Nearly three weeks after the change of captain in India, one is still in the dark as to whether Sachin Tendulkar wanted out or whether he was pushed out by a bunch of selectors who had found him an inconvenient incumbent. And nobody really seems to care either.
From the point of view of the media, Sachin had it coming for some time. There was a great deal of unimaginative captaincy, his batting seemed to be affected and there were signs that the captain was getting rather insecure, to the extent that he seemed to be looking around for likely scapegoats even before a series was over. A number of players who were performing well went down the hill while he was in charge. That did not speak much for his motivational powers either.
Did Sachin, as reported by the respected cricket writer, Rajan Bala, ask to be relieved of the captaincy? I think he did -- but not because he was fed up and frustrated, as Bala reported. It seems more likely that Sachin saw it coming and decided that he would be seen in a better light if it came out that he had asked for a demotion. The person who leaked the story to Bala had also leaked the reasons which Tendulkar had allegedly advanced for his decision.
Plausible, in the world of skullduggery that is Indian cricket, but only barely so. Tendulkar knows his position in the team is secure. He also thinks he will get another crack at the captaincy; he may be surprised when the time comes for Azharuddin to go, but his present thinking runs thus. So what did he have to lose by asking to be relieved of the captaincy? Little, is my opinion.
One will note that there hasn't been all that much of an outcry as usual. Any sensible follower of the game would have come to the conclusion long ago that Tendulkar had been given the leadership of the team far too early in his career for him to make a success of it. And when he went, these same observers would have veered around to the only possible conclusion -- it should have happened some time ago.
It may well be that the selector from the south, Shivlal Yadav, has been instrumental in getting rid of Tendulkar and bringing back Azharuddin. It may also be true that the selectors made Tendulkar the fall guy for their own errors of omission and commission. But one cannot avoid the point -- Tendulkar was a poor captain. No matter the mechanics behind his ouster, no-one could justify retaining him at the head of a team which was starting to look like it could never win any major series.
To my mind, the decks are slowly being cleared for a coup. Azharuddin is only an interim captain; he will not be around for long. No, the real reason for Tendulkar's dethroning will be made clear after some time. There are some whose stars are in the ascendant (I'm naming no names but followers of the game will understand) and there are those who would like the captain to come from a region which has rarely taken centrestage in Indian cricket. In true Indian style, the regional factor is again coming to the fore. It will not be long before the whims of administrators are revealed. Just remember when it happens -- you read it here first.