That flick would be missed; the delicately placed shot off the pads, the trademark straight-drive with the manufacturer’s logo so visible; the punch to cover; it will all be missed.
His innings in a one-day international was a highlights package. If the partner happened to be Virender Sehwag, it was double delight because they would compete with each other in decimating the opposition. More than anyone, Sehwag will miss his partner.
True, Sachin is so meticulous when it comes to preparing for a Test match. His routine has remained the same, right from sleeping early, or at least trying to sleep early, and having breakfast in his room during match days.
But he has also been equally fastidious ahead of an ODI. His unmistakable shadow practice on the pitch was a moment the ground staff dreaded. Sachin’s eyes would wander off the pitch and into the galleries behind the stumps.
Why would anyone look beyond the pitch and into the stands? The ground staff would hold its breath. The focus would be on the sightscreens. The size mattered and it mattered most to Sachin. Many a time he would suggest, sometimes in an irritated tone, that the sightscreen be moved or the size improved. He did it for years and did it without fail. Once the sightscreen was adjusted to his demand, the ground staff would return to other work. It was a routine we also observed for years.
Sachin made every effort to earn his place on merit. Forget if he prolonged his exit from the one-day stage. For a man who told himself not to play the square cut without getting his eye in, he would slam the first ball of the ODI with a horizontal bat. He believed in innovation and adapting to the task. It came naturally to him, not for others.
T20 not his cup of tea
He never relished T20. It was crude cricket. The IPL was an aberration and a distraction too. In heart of heart, he would wish not to be part of the IPL. But one-day cricket presented him an opportunity to stay in touch with the latest trend. He would spend hours, having animated discussions with even the newest face in the team.
He always wanted to learn the new tricks. Such was his enthusiasm that he would emerge from the ‘nets’ and check if he had got that ‘slog’ right. He remained an eternal student of the game.
Not a sudden decision
The decision to say good bye to one-day cricket was not sudden. For some time he had come to realise that the body was not listening to his brain. Fatigued legs and arms at the end of the day were clear indication to Sachin that he had to take the call. Test or one-day cricket, the choice was easy. He had valued Test cricket higher even though his recent form has meant a dent in his reputation.
The timing was as judicious as his shot selection. Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman left the newcomers with enough time to prepare for the battles overseas, just as Sachin. He would not visualise Indian cricket in a struggling mode. Nothing, as he confessed recently, would make him happier than India excelling.