India legend Sachin Tendulkar facing scrutiny after long period of poor Test form
Alex Williams considers Sachin Tendulkar's recent form and asks if his Test career is in terminal decline.
By Alex Williams
Last Updated: 28/11/12 3:49pm
The 'Little Master' remains India's ultimate cricketing icon, but a poor recent run of form has led to calls in some quarters for him to end his glittering international career.
His towering status in India means dropping him from the side would cause an outcry and he has duly taken his place in the 15-man squad for the third Test against England at Kolkata starting on December 5.
Reports in India indicate Tendulkar will play on as long as he is picked, but is it time for the 39-year-old to take the decision out of the selectors' hands and hang up his boots? A quick glance at his recent Test form may suggest so.
Tendulkar has not made a century in the longest form of the game since January 2011, although he has racked up two subsequent hundreds in one-day internationals.
His average since making 146 against South Africa in the third Test at Cape Town is 32.2, which compares unfavourably to his overall career mark of 54.6 in the longest form of the game.
More alarming still are his performances in the immediate past, with Tendulkar currently in the midst of a run of form which has seen him fail to get beyond 30 in any of his last 10 innings.
His average over that period is a paltry 15.3 and his three efforts so far in the Test series with England - 13, 8, and 8 - fall short even of that mark.
Analysis has also centred on the manner of his failures, with a high proportion of bowled and lbw dismissals being evidence to some that his reflexes are on the decline at the age of 39.
Playing past such an age is very rare in modern Test cricket - the only man since the turn of the century to appear in a Test match beyond the age of 40 is England stalwart Alec Stewart.
Tendulkar is the oldest currently-active Test cricketer and, inevitably, time will catch up with even the most talented and dedicated of players.
But is this really the moment for India's favourite son to depart the Test arena?
With the series against England finely poised at 1-1, India will look to their senior players to lead the recovery from a crushing 10-wicket defeat in Mumbai last time out.
If he does not deliver again in the third Test at Eden Gardens the pressure could mount on Tendulkar to protect his legacy and call it a day after the four-Test series concludes.
His supporters may point to a similarly barren spell between 2005 and 2007, during which he also came under scrutiny and after which he went on to break a multitude of batting records.
Whichever side of the fence you sit on, his performance in Kolkata will be one of the focal points of the series with England and could be critical in shaping his international future.