The moment will be etched in our minds. Choked with emotion, the Wankhede Stadium recovered its collective voice before Sachin Tendulkar could disappear into the pavilion. The little big man of Indian cricket raised his bat in acknowledgement and the turned around to capture the moment for his own memory.
Having edged Narsingh Deonaraine to slip where the West Indies skipper Darren Sammy took a sharp catch after a compelling innings of 74 (118 balls, 12 fours), Tendulkar walked half-way to the dressing room before taking his helmet off – almost as if to say he could not hear the crowd that he had filled hope and self-belief with, inspired and entertained.
The saffron, white and green on the grip of the bat handle and around the bat-maker’s label were said to be symbols of his love for India but, for me, his final innings (and I reckon he will not need to bat again in this Mumbai Test) was a greater reflection of his philosophy of contributing to the team’s cause and not worrying too much about the number of runs scored or the milestones passed along the way.
If Tendulkar were only intent on unfolding percentage cricket – and getting to a hundred in his farewell game, he would never have attempted the upper cut against Tino Best even once, let alone multiple times. And, it was the attempted glide to third man that did him in, eventually. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that he was out to enjoy himself on a stage that was his for the taking.
It didn’t seem to matter to him that his mother, Rajni Tendulkar, was at hand at the Wankhede Stadium, to watch him in a Test match for the first time. Nor, did it appear to matter to him, who else was around. All that was important was his contest with the cricket ball, irrespective of who delivered it.
I am quite sure he did not worry himself about what others would think of him and his approach in the past few years. It was not as if some of his skills had deserted him or his reflexes slowed down; he could still play the shots; but he cut down the risks and preferred the percentage game.
He assessed the game situation, assigned roles for himself that he believed were best for the team and tried his best to play those roles – either attacking the opposition or grinding it to dust. It is another matter that he did not always succeed. There were many instances of his batting with the freedom and relish of the old.
But on Thursday evening and Friday morning, it was all about unfolding the range of shots – the drives in the ‘V’, the square cut, the late cut, the paddle sweep, the flick-drive to mid-wicket. Clearly, he was enjoying himself. Along the way, he entertained the Wankhede Stadium one last time and showed his mother what he had done for many, many years.