Sachin Tendulkar’s first visit to this serene, much-admired cricket destination coincides with Adam Gilchrist’s last.
Fittingly, when Kings XI Punjab hosts Mumbai Indians in its last league match on Saturday, the occasion could have been marked by some fireworks from Tendulkar and Gilchrist.
However, this time, Tendulkar will not be seen in action at this picturesque venue. He is nursing a left-wrist sprain suffered during the match Sunrisers Hyderabad. With the play-offs just three days away, his decision to rest seems justified.
As MI mentor Anil Kumble indicated on the eve of the match, it would be “tough” for Tendulkar to play. On the other hand, Gilchrist re-affirmed that Saturday’s encounter would be his last, at least, at the venue he loves so much.
Age may be catching up with these two members of the ‘40+ Club’, but their charm refuses to diminish. No matter where they are, fans flock to watch them, both on and off the field. Their best may be firmly behind them but fans are happy to see them as active cricketers, at least in the IPL.
On Thursday, Gilchrist repeated what he said here last May — that he would not be coming back to play IPL next season. “Last year, I sat here and said I am finished, I probably won’t come back; I came back. I am not looking for any grandstand finish but in two days’ (on Saturday) will be last time I play on this ground. So little things like that are really exciting and lift your enthusiasm levels.
“I just love this place, this region. It’s been one of the greatest experiences of my cricketing life, to be able to come up here and play cricket. Little inspirations like that keep me going.
“I have been thrilled to be involved in this competition for six years. I won’t be playing next year, and I am not making a huge retirement announcement. I am intending to play in the Caribbean and be a part of that inaugural game there but yeah, there’s plenty to keep you motivated and have fun.”
MI, atop the points table, would like to firm up its place with a win. In any case, one expects KXIP to give it all on Saturday. After all, it could well be Gilchrist’s last appearance, as a player, in India.