Out of 10 days planned for the two test matches in the India-West Indies test series, less than 6 days play was possible. In one way, it turned out to be a positive aspect. From the very start, everyone knew that the two test matches would be devoted to the great Sachin Tendulkar, who was making his last two appearances on a cricket ground. Therefore, the shortened matches, both of which ended with India winning by an innings, exposed the maestro to the crowd on all the six days. With the legendary batsman being showcased to the fans as a fielder, the spectators were thrilled to have the view of their favourite batsman almost at all times.
So great was the adulation for Sachin in Kolkata and Mumbai that no one seemed to mind that he couldn’t score a ton in either game. Yes there was some disappointment, especially in the manner of his being adjudged LBW at the Eden Gardens and sighs on his dismissal for 74 in Mumbai. It was a masterful catch by Darren Sammy who later said that the entire West Indies team had given Sachin a guard of honour when he came to the crease. He also added that he knew he had taken a brilliant catch to dismiss Sachin but refused to show emotion because our respect for the legend knows no bound. Sammy also said that he was all of 5 years, when Tendulkar started playing. But all these cricketing moments were quickly forgotten in the celebration of his farewell.
Two back-to-back innings victories in test matches don’t come often. Ask any cricket captain and he will tell you the weighted importance of such emphatic victories. The West Indians were no minnows either but Indians performed pretty well. But this time round, the talks were less about cricketing achievements. MS Dhoni and his boys allowed the victories to be relegated to the background in preference to the grand farewell, being accorded to their esteemed colleague by the whole world. Three days in Kolkata and two-and-a-half in Mumbai were devoted entirely to showing the master batsman that spectators are united in bidding the grandest farewell ever in the annals of cricket.
When everything was over, the great Sachin found it difficult to control his tears. He had always known how fans love him but the end of it all was too emotional. When the last West Indian wicket fell at the Wankhede, Sachin reached for a stump and made his way forward out of the ground with a bowed head. It was the culmination of his glittering career of 24 years with the world watching in dismay. In a last act on a cricket ground, Sachin Tendulkar shook hands with everyone on the field and made his way to the dressing room for the last time in his life.
At the conclusion of the test match in Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium, over 32000 spectators did not move until Sachin came back for his emotional farewell speech. He is clearly and honestly reconciled to the reality that he doesn’t have the great oratory but when he spoke to the world on the big final moment, the effect was telling and heart-rending. He said his life has been spent between the two sets of wickets on either end of the bowling pitch and rued that he would no longer be able to do so in future. Sachin Tendulkar has been the most uncontroversial cricketer in the game’s history and he has kept his private life away from public glimpse. But on November 16, 2013, he shared his personal feelings with the audience first in a reference to his father and mother and later to his wife, who was seen weeping uncontrollably. It was as moving a performance by Sachin as everyone has seen entrenched in his batsmanship of over two decades.
In the most fitting tribute to the maestro, the Government of India announced in the evening that the master blaster would be bestowed the honour of being decorated as country’s most prestigious civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. In a brief statement issued by Rashtrapati Bhavan said that the President has awarded the Bharat Ratna to Tendulkar, who retired from the International cricket today. Later a government spokesman added that it would be disrespectful to ignore the popular feelings on the impeccable sportsmanship that Sachin personifies.
As for the test match, the West Indians began their second innings way behind India and fell to Pragyan Ojha’s masterly spell of spin bowling for the second time in two days. Ojha claimed a match haul of 10/89 and was rightfully declared the man-of-the-match. Earlier pujara scored a century and Rohit Sharma continued with his brilliant entry into test matches with another century and made it two centuries in his first two innings. But all that became a sideshow in the end.
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