like one of my boyhood heroes, cricketer (and Ashes winner) Chris Old who works in Sainsbury’s supermarket. Not very glamorous but he’s happy.

For some, of course, the end doesn’t come when you want it to. One day, you’re part of office life, getting the tea for everyone and chipping into the Derby sweepstake, the next minute the guvnor calls you in and tells you that the Bell has Tolled for you. Yer outta here. You are surplus to requirements and you are to be replaced with a younger, sleeker (cheaper) version. It’s a horrible and humiliating way to go. And many can’t take it.

Rio Ferdinand is convinced he has still got what it takes to be an international footballer. His boss, or rather, his former boss, or rather the new bloke in the office who doesn’t want to be Rio’s boss disagrees. The new England manager didn’t pick Ferdinand for his squad to compete [sic] in the upcoming European Championship (singular: There is only one Championship being competed for and therefore is spelled Championship. Not Championships. Ok?)

I digress again.

So not only wasn’t he picked for the original squad, but when the bloke who’d replaced him in the team dropped out through injury Rio wasn’t picked then either. In fact it’s probably safe to say that if all 18 original players dropped out, having succumbed to a virulent strain of Green Monkeys Disease, Rio still wouldn’t get selected. He is not wanted. His time has come.

Rio is fuming, He thinks he should play. His agent thinks he should play (shock) and has told the world’s media (well, T’BBCSalford who are the only ones listening) that it’s a disgrace that his man has not been selected. At 34 years of age, Ferdinand knows this will be the last ChampionshiP he had a chance to be selected for. Whether it’s the pulling on of the England shirt again , running out onto the big stage for one last time, or falling asleep half way though the either half (it’d become his party trick), Rio wanted one last chance to show the world what he could do. Sadly, it was never to be.

A combination of his regular attacks of narcolepsy during corner kicks, and the fact that his playing partner is on a charge of racially abusing Rio’s brother means that manager Roy Hodgson was never gonna select both. When a sleepy black bloke is up against a violent, racist, white bloke it seems that whitey will win the day. Thank Allah that John Terry’s court case has been delayed until after the tournament, eh ? What a stroke of luck.

Whatever the reasons behind it, Rio has just got to get on with his young life, and find a new direction in which to channel his…er…talents. Cricketer and legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar has been sworn into the Indian Parliament, making him the first to enter parliament while still playing. Sachin is a humble, personable, brilliant sportsman, regarded as a God in his own country. Rio differs from Tendulkar in just four ways. Though all is not lost for Ferdinand in that respect. If the British Labour party can have Oona King, Diane Abbott and Paul Boateng as MPs, Rio may yet be able to find himself as the least self-serving and most appealing black representative the party has had for many a year.

So having said all that, who was it who couldn’t find it in themselves to gather Cliff Richard, Paul McCartney, Grace Jones and Shirley Bassey together and say “I’m sorry guys, but you can’t sing any more”? One suspects it should have been to Gary Barlow, but you can’t blame him for crumbling in the face of legends. I speak of, of course, of last night’s Jubilee bash. Possibly one of the most diverse concerts I have ever witnessed, both in content and quality. To hear Alfie Moon (no, neither had I before) and Willi.i.am (ditto) knock out a decent tune, only for the joyous atmosphere to be punctuated by the excruciating wailing of these four (and I’m being very kind to Elton John) aged, has-beens. 12 hours later, my toes have only just started uncurling after McCartney’s performance. One presumes he got the gig purely because Lennon and Harrison are dead, but that is surely no excuse for what he gave us last night. He sounded better at Live Aid – and his microphones failed on that occasion.

If Ringo isn’t busy flashing ‘V’ signs, perhaps he could climb off Barbara for a second and tell his old mate that enough is enough. Obviously the irony of Ringo criticising someone else’s musical talent won’t be lost, even on the purple-haired former unidexter-shagger, but someone’s gotta do it.

As for Cliff, Grace and Shirley: Surely they’re talented enough to realise how bad they have become ? Surely, Shirley. It was woeful. You have all been decent at what you do, but now you’re not. Honest. Cliff sounded like me, pissed in a bar on a mic at about 11.30, dancing on the bar and singing Old Shep. Shirley looked and sounded like me. And the hoola-hooping Grace Jones needs sectioning.

And finally, please don’t think this is age-based criticism. It’s talent-based. You had it once, now you haven’t. Simples. You only have to think back to Englebert last week. THAT’S how bad you lot were last night. Everyone’s different, with different bodies and talents. Tom Jones is very old (he knew Elvis, in case he hasn’t mentioned it) but he can still belt out a number like he could 40 years ago. He even remembered his Welsh accent, which some will find nice. So I’m afraid McCartney has got to be told that it’s all over. Although he might try to make the England squad. He’s got a better chance than Rio.