Mumbai: For the man called the God of cricket, a farewell to remember. Sachin Tendulkar plays his 200th and last Test match at home ground Wankhade starting today and the who's who is filling up seats at the Mumbai stadium this morning.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss of a special Sachin gold coin and elected to bowl first against the West Indies. India is playing with an unchanged side. "To the disappointment of the fans, we will be bowling first," Dhoni said at the toss.
To cheer Sachin as he walks out with the rest of the Indian team to field are A listers like actor Aamir Khan, Unione minister Sharad Pawar and cricket greats like Ravi Shashtri, Wasim Akram, Kapil Dev and Clive Lloyd.
As Sachin's wife Anjali Tendulkar left home for the stadium this morning, she said, "Good luck, Sachin!" She is there with their children and Sachin's mother Rajni.
India will be looking to follow up theit emphatic first Test victory by an innings and 51 runs, with another crushing defeat of the mediocre Caribbean outfit, but scores are expected to take a backseat for the next few day and the only statistics that are likely to matter are the ones that the Master Blaster adds to his astonishing list of records. For one, he becomes the first man today to play 200 Tests.
At the Wankhade, there is a carnival atmosphere. 51 placards marking Sachin's 51 Test centuries dot the stadium. Outside there reportedly is furious betting on whether he will make it 52 and bow out with a century.
The two teams have planned their own farewells for the world's most prolific batsmen. While Dhoni would not reveal what his team's plans are, the Windies will, among other things, sign a bag for Sachin.
Legend has it that in his last Test innings at the Oval in 1948, Sir Don Bradman's eyes became moist and he failed to spot Eric Hollies' googly, to get out for a duck. It will be interesting how the 40-year-old Tendulkar plays his last.
Having got a raw deal from umpire Nigel Llong in his penultimate Test match in Kolkata, the highest run-scorer in Test history will want to ensure that a Shane Shillingford or Tino Best do not do an Eric Hollies on him as he walks out to bat at his beloved Wankhede for the last time.
A bowling attack which has one quality spinner and some really average medium pacers (injured Kemar Roach is already on his flight back home) is something that Tendulkar can still negotiate playing from memory.
One can expect an intriguing battle between Tendulkar and Shillingford as the senior batsman would definitely have a strategy in mind to counter the Caribbean offie's doosra which posed a bit of a problem in the first Test.
Overall though, Indian cricket is set to feel quite poor once its most loved and revered player hangs up his gloves.