West Indies team manager, Richie Richardson, has said that Sachin Tendulkar's farewell celebrations will not overshadow their preparations for the two-Test series against India starting at Eden Gardens on Wednesday.
According to Richardson, Tendulkar himself would make sure that all the attention would return to the game as soon as he walked in to face the first ball, and that West Indies would not be embarrassed to spoil his swansong.
"We are going to be playing hard. When we here last time, whenever Sachin came we bowled hard and fielded hard," Richardson told media at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) office. A scheduled press conference by West Indies could not take place because the local police had locked themselves in the pressroom to have their own meeting. Richardson, who was meeting an Indian acquaintance with whom he had played at a local club in England, had to cut short the chat and address an impromptu briefing.
West Indies last won a series in India under Clive Lloyd's leadership 30 years ago. In 2011 under Sammy's captaincy, West Indies, despite losing the series 2-0, had shown a lot of character and were successful in denying Tendulkar his 100th century in the third Test in Mumbai.
According to Richardson, West Indies had the manpower and experience, but would have to work really hard to get the better of India. "India are going to play hard despite all the big thing about Sachin. The guys are very confident and are playing good cricket. They have their pride to maintain as well. So we don't expect India to come at us easy. We are going to have to work really hard. At the same time, we believe we can be competitive against India as we showed last time. We had a couple of bad sessions. It is a now a different series. So we are looking forward to a good challenge."
This is the second time in a week Richardson has promised that West Indies would play at high intensity, after he said the visitors would not give an inch to Tendulkar, during the warm-up match against Uttar Pradesh last week.
Still, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed by Tendulkar's farewell because it is everywhere. Cutouts of Tendulkar lifting the World Cup and playing a drive, a wax carving of him in a celebratory pose, pictures of him along with his family and local hero Sourav Ganguly adorn the porch of the CAB office. A popular soundtrack based on Tendulkar by a local singer was being played from the early morning.
On Monday, as photographers and TV reporters waited for hours to get Tendulkar to stand besides the wax replica, Darren Sammy and his team slipped in quietly through an adjacent door. Barely a few people noticed the visitors as all the attention was focused squarely on Tendulkar. Later, Chris Gayle wrapped up his batting drills quickly before leaving a training session to play the role of ambassador for a global watch brand. No one bothered. Tendulkar remained the centrepiece.