KOLKATA: The euphoria over India’s crushing victory over the West Indies on Friday was tinged with melancholy. Day Three of Sachin Tendulkar’s final Test at the Eden Gardens suddenly turned out to be his last day on the hallowed turf.
The sadness that was setting in as dusk descended over this cricket-crazy city was about the real realization of what they will miss from here. It was about thirst not being quenched even on this one last occasion.
It was a day when India’s middle-order consolidated the advantages it had accumulated the previous day. It was a day when the batsmen all but shut out their opponents from the match. Sadly for the fans here, the Indian batsmen were also ‘shutting out’ Sachin from them in the process.
As debutant Rohit Sharma and No. 8 Ravichandran Ashwin expanded their overnight association to what would go on to be an Indian record for a seventh-wicket partnership, and took the team to a potentially match-clinching lead, it would have dawned on most that the Little Master may not be required to come out and bat again in this match. That Sachin wouldn’t get a chance to make amends for that 10-run knock in the first innings.
Spectators at the Eden Gardens had resigned to the fact that they may have seen the final hurray of the batting genius in Sachin when ‘home boy’ Mohammed Shami, and floundering West Indian batsmen, killed even the other possibilities of witnessing any more magical moment from him. The first Test didn’t even go to the fourth day. Memories of the master cricketer at the Eden Gardens will now end with events on November 8, 2013.
It was a day when the Little Master, who plays the final Test of his career at the Wankhede in Mumbai from Thursday, didn’t get to play a standout role but seemed happy to spend time on the wings savouring and being part of the success of a new generation of Indian cricket stars.
Standing at mid-on for most of the West Indian innings, he seemed as passionate and involved as he was in his debut series with the Indian Test team 24 years ago.
Cajoling MS Dhoni into throwing the ball to Sachin with chants of ‘Sacheeen, Sachin!’, the crowd did try to get a little more out of their final day with the Little Master. Dhoni ‘relented’ after lunch, but the cocktail of leg-spin and googly didn’t fetch a wicket this time, and that window was closed by the skipper after just three overs.
As the limelight shifted to an imminent Indian victory and the rampaging bowlers, Sachin’s relevance in the unfolding script receded somewhat — but not his passion as the team man. Savouring every wicket with a child-like enthusiasm, the big smile that lit up his face as Shami followed up a disconcerting bouncer to Tino Best with a little ‘chat’ with the West Indian was a moment to savour.
At the tea break, as CAB officials waited for the Little Master to walk out of the ground and release 199 bunches of balloons carrying his photos, Sachin seemed reluctant. It was only when he saw ‘old mate’ Sourav Ganguly walking up that Sachin seemed to change his mind and the duo did the honours.