As Sachin Tendulkar made that long walk back to the pavilion of the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai with his willow under his arm, Sandeep was as sad as he was relieved.
As a 28-year-old who grew up in the Sachin era, he was sad that he would never be able to see his all-time favourite cricketer in action again. He was also relieved over the realisation that he would no longer have to bother watching the game.
“I had lost interest in the game long back. I watched it over the last few years just to see Sachin bat. In a sense he was the last bond that kept me connected to the game,” said Sandeep, a cricket fan who converted to a football aficionado and a fanatic fan of English Premier League.
From restaurants to coffee shops, the progress of Sachin’s innings was the topic of discussion on Friday morning. Those who were on the move and could not follow it either on television or over the internet kept ringing up their friends for latest details. A pall of gloom fell as the news came in about the master’s dismissal without scoring a century.
With India eventually piling up a lead in excess of 300 runs, Sachin’s 74 runs could well be his last innings and fans mourned the loss of a true legend.
“Why should he be retiring when he can play like this,” was what Sachin Menon, who was named after the legend by his cricket coaching father Robin Menon, had to ask on watching Sachin play some of his vintage shots.
Robin Menon, a SAI-accredited cricket coach, said it would have been glorious to wrap up a glittering career with a century. “But then those 74 runs were as good as a century from a legend who inspired generations to take up the game. There were those masterful strokes straight from the copybook,” he said.
Actor Rajeev Pillai, an ardent Sachin fan, caught the Sachin innings from the Kolkata airport. “He still has got the technique to score against any international team for at least two more years. The back foot drives standing on the toes against pacer Tino Best and those trademark straight drives alone will vouch for it. Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma may be scoring runs but they cannot match the flair and beauty of the master’s strokes. To say that we will miss him will be the greatest understatement ever made,” he said.
Raiphi Vincent Gomez, former Kerala Ranji team captain, said the eagerness with which Sachin scored those 74 runs at the age of 40 plus reiterated the stamp of a true genius.
“He was the centre of attention of a massive crowd and yet he was unfazed about his batting. The pressure of playing his last match was not at all visible,” he said.
Writer K.L. Mohana Varma, a known cricket fan who had written a novel based on the game, said while everyone was rooting for a Sachin century, at least a few like him were expecting him to go out with a triple century that has eluded him through his career.
“But then the glorious uncertainty of the game intervened. In a way it was fitting that it didn’t last till a century, which would have reduced it to an arithmetic milestone. As long as he was there the beauty of batting was visible in those glorious strokes,” he said.