Known for his impeccable timing and grace, West Indies legend Brian Lara arrived a day too late to witness Sachin Tendulkar's penultimate Test appearance in Kolkata. Little could the Prince of cricket have imagined that India would wrap up Tendulkar's 199th Test inside three days, denying the master blaster the opportunity to bat for a second time at Eden Gardens. Tendulkar was LBW for 10 in the first innings, trapped by a Shane Shillingford 'doosra'.
Lara arrived in Kolkata on Saturday for what was to be the fourth day of the Eden Test. After following the Eden Test for three days on TV in London, Lara missed 'live' action on the Tendulkar mania that gripped Kolkata for almost a week. India thrashed West Indies by an innings and 51 runs to go up 1-0 on the two-match series.
The 44-year-old Lara though had been up-to-date with the match as well as the off-field celebrations. "I was expecting Eden to be bursting at seams. But the roar was still substantial when Sachin took his first run. I wondered what will happen if he got a hundred," Lara wrote in his column for a national daily. In a previous write up, Lara wanted Tendulkar to score a century but West Indies to win. Tendulkar's dismissal looked dubious after English umpire Nigel Llong upheld an appeal for LBW. The ball would probably have missed the off-stump. There is no Decision Review System in this series since the BCCI hates it. (Read more about the dismissal here)
Lara though has seen such dramatic highs and incredible lows before. After all, Lara ran himself out on 18 in his final international appearance when West Indies played England in the 2007 World Cup. That Super Eight clash was lost by a wicket and with a single delivery left - a cruel end to a sparkling career. A year earlier, his final Test appearance was unfortunate too as Lara played hosts Pakistan in Karachi in 2006, scoring 0 and then missing a half-century by a run.
Eden though was much more kinder to its retiring hero even though Lara wondered if all the frenzy proved to be a deterrent to Tendulkar. "Sachin's walk to the middle was different. There was adrenaline, confidence and eagerness but I bet there would be nervousness as well. I don't know if all the build up to the Test had helped him," he wrote. (Watch: Eden's farewell for Sachin Tendulkar, in pics)
While it is unlikely that a seasoned campaigner like Tendulkar would have been under pressure at Eden - despite the vociferous chants, giant statues, humungous cakes, streams of confetti and other celebratory paraphernalia, pressure surely mounted on West Indies' batsmen who fell like a pack of cards in both innings, leaving Lara disappointed.
"The top-five batsmen got starts but then they gave it away. That is where West Indies lost the Test," assessed Lara, the maestro who continues to hold the record of highest individual score in a Test innings (400*). West Indies scored just two more as a team in the two Eden innings (234 and 168) than Lara's individual record - scored versus England in 2004. Lara will now expect a reversal in Caribbean fortunes in Tendulkar's 200th and last Test starting at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium from November 14. And he will probably be on time this time!