His face contorted. Eyes narrowed. It was the visage of a man expressing more than mere disappointment and regret at a false shot that had ended an innings of quality, grace and charm. Sachin Tendulkar paused at the crease for a brief moment. Seconds later, removed his helmet and walked briskly towards the pavilion.
It was a moment whose significance and meaning was not lost on either him or the thousands at the Wankhede and millions glued to their TV sets. It was the last time one of the greatest players of all time was being seen at a cricket match, doing a chore which all batsmen dread but know they can’t avoid.
The crowd had for more than an hour in the morning lent its full-throated delirious support to Tendulkar’s expansive stroke-play, which had the promise of another century written all over it. In a stadium where the decibel levels were so high and raucous that it was impossible to hear your own voice, you could all of a sudden hear and feel nothing. A deathly silence had engulfed the ground.
As Tendulkar neared the end of his journey, the crowd erupted again. The cheering reached a crescendo, Tendulkar waved his bat around one last time in his career spanning 200 Test matches and 24 years and disappeared into the dressing room.
There were tears to be shed at the ground and a sense of loss which people feel at the exit of someone very near and dear. This is what Tendulkar meant to his fans and no matter how much they attempt later to inject a new life into an extremely one-sided contest, the match had lost all meaning for them.
The mind raced ahead of time, calculating all possibilities of whether Tendulkar would get a chance to bat one more time in the match. The heart said ‘possible’, the mind ruled it out. Given the mediocrity of the West Indian batting, it would be rather impossible for them to avoid an innings defeat and even if they do, the lead is not going to be substantial enough to force Tendulkar to bat again.
Many still want to clutch at straws, but in the end there was a sigh of relief that Tendulkar’s last Test innings was replete with all those strokes he will be remembered for in times to come.