Sachin Tendulkar kept his emotions in check as he walked in to bat in his final Test match, stroking an unbeaten 38 as India seized early control against the West Indies after a disciplined bowling display here.
The 40-year-old walked into the middle amid thundering cheers from the crowd and a guard of honour from his West Indies rivals as he showed glimpses of his vintage form on an eventful opening day.
At stumps, India were comfortably placed at 157 for two after bundling out the West Indies for a meagre 182 by tea, riding on left–arm spinner Pragyan Ojha’s five–wicket haul.
While Ojha (5/40) grabbed the spotlight in the first half of the day, it was the retiring legend, who held centrestage in the last session with his entire family and childhood coach Ramakant Achrekar watching from the stands.
It was an abysmal batting display by the West Indians after being put in by Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The Caribbeans lost eight wickets for just 89 runs in a single session much to the delight of the Wankhede crowd.
Kieran Powell (48) and Darren Bravo (29) were the only batsmen to put up any fight against the stifling line and length of the Indian bowlers, who utilised the conditions well.
India responded strongly with openers Murali Vijay (43) and Shikhar Dhawan (33) putting on 77 runs in quick time. The two were sent back by Shane Shillingford before Tendulkar and Cheteshwar Pujara (34) took control of the proceedings.
India, leading 1-0 after winning the first Test in Kolkata inside three days, were just 25 runs behind West Indies at close of play raising doubts whether the match will go the full distance.
A picture of confidence and concentration, Tendulkar did everything right during his undefeated stay at the crease in which he faced 73 balls hitting six boundaries.
Not only did he look in control but also helped Pujara (34 batting) gain in confidence as they added 80 runs in an unbroken third wicket stand.
At exactly 3:33 pm, India’s most loved sportsman walked down the staircase of the pavilion to the deafening applause from the near–packed Wankhede stadium with spectators on their feet after the fall of Vijay’s wicket to welcome the legendary player.
He acknowledged the ‘Guard of Honour’ from the West Indian cricketers, shook hands with rival captain Darren Sammy and umpire Nigel Llong and did what no one ever saw him do during a match.
He touched the 22-yard strip which has given him everything and sought its blessings, as mother Rajni Tendulkar, immediate family members and Achrekar watched from President’s Box.
A mistimed slog sweep got him off the mark and when Shillingford offered width, he rocked back to cut it past point for a boundary. Shillingford tried a doosra but Tendulkar read it early to hit that signature cover drive to reach 12.
As burly 6’10 Shanon Gabriel provided width, out came another killer cover drive to roll back those years. When Shillingford bowled a good flighted off break, he presented full face to play the copybook forward defensive stroke that he may have learnt at Achrekar’s cradle some 30 years back. As he settled down, Tendulkar along with Pujara, took those singles bringing up another 50-run partnership. Marlon Samuels bowling his fast off breaks fired one down the leg side and a neat leg glance brought about the fourth boundary.
The best was saved for the end when he showed the full face of the bat hitting a copybook on—drive of Sammy’s bowling.
Earlier, West Indies batsmen were visibly uncomfortable against both pace and swing of Shami Ahmed and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and also looked clueless against spin twins Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha losing eight wickets for 89 runs post lunch.
Ojha, who was a bit unlucky in the first Test, was pick of the bowlers grabbing five for 40 in 11.2 overs while Ashwin, who completed 100 wickets in Tests had figures of three for 45 in 15 overs to show for his efforts.
Mohammed Shami (1/36) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1/45) may not have got too many wickets but they created the initial pressure which helped the spinners to get on top of the opposition.
It looks highly unlikely that the match will last the distance as the West Indian batsmen will find it even more difficult to survive on a wearing track on the third day having played only 55.2 overs on the opening day.PTI