No fairytale century, but Sachin makes classy exit
Drives, paddle-sweeps, delicate touch... maestro entertains loyal fans
FIRST, there was stunned silence.
Then, as the crowd realised it was the end of Sachin Tendulkar’s likely last innings for India, they rose and applauded and the roar only got louder as their hero briskly walked closer to his grandstand exit.
Tendulkar was dismissed for 74 by the West Indies yesterday, spoiling the wishes of the full house in the Wankhede Stadium and millions more TV viewers who had begun to anticipate a fairytale century in his international swansong.
But as he shaped to cut parttime off- spinner Narsingh Deonarine, he only edged the delivery to lone slip Darren Sammy. West Indies’ celebrations were muted, as Tendulkar immediately turned and headed to the clubhouse, tucking his bat under his arm with grim disappointment etched on his face.
Not until he was almost to the boundary did he take off his helmet, wipe his brow, and raise his bat to acknowledge the crescendo of cheers, and let the fans’ adoration wash over him.
“He has crossed boundaries, meant something to everyone, which is why you see such outpouring of emotion,” former India captain Rahul Dravid said while commentating on television. “He has touched the lives of so many people over the years.”
Tendulkar smashed 12 fours and faced 118 balls, playing both spin and pace with stylish ease and executing shots he has become famous for – the straight drive, cover drive and the paddle-sweep.
“It was disappointing to see him get out but he played some incredible drives,” said India all-rounder Yuvraj Singh, guest commentating on TV. “When he walked in, how everyone cheered for him, well that was just amazing to see – the love of people for him.”
There’s a chance he could bat again, but that depends on the course of the second Test over the next three days.
The remarkable clamour for 40- year- old Tendulkar began before the second day’s play as he knocked the ball around in practice and spoke to Australia spin great Shane Warne, who is doing TV commentary.
People were still pouring into the stands when the greatest batsman of this generation, the holder of all the meaningful international batting records, walked on to the field of his home-town stadium to another rousing reception.
Tendulkar then resumed on 38 after an evening cameo on day one. The Little Master did not disappoint a crowd including his wheelchair- bound mother Rajni, watching him live for the first time in his 200th and last Test, as he played a classic innings to immense applause and chants of “Sachin, Sachin”.
The 40-year-old Tendulkar smashed consecutive boundaries off off- spinner Shane Shillingford to set the tone for the day – cutting a short ball through point and executing a vintage paddle-sweep. On 47 he survived a big appeal for caught behind. Not long later, he hit an off-drive to the boundary to raise yet another halfcentury, the 68th of his career and first since February.
The century wasn’t to be, but he’s already given India a record 100 of those on the international stage.
Meanwhile, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh find themselves out of a central contract for the 2013-14 season, while Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh find themselves downgraded in the BCCI’s retainer list, released on Thursday.
Suresh Raina is the surprise inclusion among the five players in the highest grade; the others are captain MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, R Ashwin and Virat Kohli.
The list also features five who were not rewarded with a contract last year. They are Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Grade B), Mohammed Shami, Ambati Rayudu, Jaydev Unadkat and Mohit Sharma (all in Group C).
While Zaheer and Sehwag featured in Grade A last year, Harbhajan was included in Grade B. ESPNcricinfo understands that they were axed because none of them is assured of a place in the team in any of the three formats. Their exclusion need not, however, be the end of their careers, because BCCI rules say that any non-contracted player who features in any international match during the contract period is awarded a Grade C contract for the rest of the tenure.
Ravindra Jadeja, Shikhar Dhawan and M Vijay have been upgraded from Grade C to B for their “exceptional” performance in the last contract cycle, while Rahane’s demotion on the reverse route was due to the fact that he has failed to make most of his limited opportunities. – Sapa-AP, cricinfo.com
FINAL FLOURISH: Superstar Sachin Tendulkar scored 74 in his final innings for India against the West Indies in Mumbai yesterday.