Sachin Tendulkar displayed glimpses of his exquisite batting Thursday in his final test at the Wankhede Stadium, amid a festive atmosphere for his farewell international game.
Tendulkar scored a fluent 38 not out that had an enthusiastic crowd on its feet, expecting the “Little Master” to end a glorious 24-year career on a high note.
Tendulkar looked relaxed as he walked in to the middle after being given a guard of honor by the West Indies team. He was off the mark with the third delivery he faced and executed a fine cut shot for four to off-spinner Shane Shillingford off the 11th delivery.
A well-timed four through mid-off off the same bowler and a trademark cover drive off pace bowler Shannon Gabriel were the other picks of his six boundaries during the 73-ball knock.
The expectant crowd had swelled up as the Indian innings started after tea and it was in frenzy once Tendulkar was in the middle, batting with a new bat grip made in the green, white and orange colors of the Indian flag.
Placards like “Sachin 2hundredkar” and “Only humans will play cricket from now on” dotted the stadium in reverence to a player known as “God of cricket” in India.
Several prominent politicians, film actors and sportsmen watched the match, but the TV cameras were more focused on Tendulkar’s wife Anjali and brother Ajit along with his mother Rajni, who watched her son play live for the first time from her wheelchair.
Also in a wheelchair was Tendulkar’s coach Ramakant Achrekar, who made a rare public appearance after being struck by paralysis some years ago.
With the West Indies being asked to bat first after India won the toss with a coin specially minted for the occasion, spectators made up for the disappointment of not seeing Tendulkar bat in the first few hours by letting out a loud roar each time he fielded the ball.
The crowds shouted “Sachin, Sachin” and “we want Sachin” in the hope that he would get a chance to bowl.
Several fans also hung around the stadium despite not getting tickets.
“I did not have tickets for the match but still came here hoping to manage one this morning,” said 30-year-old Sumit Shah, sporting a “Farewell Sachin” cap that is popular with spectators here. “We saw Sachin seated in the front row of the team bus when the players came in and even that is good enough for us for the time being.”
Tendulkar announced last month that he would retire after playing two home tests. The venue for his last test was fittingly announced to be his own home ground where he also won the World Cup in 2011.
The 40-year-old Indian holds dozens of batting records which include making most runs and centuries in both tests and one-day internationals. He was the first batsman to score a double-century in one-day internationals and is the only player to score 100 international centuries.