Sachin Tendulkar urged to quit cricket
Some question his ability at the age of 39 to play on, while others defend his right to continue
Sachin Tendulkar is facing unprecedented calls to retire after a string of failures fuelled speculation that time had finally caught up with India's icon.
Tendulkar, 39, has shouldered the hopes of a nation for 23 years, in the process becoming the world's leading run-getter in both test and one-day cricket with 100 international centuries.
But a string of recent poor scores, combined with the manner of his dismissals, has turned sections of the media and a once adoring public against him.
Sunil Gavaskar, the first man to reach the 10,000-run mark in tests, suggested during this week's second test against New Zealand in Bangalore that Tendulkar's reflexes were on the slide.
"The dismissal that was most disturbing was that of the 'master' when he was bowled through the gate," Gavaskar wrote in a newspaper column.
Pressed further, on television during the second test, Gavaskar said: "With age, the feet don't come to the pitch of the ball, the eyes don't pick up the ball early."
Former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin also said Tendulkar's feet were not moving well and he was constantly playing across the line.
"It is clear his reflexes have slowed down," Azharuddin said.
Tendulkar, who has scored a record 51 test centuries, has now gone 25 innings without a hundred in the five-day game since making 146 against South Africa in Cape Town in January last year
His top score in the series against lowly New Zealand was 27, prompting The Times of India to post pictures of three of his dismissals - all bowled - on its front page under the headline: 'What's wrong with India's batting genius?'
An online poll in the Hindustan Times said 56 per cent of respondents agreed it was time for Tendulkar to retire.
The Mail Today asked in a front-page banner headline if it was the "End of the road for Sachin?"
The usually conservative Hindu newspaper also wondered if "Father Time was catching up with the maestro".
Tendulkar has consistently dismissed any thought of retirement and said last week he still loved the game and enjoyed playing at the top level.
Sourav Ganguly, who played alongside Tendulkar for almost two decades, said speculation over the champion's future in the game was uncalled for.
He insisted Tendulkar was still good enough to play at international level, ahead of visits by England and Australia later in the season.
"I honestly feel the time has not come for him to go," Ganguly said.
"He is a legend and takes pride in his game and no one knows his game better than him."