Lions v Mumbai Indians, Group B, CLT20, Jo'burg October 14, 2012

Throngs for Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar drew the biggest cheers from the Wanderers crowd, as though they realised it may be the last time they were watching him play

The match between Chennai Super Kings and Sydney Sixers had ended, when a throng of people clogged the walkway between the change-room and the nets. Occasionally after play, some stragglers will wander along that area, hoping for a glimpse of player or an autograph. Seldom has it been so difficult to move through there.

It took a while for realisation to hit and an explanation to be found for the traffic. Sachin Tendulkar was in town. Of course.

Tendulkar has been to South Africa several times before. Only two summers ago, he scored his 50th Test century down the road at SuperSport Park. He has played in all sorts of formats, colours and competitions here. In fact, South African fans may be part of a group that get to see him more often than people in other countries do, and over the years it seemed as though they had become accustomed to his presence.

This evening, thousands waited to see if Tendulkar would emerge from the practice area, if he would pop his head out of the dressing room or could be spotted through a window. He was nowhere to be seen.

Minutes later, the air at the Wanderers seemed to have electricity running through it. Tendulkar stepped onto the field to open the batting with Dwayne Smith and it was as though nothing else in the world mattered.

The same sentiment was evident in the Lions bowlers' approach. They seemed too focused on Tendulkar and almost forgot there was a batsman at the other end. With repeated short balls directed Tendulkar's way, careless length deliveries were sent to Smith.

Apart from the two internationals, Dirk Nannes and Sohail Tanvir, Lions had an inexperienced pace attack. Chris Morris' youth showed when he surprised Tendulkar with a bouncer that was clocked at 144 kph. He tried to do it again but couldn't, and was hit for back-to-back fours by Smith in that over, and two fours in the next. Even Tanvir got carried away and slipped in the short ball to Tendulkar.

Only when the spinner came on was some calm brought back to Lions' attack. Aaron Phangiso was not scared by Tendulkar and gave the ball generous flight. He should have had Tendulkar stumped but then bowled him two balls later. The celebrations were not wild, certainly not as wild as they were in 2010 when Shane Burger, who was probably even less well known than Phangiso, dismissed Tendulkar.

The rest of the match seemed to happen with a haze over it. The crowd became substantially smaller and less vocal, although that could have had something to do with the temperature dropping and a nasty wind picking up. Only when Lions got closer did something change.

Memories of 2010 came back as the people who had stayed behind began to cheer on their home side. "Ole, Ole," was chanted. Neil McKenzie, a legend in his own right at this ground, played what looked like the most carefree innings of the day. McKenzie did not struggle to time the ball so he did not have to rely on power hitting. By the time he had finished, Tendulkar seemed far from the remaining people's thoughts.

The reality is that this could be the last time Tendulkar plays in South Africa. Nobody knows when the end will be, though. If this is indeed Tendulkar's last visit to these shores, at least he would have done a fairly proper round trip. Mumbai play two matches at the Wanderers, one in Cape Town and one in Durban. If they make it to the semi-finals, they could play at Centurion as well. No doubt the crowds will swell to see him.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • raj on October 16, 2012, 9:54 GMT

    Sachin has been the great batsman of the modern era. Unfortunately, he has messed up the timing of his retirement. Like Imran Khan said, Sachin should have retired after winning the WC - no better time. Team India is on a downward slide and I doubt they will get a great victory fitting to farewell Sachin in the near future. It is VERY SAD that this great batsman will get an unceremonious exit from the game!

  • Desmond on October 16, 2012, 4:34 GMT

    Tendlya is probably practising for upcoming Test series in India against England & Australia as well as for the next SA tour.

  • p on October 16, 2012, 4:17 GMT

    @ALEX ALLEYNE - Beautifully put and so true. Pure Silk.

  • Fazeer on October 16, 2012, 3:28 GMT

    Its more heartbreaking to see a legendary batsman struggling and missing couple of deliveries from an ordinary left arm bowler and then getting himself bowled with his feet and bat haywire. His heart and soul still may be young but physically he is slowing down and for T20 cricket its high time Tendulkar either perform or perish irrespective being a legendary. I am very impressed of young Indian Under 19 cricket captain playing for Delhi Daredevils. He looks a Tendulkar for India in the future.

  • Hurricane on October 15, 2012, 19:14 GMT

    The day sachin retires it's gonna be a heartbreak for all the people who want him to retire (except the jealous ones) because they're the ones who want him to do so because they can't bear his failure. They want him to sign off on a high note. I empathize with them :P.

  • Faisal on October 15, 2012, 17:21 GMT

    Sachin was always over rated. He was never a threat like Pointing and Lara was. If 1 billion start calling some one legend, he does not become one. He should prove on the field.

  • Rahul on October 15, 2012, 13:32 GMT

    Sachin might be anything.You can compare him with lara and Ponting.But how can somebody compare him to Inzi.He can be compared to Yuvi,Jadeja etc.Sachin,Bradman,Lara,Sobers,Ponting are in different class.But as Paki don't have any gr8 batting idol they can.But if they want to comapare than saeed anwar would come close than this Inzi.Apart from 1 inning in WC 1992 I don't remember ne gr8 innings by him.And to be honest it could b a fluke.

  • Dummy4 on October 15, 2012, 13:09 GMT

    SRT Loosing Respect from Millions..Its time to say GOOD BYE

  • onkar on October 15, 2012, 12:59 GMT

    sachin is and will remain the best ever cricketer to have stepped on this planet....those who criticize him will get the answer in a just very few innings from now THE GOD HIMSELF SAYS--- WHEN SOMEONE HITS STONES AT U,CONVERT THEM INTO MILESTONE.SURELY A RECORD IS IN OUR WAITING..go sachin,pls dont retire -people in india will stop watching cricket.........!!!! BEST OF LUCK FOR THE UPCOMING MATCHES,U WILL SURELY SCORE & SCORE BIG... :)

  • Fazeer on October 15, 2012, 11:07 GMT

    What stupid idea, whether Sachin scores a hundred or duck he should continue playing because he is a legend. Cricket is game and every team plays to win. When a legend keeps on failing and the teams keeps on losing and still keep on playing him because he is a legend? Sachin have the cricketing skills but his timings, eye hand cordination is slowing down. Majority of his last ten innings have been bowled. That clearly shows his relexes are slowing down in defending his wicket. He have to accept his age and slowing down as time passes by as he is not super human, but normal human being.

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