India v West Indies, 2nd Test, Mumbai, 3rd day November 16, 2013

Tendulkar: composure amid chaos

On an emotional day in Mumbai, Sachin Tendulkar kept his emotions in check; while the fans went crazy, he calmly said his goodbyes with his family by his side

Anjali Tendulkar stood below the Indian dressing room waiting for her husband. An emotional Sachin Tendulkar had climbed the 34 steps leading to the dressing room with his head bowed down, tears trickling down, after India had decimated West Indies in the Mumbai Test.

Anjali was standing in the shade of the sight screen, along with her children, daughter Sara and son Arjun. Tears might have been welling up in their eyes but they did well to not let their emotions spill over lest it soil their husband/father's moment. As everyone was waiting for Tendulkar to emerge from the dressing room, the Wankhede Stadium crowd bellowed, "Thank You, Sachin. Thank You, Sachin."

Eventually, having given a speech in the West Indies dressing room, listened to in rapt attention by former captain Brian Lara, Tendulkar walked out with an energy drink in his hand. Fans from the adjacent MCA Pavilion went insane, making screeching and wailing noises to express their emotions. Tendulkar just smiled and then spotted Sudhir Gautam, one of his biggest fans. Tendulkar asked the Indian logistics in charge to get Gautam onto the ground, hugged his wife and kids, and smiled as he walked towards the presentation party.

On Friday, Tendulkar had sought out Gautam and Dharamveer Pal, the polio-stricken young man who travels with the Indian team during matches. He told them both to keep supporting cricket. "It is because of you guys we play. Keep supporting India. Indian cricket needs you," he said.

Now, as Ravi Shastri started the introductions, a powerful wave of boos cascaded and drowned his words. Everyone was desperate to hear one man: Tendulkar. A note in hand, Tendulkar walked with a small bottle of water in the other. Smartly, Shastri handed the microphone to Tendulkar without saying anything. Mic and bottle in hand, and the list in the other, Tendulkar started his tribute speech.

Each and every person he spoke about, he tried to locate them so he could speak to them, whichever stand they were in, wherever they were sitting or standing. The only person absent was his father, who was the first person on the list. When he addressed his mother Rajni he looked at her in the president's box, which was above the teams' dressing rooms. Tendulkar had personally overseen the construction of the ramp which would allow her wheelchair access. On Thursday morning before the first ball was bowled, Tendulkar had told BCCI president N Srinivasan that he was playing this final match for his mum and nothing else mattered. Today, he thanked the woman who meant everything to him heartily.

As he revealed bits and pieces about his life, about how his sister gave him his first bat, how his eldest brother Nitin had encouraged him all the while because he believed in him, how he told his brother Ajit that both of them had lived the same dream, about his in-laws being open to discuss any issues and his friends willing to cater to all his needs - including the doctors whom he would call to all parts of the world to diagnose his niggles - the applause only grew in resonance around the Wankhede. Anjali finally cried - so did Sara, while Arjun appeared sombre - when Tendulkar told the world about the sacrifices she had made to make for his sake.

By the time he had thanked his team-mates both present and former, the speech was about 10 minutes long. He apologised to everyone saying, "I know my speech is getting longer." Even before he could finish his sentence the crowd, in a bossy manner, egged him on. He continued.

And when he said he would dearly missing the crowds chanting "Saachinn, Saachinn" the thunderous roar refused to die down. Amidst that, Tendulkar wrapped up his speech.

He rushed away into the protective embrace of his family and team-mates. It was now time to say one last thanks to the public. The farewell lap. Tendulkar had already been carried in 2011 by his team-mates, after India had won the World Cup. But then it was a collective dream fulfilled. Today it was all about him. Even his own team-mates, as Rohit Sharma later revealed, just wanted to take in as much as possible of their hero.

The lap of honour started form the MCA Pavilion and inched towards the Sunil Gavaskar Stand. MS Dhoni tapped on Tendulkar's shoulder telling him his team-mates would like to carry him aloft on their shoulders. Tendulkar just smiled. Enough for Dhoni and Virat Kohli to lift him up instantly. Tendulkar sat upright. Unburdened. Waving the Indian tri-colour.

Anjali walked behind the palanquin, not like a wife but just one of the crowd. Arjun kept a close eye on his old man. Like a bodyguard he craned his neck here and there to make sure no suspicious elements had managed to sneak past the security cordon. Nitin Patel (physio) and Maane kaka (Ramesh Mane, masseur) carried on clapping like they were on a Tendulkar yatra (pilgrimage).

The crowd, meanwhile, was going mad. Like slaves in olden times the thousands raised their hands from all tiers across every stand chanting "Saaachin", as if he were saviour who could release them from their misery. It was one of the many touching moments on the day.

Soon the lap came to an end. Anjali and the kids left for the family box. Tendulkar took a sip of water.

And then he walked alone towards the middle. Like he had done thousands of times. Except this time he was not the gladiator walking into the arena. He was just a normal man paying obeisance to the soil on which he had built his career. The chant was still on. It stopped when he reached the pitch. He rubbed the red soil of the Wankhede pitch for a moment with his right palm and touched it to his heart and head. Goosebumps erupted all around, as did a cacophonous roar. Tendulkar walked back, head low, face hidden under the sweat-drenched sun hat given to him by his team-mates on the occasion of the 200th Test. He did not dare show those moist eyes to the world.

Sachin then climbed the 34 steps, once again, briskly. Afraid the crowd might swallow him. In five minutes, the stadium was empty.

