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Tendulkar's decision lamentable

Far from advancing his rehabilitation, these appearances may set him back, writes Peter Roebuck

Sachin Tendulkar's decision to go to England to play a few matches for a travelling club is lamentable.

Worse it is a mistake. By taking up arms alongside a bunch of yesterday's men busy milking the last few drops from their fame, he has cast himself as over the hill. A man is known by the company he keeps. India's batting champion ought to be in the nets or playing proper cricket for a proper team. Instead he is swanning around.

Bear in mind that the arms used by these former maestros are not real. These fellows fight with swords made of papier-mache. Lashings is the dream-child of a man with more money than sense. Only those interested in Seniors golf or tennis exhibitions involving Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe could find anything to please them in the sort of self-satisfied fare dished up by these former internationals.

Lashings is a wretched concept that hints at hero-worship. A bunch of distinguished has-beens is brought together at vast expense. They are housed in luxury, transported in splendour and paid handsomely for traipsing around the country playing irrelevant matches against mostly unknown opponents.

Egos and bank balances are boosted, and small crowds are entertained. Mostly it is all sound and fury. The money could be better spent.

Not sport

It is not sport. It is not even show business. The Harlem Globetrotters have nothing to worry about. It is the cult of celebrity. Serious battles have been won and lost and the lifelong pursuit of excellence has finally been abandoned.

That cricketers whose battles have been lost and won take the chance to earn some easy money whilst wandering around England at the height of summer is hardly surprising. It might even help them to adjust to obscurity.

Economists call it a soft landing. They can play a few friendly matches, score a few runs and take a few wickets without feeling any of the pressure that eats away at and eventually weakens the will. They can also enjoy the company of old comrades and foes, swapping stories and sharing jokes. Most players have plenty of time on their hands. Hardly any start a fresh life. Mostly it's the media or the circuit.

But Tendulkar does not fit these criteria. He is a young man with runs to score, ambitions to fulfil. He must remain sharp of mind, strong of limb and quick of wits. Once competitive drive is lost it is the devil's own work to get it back. Ask any boxer. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between serving a purpose and avoiding an issue.

What can have possessed a contemporary champion to join past players in their unending parade? It cannot be the money. Perhaps he simply wanted to play some cricket far from the madding crowd. More than most great sportsman, he has, too, retained his love of the game. The pleasure he derives from producing a glorious stroke may have diminished but it has not disappeared. Perhaps he also senses that these companions will understand his travails and respect his privacy. Where better to hide a jewel than in a bag of diamonds?

Nevertheless it is a mistake. Tendulkar does not belong in this company. Far from advancing his rehabilitation, these appearances may set him back. By offering the temptations of the easy life, they may weaken his resolve.

Nor should any attention be paid to his performances. His hundred was meaningless. Great warriors belong in the field, not in tents re-enacting their most famous victories.

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