For a genius who has been a perfect team man all his life as a professional cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar will put team ahead of personal aspirations when Day 3 of the India versus West Indies Test begins at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium on Saturday. Even as his fans want Tendulkar to bat for a second time in his 200th and final Test, it is extremely unlikely that the Caribbeans will produce a batting miracle and turn this one-sided contest around. India will be eyeing a successive three-day finish to sweep the two-match series and given his nature, Tendulkar will only be too happy to take a big Team India win as his farewell present from Dhoni and Company. India thrashed West Indies by an innings and 51 runs at the Eden Gardens last week.
Plagued by selection blunders, West Indies have struggled in this Test series. Their batting pillars Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels have drawn blanks and a shoddy approach has ruined the West Indians. In the ongoing Mumbai Test, West Indies scored 182 in their first innings and at stumps on Day 2 on Friday were reeling at 43 for three with two of their top four batsmen back in the pavilion after playing atrocious strokes.
All hopes on Saturday will revolve around Gayle and Chanderpaul but India's spin twins Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha will fancy their chances on a Day three wicket that is expected to be a batsmen's nightmare. Of the 13 West Indian wickets that have fallen in this match, Ashwin and Ojha have taken 11 of them and India will once again bank on the duo to trap the visitors in a web of spin.
"India have two quality spinners and although cricket is a funny game and anything is possible, West Indies just don't have the technique to battle the challenges. Gayle and Chanderpaul are struggling and it is unlikely India will bat again," said VVS Laxman to NDTV on Friday.
Tendulkar has always kept Team India's interest in mind and the 40-year-old will be only to eager roll his arm for one last time in a Test match. It won't come as a surprise if skipper Dhoni gives the man with the golden arm a bowl as he did at Eden last week. With his mixed bag of tricks, Tendulkar can be a difficult customer and for his die-hard fans, even a wicket will be as good as a century on Saturday. Tendulkar has 46 Test wickets and his best Test figures - three for 10 - came against South Africa in February 2000, right here at Wankhede.
This Test match has been all about Tendulkar and the Little Master has proven why he is still a genius with a bat. He looked good for a hundred and never looked in trouble against the West Indian attack that did everything legitimate in the book - from banter to bouncers -- to distract him. Tendulkar plotted his own downfall trying to play a fancy uppercut but managed to edge part-time off-spinner Narsingh Deonarine to Darren Sammy at first slip. Tendulkar's 74 was a treat and each one of the dozen boundaries had the trademark class and timing written over them.
Sunil Gavaskar told NDTV: "Tendulkar looked for a 200 but he seemed a bit rushed to score a century before lunch on Day 2. Normally a batsman like Tendulkar will never play a stroke that's not working for him but he did something that's against his nature. However, his 74 was of vintage stuff with his trademark drives and cuts. No praise is enough." Tendulkar received an emotional ovation from a packed Wankhede Stadium as he handed the baton to India's Generation Next, who immediately delivered the goods with aplomb. (To Sachin Sir with love, from Rohit and Pujara)
India's 495 was courtesy twin hundreds from Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma. On a day that was reserved for Tendulkar, Pujara and Sharma grabbed their share of spotlight with their fifth and second Test centuries, respectively. Sharma became the second Indian to score tons in back-to-back Test innings. Having inspired a generation of cricketers, Tendulkar is definitely leaving Indian cricket in good hands.
Meanwhile, the bubbly is on the ice. It won't be long before the celebrations begin. Get ready to say three cheers to Sachin!