India v West Indies, 2nd Test, Mumbai, 2nd day November 15, 2013

Tendulkar's pulsating swansong

N Hunter
It was an emotional moment for Sachin Tendulkar as he walked out to bat on the second day, with the Wankhede crowd beckoning the man to one last century

Every stand was full. People sat along the stairs leading to the seats, they stood along the railings and the walls and whatever they could lean against or stand on. When Cheteshwar Pujara took a single allowing Sachin Tendulkar to face his first ball of the morning, the 40,000-odd fans at the Wankhede Stadium announced to the world who was batting.

It was an emotional moment, even for Tendulkar, as he walked in to bat late on Thursday afternoon. On his return, undefeated, as he climbed up the steps towards the Indian dressing room he'd missed a step and lost balance. Wankhede was heaving and chanting "Saacchinn, Saacchinnn." Before climbing the stairs, Tendulkar had waved the bat to the crowd to acknowledge their support. He had waved the bat towards his family to acknowledge their support - gestures he would never have made unless he had reached a landmark.

The fans were back today. In huge numbers. With one common expectation: 'God, get a hundred'.

The atmosphere was similar to that two years ago at the same ground against the same opponent. In the final Test of the 2011-12 home series against West Indies, Tendulkar had walked in on the third morning on an overnight score of 67, in search of his hundredth international century. As he breezed to 94, Wankhede screamed and begged their most beloved son to get to the milestone with a six. Tendulkar, instead, steered into the hands of Darren Sammy at second slip off Ravi Rampaul. A college kid, who had told his mom he was bunking class that day, cried in despair: "Kyun khela yaar (Why did he play that shot?)." It was as though Tendulkar had deceived him.

Today, thousands screamed at Tino Best, who had the temerity to bowl short balls at Tendulkar, who was attempting to guide the ball over slips. He failed on at least four occasions. On one such occasion, Best appealed for a caught behind, rushing towards cover with his arms splayed, dead sure he had his man. Tendulkar did not move. The umpire, Richard Kettleborough, was not interested. West Indies could not believe it. Wankhede booed Best in unison. "Tino sucks. Tino sucks," went around the ground like a Mexican wave.

On 48, Tendulkar tried to once again open the face of the bat against a Best delivery that was pitched short-of-a-length. The ball, however, did not rise as much as Tendulkar expected, and also moved into him. His wife Anjali cupped her mouth in nervousness.

Next delivery Tendulkar played the most beautiful straight drive with an open face, beating mid-on and getting to his half-century. Anjali clapped, but did not stand up. The crowd, though, did. Such was the cacophony inside the arena that a friend from Trinidad wrote in, saying: "That crowd's sounding extra loud even from the TV."

On 58, there was a minor blip once again when Tendulkar decided to attempt a slog-sweep, but fortunately the ball had hit outside the line. "Arre, bhai. Hundred dekhne ka hain! (What are you doing? We have come to see a hundred) said a man with a grey French beard.

The crowd had become Tendulkar's pulse, yet the man himself remained calm. In what could possibly be his last innings he played every shot in the textbook, barring the hook and pull, to perfection. A crisp back-foot punch that raced past the empty cover region moved him to 60.

The youngster with his cheeks painted received a phone call. "God is on 67. 33 minimum Marega (He will get it)," he told the person at the other end in a loud and confident voice. On cue, that trademark on drive, with just enough power, beat Shivnarine Chanderpaul at mid-on.

Two balls after drinks, Tendulkar moved swiftly inside the line of the ball to paddle sweep Narsingh Deonarine for two runs, taking advantage of no leg slip or fine leg. Two balls later, trying to play a wristy cut at the very last moment, Tendulkar was caught by Sammy at slip. The crowd were caught off guard. Initially it was met with silence, but a fraction later everyone rose as Tendulkar walked back to the pavilion, probably for the last time. Anjali stood up and clapped finally, eyes hidden by her black shades. His son Arjun Tendulkar, who was one of the ball boys near the boundary rope, stood up to join the rest.

Perhaps even Tendulkar understood that fact. The joy ride had come to an end in such a sudden fashion. Two yards before crossing the ropes, helmet on, gloves on, sucking his lips inside, Tendulkar waved around the ground to thank the fans one last time with bat in hand.

