An uppercut that went wrong but Sachin Tendulkar leaves his mark in milestone Test
Sachin Tendulkar was out for 74 in what could be his last Test innings. The Master Blaster scored his 68th Test half-century and looked on course for his 101st international hundred till he made the first mistake in an innings that had class written all over
Everything came off the middle of the bat till 'God' of cricket took the liberty to break cricket's grammar book and was caught out. Excitement and anticipation transformed into sadness after Sachin Tendulkar departed after scoring a classy 74, his first 'mistake' costing him his wicket in what perhaps could be his final Test innings.
Day 2 was all about Tendulkar. Among the many celebrities at Wankhede, Aamir Khan was one of the first to arrive. For the 32,000 or more who turned up at the stadium, nobody needed a wake-up call this morning. "Main 100 nahi.. 135 soch ke aaya tha..Taaki 16,000 poore ho jaayein (Not a hundred, I was thinking of 135 so that he completed 16000 Test runs)", said Aamir, who kept his promise of wearing his good-luck charm, the blue T-shirt.
Starting at his overnight score of 38, Tendulkar walked out with Cheteshwar Pujara (unbeaten on 34) with intent and the body language looked good as West Indies predictably started with pace and spin to break the partnership that was already worth 80 runs. Tendulkar started off where he had left. Best bend his back and tested Tendulkar with a probing line, but Tendulkar held his nerves, shut off the "Sachiin, Sachiin" chants and started middling the ball right away.
What's Test cricket sans drama? What cricket without a serious battle between bat and ball? Best and Tendulkar provided some entertainment for the ecstatic fans. The West Indian pacer tried the short ball and Tendulkar tried to tease him with a fancy upper cut. Best beat him with pace and movement, but Tendulkar punished the loose balls. The crowd got a scare when the West Indians appealed for a catch behind the wicket off Best delivery that seamed. But this time the umpire got it right as TV replays confirmed the ball missed the edge by a hair's breadth. The delirious crowd egged on the Little Master.
Tendulkar did not disappoint. Like Thursday, he was aggressive, played the ball on its merit and there was never a hint of rashness. In total control, Tendulkar produced an array of strokes and brought up his fifty (his 68th in Tests) with a copy-book drive on the up that defeated the fielder at mid-off. Best was the bowler to suffer. Poetic justice?
West Indies trusted Shane Shillingford to get the better of Tendulkar on Friday. The West Indian off-spinner had troubled Tendulkar with his 'doosra' at Eden Gardens and even won a LBW decision. But on a Wankhede wicket that afforded turn and bounce, Tendulkar used his feet well, judged the deliveries to perfection and slapped Shillingford to the point boundary a few times in his dozen boundaries.
But Tendulkar's end was scripted by another off-spinner Narsingh Deonarine. Skipper Darren Sammy's first big contribution in the match came when he latched on to a lighting fast nick at slips after Tendulkar tried the upper cut against a ball that pitched outside off and held its line. Silence descended on Wankhede and a billions hearts were broke as Tendulkar never waited for the umpire's decision and made the long walk back to the pavilion.
The players on the field and an emotional Wankhede gave Tendulkar a standing ovation once again to a man who gloriously served Indian cricket for 24 years. Sunil Gavaskar choked in the commentary box and a few drops of tear were dropped elsewhere as former teammates Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid spoke how Tendulkar was an inspiration and has left an indelible mark on the game's history books.
In the fitness of things, Pujara and Kohli took charge as Tendulkar passed the baton to Indian cricket's Generation Next. Tendulkar's 24th anniversary in international cricket just had the perfect ending.