Tendulkar gets his game face on for the final lap
At the end of batting in the nets on Tuesday morning, which had lasted 20 minutes, Sachin Tendulkar walked and stood ten yards away from the team's training. The helmet was still on. The gloves were off. The bat leaned against his right leg, below his hip, as he crossed his left leg. He stared nowhere in particular. A few moments later he practised the bat swing (without the bat) with his left hand. Then he took a proper stance and started tilting his head forward and backwards, as if he was ready to face a delivery. Then, once again he stood still. The bat was now under his left hip while his right foot crossed across the other leg. Tendulkar stared into the distance.
Tendulkar has just ten days of cricket left to play in his life. As he stood there in the middle of an empty Eden Gardens, he was left alone to ponder. In the cacophony surrounding his dip in form, he always maintained that he would depart when he was ready. He is, presumably, now ready.
Tendulkar's message after he finished 20 years in cricket was to never be afraid to chase dreams. The result is not his motive, if you understand Tendulkar. He once explained that as a captain all he expected from his players was 100% commitment. It did not matter if some dreams remained unfulfilled.
And, perhaps surprisingly given all he has achieved, even Tendulkar has some unfulfilled dreams. On the eve of the historic Lord's Test in 2011 (the 2000th Test), on his final visit to England, Tendulkar devoted himself to extensive net sessions at the Nursery ground, separate from the team training sessions. Tendulkar never had a century at Lord's but his aim in the nets was to make sure he was trying to negate all the doubts in his mind concerning the damp conditions as well as the seam movement. In the end he left Lord's without managing to engrave his name on the Honours' Board.
It was a period when Tendulkar was failing to notch his hundredth international century. Later that year when, on his home ground in Mumbai against West Indies, six runs short of the landmark, slightly desperate, he would steer into the hands of Darren Sammy. As he walked back dejected, he stared at the bat face as if to say: why did you deceive me.
The next ten days of cricket will doubtless contain other dreams and targets. He would surely like to go out on a high; more than a century or a fifty, what he'd most want is a team victory. MS Dhoni, speaking to the Telegraph said that the team would do their best and Tendulkar would have to play his part.
An established Tendulkar trait is to cut himself off from everything, to keep his focus solely on the game. In Kolkata you already see that happening. He has switched off his mobile phone, politely requested friends to not bother him during his preparations. It has been three days since he landed in Kolkata but Tendulkar has shunned all attention.
One of Tendulkar's biggest strengths has been to live in the moment. In a week when two young men, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma - earmarked to inherit his No.4 position in the Test team - captured the headlines, Tendulkar would have only been happy that he is passing on the baton at the right moment.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo