The crescendo builds up to Sachins 200 at Wankhede. The walk from Esplanade to the Eden Gardens is something almost every Calcuttan knows, however the walk from the Esplanade metro station to the stadium was quite different this time and if felt as if the city had pulled out all the stops to ensure a fitting welcome for the peerless Sachin Tendulkar whose 200th test and retirement is coming up in Wankhede. There were plenty of Tendulkar cut outs and rare photographs of the master which adorned with life size posters and rare photographs, which must have belonged to the press officer of the Cricket Association of Bengal. The entry into the stadium was an unforgettable ordeal as the crowd was huge and one had to cross busy thoroughfares and then walk through mud in the stadium to finally get into the Eden Gardens.
However, it must have been a test to check the loyalty that fans felt for the great man and as I took my seat I came to know that local boy Mohammad Shami had already taken a wicket-that of Chris Gayle. I was a bit disappointed since I was hoping to watch Gayle bat for some time; however Marlon Samuels was equal to the task as he smashed the bowlers all over the place during the first session. The biggest cheers were however reserved for Sachin Tendulkar every time he as much as moved in the field and it was evident that the gathered spectators, although disappointed that the West Indies was batting, wanted to ensure that they did not fail in hailing the Little Master at every opportunity.
Throughout the day, Tendulkar fielded at point and long on, which made for incredible scenes as thousands of spectators in that block ran towards the protective fence and shouted their admiration for the man who has captivated the imagination of the nation for close to a quarter of a century. As a matter of fact, no one was really watching the cricket being played out at the centre of the ground and everyone’s eyes-including mine- was glued to what Sachin Tendulkar was up to. A mere save, a strong throw or a run to the boundary to save four runs was cheered with great enthusiasm by the crowd as the entire ground went on a Mexican wave to keep the atmosphere as intimidating for the visitors as possible. Local boy Mohammad Shami’s show was not forgotten as he castled two batsmen on the trot with perfect in swingers and everyone present on the ground was now aware that a new fast bowling talent has been unearthed.
As the tea break approached, I headed towards the temporary cafeteria as it is impossible to buy anything once everyone heads towards the food stalls and as I was trudging up the steps, Sachin Tendulkar was given the ball by M. S. Dhoni who has always had a dramatic streak in him. I went back and stood beside my friend in the steps as I thought I would watch that over and then go out. Every delivery was cheered with incredible gusto and just when I thought the over would just be a ceremonial one, Tendulkar slipped in a quicker leg break to Shane Shillingford. The ball hit his pads and as the master appealed, 50000 voices went up with him and when the umpire lifted his finger, most of the people in the crowd felt that the day had ended as a success. There could not have been a more perfect build up to Sachins 200th.