A splendid gesture by Garry Sobers should sum up Sachin Tendulkar’s stature as he takes the field in his farewell Test at the Wankhede Stadium here.
Approached to autograph a bat, Sobers noticed it had Tendulkar’s signature at the top. The West Indian great added his name at the bottom and reportedly told the cricket fan “You should never ask a senior cricketer to put his autograph below a junior’s. But Sachin is a legend.”
The legend, who began his sporting journey at this very ground 25 years ago, shall attain his cricketing nirvana at the end of this Test against a team that has come to realise it would have to raise the bar to make the occasion memorable.
Cricket is a team game, but individuals sometimes corner all the glory.
Tendulkar has been one rare individual who has set benchmarks at different stages of his career, improving constantly, celebrating victories and accepting defeats with grace, an unfailing picture of poise and dignity. The master has reached a point where he really has nothing to prove.
The next five days are going to leave him emotionally and physically drained. He is bound to find himself in a different zone as he challenges himself to give the best. This will be a very different situation.
Tendulkar has dealt with pressure valiantly but every moment here is set to throw up new challenges. He is not going to explore unknown territory. Each step, each movement will remind him this is his final first-class match. And there lies the scary peak that he shall need to scale.
It is not that Tendulkar would be lost to the cricketing world. Only his roles will change. But we have come to love him in his current avatar, an iconic figure on the field, carrying the hopes of a nation as chants of “Sachiiiin, Sachiiiin” reverberate at every ground, every public appearance of this cricketer with magical appeal.
Reams have been written on him and reams shall be written in future too, but the man’s amazing humility can never be documented. It has to be experienced!
The West Indians, when they take the field, will just play the supporting role in a drama that will bring the curtains down on an epic.
This Test is going to be a one-act play. There might be performers other than him, but Tendulkar is going to emerge the hero.
The expectations of Tendulkar have always been immense, so has been his response on most occasions, but the stage here is the most exacting. For, he knows there is no tomorrow and he has to deliver today.
The dismissal at Kolkata left his fan club grieving and cursing the umpire who ruled him leg-before. The world was convinced the ball would have sailed over the stumps. Even Tendulkar privately thought he had been done in.
Thanks to a non-performing opposition, he did not get a second look at the bowling since West Indies lost by an innings.
He left the Eden Gardens with an unfulfilled desire to give his fans a decent parting gift. He can do it here.
Ideally, India, and Tendulkar, would love to sign off on a winning note.
The home team would, however remember to treat the West Indies lightly at its own peril. Smarting under the debacle at Kolkata, the West Indies would obviously have a check list for this contest. The first entry has to deal with its mindless batting approach. It cannot compete in a Test with a T20 mindset.
Discipline at the top, Chris Gayle in particular, could well make this match a lively affair. Gayle, in is 99th Test, will need to fire and set the trend for the rest, where Kieran Powell, Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels can trouble the Indians, not to forget Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who plays his 150th Test. The much under-rated Chanderpaul, in his 19th international season, has an aggregate of 10,897 runs with 28 centuries.
The clamour to be at the Wankhede is incredible. The “I was there” moment is what will drive the cricket fan to this cricket bowl that has seen some great contests and triumphs.
The 2011 World Cup that left Tendulkar in a state of trance remains one of the game’s most captured frames. The master returns to complete a momentous journey with countless prayers from across the world wishing him success. True, it is a Test match.
With apologies, it is Tendulkar’s Farewell Match. Sit back and savour the send off ceremony of one of cricket’s most decorated performers.
The teams (from):
India: M.S. Dhoni (capt.), Shikhar Dhawan, M. Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, R. Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Amit Mishra and Ajinkya Rahane.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (capt.), Chris Gayle, Kieran Powell, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Narsingh Deonarine, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Denesh Ramdin, Tino Best, Veerasammy Permaul, Sheldon Cottrell, Kirk Edwards, Shannon Gabriel , Shane Shillingford and Chadwick Walton.
Umpires: Nigel Llong and Richard Kettleborough; Third umpire: Vineet Kulkarni. Match Referee: Andy Pycroft.
Play starts at 9-30 a.m.