He then visited his family and returned one last time to the Indian dressing room, where the players from both teams were milling around, having lunch. About 20 minutes later Tendulkar walked into the team bus. Like always, the front seat was his. Anjali sat next to him. It became evident that he had not had his lunch, busy extending courtesies and thanking everyone while the ground catering staff packed lunch for him and the family. Just then Tendulkar spotted his former team-mate and captain, Sourav Ganguly. Both men hugged warmly.

At 13 minutes past two on Saturday afternoon Sachin Tendulkar left the ground. One last time. Youngsters dressed in his No. 10 ODI jersey ran behind the team bus. Outside the ground's gates the dhols (drums) were in full swing. Revellers were going crazy along Marine Drive. "Cricket now is a temple without god," read one of the banners at the ground.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • deep on November 20, 2013, 17:09 GMT

    Thank You Sachin. It truly says "Cricket is now temple without God " . I am so privileged to see / watch a person like you. A role model for any human being who had never misused his fame / popularity/ wealth and power. No gossips , no girl friends , no politics , no after parties , no abusive comments on other players . We never cared if sehwag or sourav doesn't score , The first quesion everyone ask is " Is sachin still batting and how much ". Those who criticize you also loves you becos criticism comes on expectation and you have kept that for 24 years. We love you Sachin .

  • Dummy4 on November 19, 2013, 9:56 GMT

    Very well written article! After reading this have a lump in my throat and tears welling up. Feel as if we have also completed a long journey with Sachin which started in Pakistan and ended fittingly at his home ground. After Gavaskar & Kapil Dev he was the one who took up the mantle of Indian cricket and more often than not kept it high up even in the face of dire adversity. Today every child in India wants to become the next Sachin Tendulkar. His spot in the Indian team maybe taken by Virat or Rohit, but they will never be able to fill the extremely large void left after Sachin's retirement. His retirement along with those of Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman & Kumble is also the end of an era when Indian cricket has gone through both highs and lows! Thank you SACHIN for providing us entertainment & fond memories for the past 24 years! You will always be missed!

  • Muhammed on November 18, 2013, 17:52 GMT

    I am very bad at controlling my emotions during farewells in my office as well. I did not watch the sachin's last test's last day as in my home my parents-in-laws were visiting us, to avoid an embarassing situation. Now, here I am, with moist eyes, reading this article in solitude(in office). Thank You Sachin. Thank You Cricinfo for your coverage. I could feel the same emotions as I would have got while watching it live.

  • SUBRAMANIAN on November 18, 2013, 11:52 GMT

    I have watched entire coverage in TV at Muscat and I could not control my emotions.Since no one was near by me I have cried . What a Cricketer and he has given meaning of cricket. No one has done with such passion and love on cricket. A great man and he truly deserves for Bharat Ratna and Govt of India has given at the right time Whether it is Mumbai or Chennai Sachin is purely for India and we must love him and remember him a lot and his records will be there for ever

  • Sankara Raman on November 18, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    @CRam - Have been thinking the same as well. Am sitting in office with tears streaming down, reading this article. The lump in the throat feeling was so pronounced when I saw his speech live and then again on Sachin - Sachin programme yesterday night. I am able to appreciate the saying that 'words are not enought to express what the heart feels'! We have lived the game with him, enjoyed every moment, no other achievements left and yet ...yet, there is an emptiness that just doesn't seem to be going away! Like Gavaskar said during commentary ... Thank You .... Thank You ... Thank You. And Nagraj, thanks for a wonderfully written piece.

  • Gopalakrishnan on November 18, 2013, 7:45 GMT

    I can do nothing than wiping out my tears... what a man you are...Sachin! Whenever we see you on TV either in old matches or Ads we will start again to be melted heart.

  • Dummy4 on November 18, 2013, 7:29 GMT

    So far you have kept all of us happy while think about cricket. Here after you simply made us to cry while think about cricket... Each and every article published since your retirement keep us crying

  • Ravi Kumar on November 18, 2013, 7:23 GMT

    Never before never again (I presume) have we seen such a thing in India. He truly deserves it. I did not see the entire speech but read it. Hope to see on You Tube but it brought tears to my eyes when I read it.

    Cricket would go on but would it be the same again in India without him (not sure).

    CRam is correct we only address him as Sachin and not by is Surname, he is like a house member. I still remember his first test century (was listening to BBC commentary then) and what a journey.

    A great human being and a true sportsman I wish him all the best and hope to see him contribute to cricket in his own way in the future.

  • Dummy4 on November 18, 2013, 7:19 GMT

    i watched the whole match live on tv.. and the farewell part was so so emotional..tears were rolling down my eyes. it was one of the saddest days alive.. next day had a match and believe me, for once I dint feel like playing, just simply turned up for the match but my mind was somewhere else.. hav always said that the day Sachin retires, cricket will die in me and felt the same yesterday.. no enthusiasm at all.. and after reading this article relived that moment again.. have tears in my eyes.. its just been a privilege for us Pakistanis that the great man made his debut in my city Karachi.. been his fan since then.. love u sir.. my hero, legend.. the one who made me fall in love with cricket,, with his retirement my childhood also ends..

  • Faisal on November 17, 2013, 17:59 GMT

    A young boy's dream that started from Aazad Maidan came true at Karachi and ended in Mumbai Wankhede...Remember Remember the 16th of November after that it was only memories that will never die...

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