March 05, 2008


Time Your Exit, Sachin

In American Gangster, Denzel Washington smuggles high quality cocaine from South-East Asia and builds a drug empire in US. When everything is going great, the business hits the dead-end when the smuggling logistics is about to be shut down. The boss at drug source tells Washington to pack up the business. He tells him "Quitting while you're ahead is not the same as quitting."

This astute observation is very much valid in the walks of life where people hit zenith of their career and know that they probably can't stay there for too long. They use the term "in the zone" to describe invincibility of such people. So, whom does it apply? Sports persons, artist (filmmakers, actors, writers, etc.), business icons among others. These people, at their peak, are not just admired but revered.

Why is the peak the best time for them to quit? When things are going so great, when everybody expects more from these heroes, doesn't sound a sensible time to hang up the gloves. The problem here is of the "last impression." If an employee stays happily with a company for long period of say 5 yrs, and if company treats him as an unwanted element when he is about to leave, chances are slim that the person is going to talk unequivocally nice about the company. Last impression, you see. That's the reason, the peak is the best time for the heroes of the society to leave the scene. One should leave when people ask "why now" instead of "why not now." A shining example of leaving at peak is Mr Murthy of Infosys. He quit the position of CEO when the company was doing really great.

I believe, the time has come when Sachin Tendulkar should call it a day. In recent past, except the very recent Australia tour, Sachin has just become a pale shadow of himself in glory days. The critics generally say, though Sachin has exceptional statistics on his name, on very rare occasions he has been a match-winner. Worse, he has not be able to fulfill the dream of the country to win ODI World Cup single-handedly. Last year, when India failed to make it to the last 8, the country saw the eruption of anger. Much of it was directed to Sachin as people expected, probably unreasonably, him to play great innings when there was dire need of it. His effigies were burnt and photos blackened. It was sad to see Sachin's restaurant in Mulund being guarded by the cops for almost a week as stone pelting on the glass wall was a very much a possibility.

And exactly an year later, when Sachin helped India win spectacularly in Australia, he is back as the God of country's first religion. Rave words are being written about him and no superlatives are left unused. I think, he should exit the scene gracefully before the ink dries. He should keep in mind that Ganguly, Dravid and Sehwag, who were once integral part of the team are left in cold. They are already not part of the 20-20 format of the game. And the new players are sealing their place in ODI team making little room for the greats of yesteryear. Sachin may not meet the same fate as Ganguly and Dravid, but if at all he does, he will have effectively wiped out all the goodwill he painstakingly earned in last two decades. And it would be a sad and grossly unfair to see Sachin leave in less than gracious manner.

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