"End of an era" said a senior journalist in the press box, a man who had covered Tendulkar's Test debut 24 years ago to the day. North Stand did not empty out. So did none of the others. Tendulkar was yet to leave cricket for good.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 19, 2013, 11:56 GMT

    SRT 's last innings though short was carefree and aggresive reminding us of the sachin of yore. he was batting with gay abandon with serine pujara at the other end. though he failed to sign of with a century he's trade mark backfoot punch and crispy drives have got etched in every cricket fan's mind. thank u sachin ! ur farewell speech was nothing short of a summarised scripture ! always a leading light to every humanbeing irrespective of his professional field. GREAT PLAYER BUT A GREATER AND HUMBLIEST HUMAN BEING !

  • Lahiru on November 16, 2013, 13:50 GMT

    AS a Sri Lankan I am really proud about u sachin......fantastic speech for every cricket and every one....I really like those words " Never Search Short Cuts and Never Give up" Thank u sachin...... Triple Gem Bless u

  • Heramb on November 16, 2013, 12:40 GMT

    @ Rajeshj. Agreed this current WI bowling unit was poor by any standards. Only Shillingford looked Test class. But to compare that with Steve Waugh's farewell in Sydney 2004 is preposterous. And to call that Indian attack barring Anil Kumble as strong to belittle Tendulkar's 74 is the biggest irony. Waugh had to score 80 to save that Sydney Test for OZ to avoid their first ever home series defeat against India. Waugh's dream to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in his final Test was shattered by a potent Indian batting line-up that won in Adelaide, smashed 705-7 in Sydney and went on to record India's first Test series win in Pakistan later that year. The only common aspect that I can see is that Tendulkar also seems to have been politely forced out and compelled to retire with at least a year of cricket (till England 2014) left in him by the current powers-that-be in the BCCI.

  • Android on November 16, 2013, 11:26 GMT

    I Realy misss u sachin

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2013, 9:51 GMT

    Sachiiin Sachin!! We will always miss you Sachin, Will always remember all the matches, centuries and even the wickets you took.

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2013, 8:21 GMT

    my dear all cricket lovers this is for you.but dont forget in master blaster mr.sachin ramesh tendulkar

  • Harmon on November 16, 2013, 7:50 GMT

    @ Chan1966: First of all Richards, Lara & Sachin, all three are players of very very high class and diff ppl will list them in different orders as per their perceptions. You are saying as if the opinions of Indian fans are biased while the opinions of others are not due their own biases. Do you like Vanilla or Chocolate or both or none? Any of your answers will be due to your own biases & so would be mine.

    Why do you bring the Indian umpires into this? FYI it was an non-Indian umpire who gave Sachin lbw wrongly in the Kolkata test. So just cos he got one wrong is it fair for us to say he was biased against Sachin? If not then Indian umpires, being humans, can be wrong. Were there any Indian umpires in Sydney08 or in the prev Ashes or in the Kallis-DRS controversy or in the Ind-SL ODI where the umpires couldn't even count from 1-6?

    Regarding Lara, Lara got to 11k first but what about 12k, 13k, 14k,15k? Is summiting Annapurna or Aconcagua greater or summitting K2 or Mt. Everest?

  • Surya on November 16, 2013, 7:49 GMT

    "My life spanning 24 years in those 22 yards!!" I think now cricket rules should be changed a bit and the pitch length should be made 24 yards!!! Sachiiin....Sachin!!

  • Android on November 16, 2013, 7:37 GMT

    no words to explain and i cant expossing my feelings 2years back my mum was passed away that the same pain again i felt this is great loss of indian cricket no one beat his record chances are more less he hadbeen with us past 24 years but upto my gravyyard i never forget this moment thanks for ICCBand BccB.

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2013, 7:04 GMT

    it's been really painful watching cricket with out sachin. Now I realized that how important is YOUTUBE ? At least we can watch his old evergreen innings.. From here on I believe people would like to watch cricket on YOUTUBE as there only our favourite sachin would be playing for india.. Thanks sachin for entertaining us for 24 years.