NEW DELHI – Former Pakistan captain and allrounder Imran Khan said Tuesday Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar should have retired after the “ultimate high” of a World Cup victory at home last year.
“The best time for him to have gone was when India won the World Cup,” Khan told the CNN-IBN news channel. “He is such a great player and there is still no replacement for him really, but he has to time it right.”
Khan, who himself retired after leading Pakistan to an epic World Cup triumph in 1992, felt retiring now would not be right for Tendulkar as India reels from a 4-0 test whitewash to Australia.
“If he goes now, he won’t go on a high. If he had left at the World Cup final, it would have been the ultimate high. The World Cup final is the peak, there is nothing bigger than that,” the 59-year-old Khan said.
Tendulkar, who holds the record for both the most runs and centuries in tests and one-dayers, is chasing a 100th international century.
The man known by fans as “the Little Master” had the satisfaction of lifting the World Cup on his home ground of Wankhede Stadium on April 2, but has been stuck on 99 centuries since scoring two 100s during that tournament.
“Records should be apart of a win because they are eventually statistics. The greatest cricketer I played against was Viv Richards, but I don’t remember his records. He just loved to take on challenges,” Khan said.
Khan, who played 88 tests and 175 one-day internationals during an international career that started in 1971, said retirement was always a difficult decision to make for a sportsman.
“I always wanted to leave on my own terms, never wanted to be at the mercy of selectors. But very few get the decision right. Most of the great players have also not got it right,” he said.
Khan said it was difficult to say whether the time had come to ease out the likes of Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman, all in their late 30s, after their unimpressive performance in Australia.
Tendulkar batted well in patches to score 287 runs from four tests in Australia, while Dravid (194) and Laxman (155) could not justify being India’s mainstays of test cricket.
“In Indian cricket, it is not one great player who has to take the decision but three or four. The big question is – do you have replacements? If the gap between a great player who is going down and a young player who is going up is not much, you should back the young players,” Khan added.
Khan also indicated that the advent of the cash-rich Indian Premier League had affected the traditional forms of the game since players now wanted to continue playing so as to remain in the reckoning for IPL teams.
“The IPL is making a big difference because people want to now prolong their careers. In 21 years, I did not make so much money as an ordinary IPL player makes in two months,” he said.
The Indian cricket team now plays two Twenty20 games against Australia on Wednesday and Friday before participating in a limited-overs tri-series against Australia and Sri Lanka.
Tendulkar does not play Twenty20 games for India but will likely play in the one-dayers.