He was the cynosure of all eyes at the Eden Gardens. The fans applauded warmly when the ball found him in the field, they cheered loudly when he threw the ball back, and went delirious when he occasionally acknowledged their chants of “Sachin, Sachin” as he patrolled the boundary.
He was a low-profile actor on the first day of his 199th Test, but was yet the star when playing even those minor parts.
The spectators who filled the stands must have prayed that M.S. Dhoni would win the toss and bat first. That did not happen.
But the fans did have their moment to savour. Just before tea, Dhoni lobbed the ball to Tendulkar in a move, perhaps, aimed at throwing a surprise at the West Indians.
He was ready, of course. Tendulkar takes his bowling seriously, only a shade lesser than his batting. He is known to throw challenges at the batsmen in the ‘nets’ and win most of them.
After brief warm up, a study of the field — and some fine-tuning — he was ready to bowl.
A leg-break was attempted but the delivery lacked turn. The next one was a googly that would have done a regular tweaker proud, but line was a problem.
The ball beat even Dhoni. Four byes. A slower leg break seemed to suggest he was setting the batsman up.
And then, Tendulkar struck. A quicker one trapped Shane Shillingford in front, evoking a rapturous response from the crowd.
His previous Test wicket was at Cape Town in 2011 — a Test in which he had scored a century.
The fans will pray for his quick arrival at the middle when play resumes on Thursday. Before this match ends, some would sure love to see Tendulkar don the wicketkeeper’s gloves for a while.
It is, perhaps, the only role that has eluded him on a cricket field.