There are 6.84 billion people on this planet, give or take a few hundred thousand, and 365 days in an ordinary year. You don't have to be a mathematician to calculate that roughly 19 million people celebrate their birthdays on any given day.
However, if you are a demigod in a country that accounts for nearly one-sixth of the world's population, it shouldn't come as a surprise if over a hundred people, many from high up in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh or remote areas of northern Rajasthan, turn up to wish you on your 39th birthday.
The legion of onlookers was very unusual for a practice session, but they were all waiting for Sachin Tendulkar to wrap up his session at the nets a day prior to the Mumbai Indians' match against the Kings XI Punjab in Mohali. Some had brought bouquets; others, cakes. None of the gifts reached its intended recipient, though, as, shrouded by a blanket security personnel and overenthusiastic members of the electronic media, the master blaster briefly acknowledged the gathering before rushing to a physiotherapy session.
Soon, it was time for Tendulkar to head back to the team hotel. Or not — within the next hour or so, the aforementioned legion had shifted base to the entrance of the PCA pavilion, and with reinforcements having gate-crashed, the road to the team bus ceased to exist, at least temporarily. Fighting off the mob — that had, by now, morphed to include members of the vernacular press — the legendary batsman somehow made it to his vehicle.
The celebrations happened later in the evening at the hotel, but they weren't too grand. "As is the tradition with the Mumbai Indians, we will have a small function with just our teammates," bowling coach Shaun Pollock said. Another source within the franchise was blunt: "Sachin himself says, 'I'm not 10 anymore. Why the fuss every single year?' His birthday is always during the IPL, so this (ruckus) has been the norm for the past five years now."
One person who had no clue about Tendulkar's birthday was Kings XI Punjab skipper, Adam Gilchrist. After being enlightened, Gilly said, "I get a cold shiver whenever I hear it's his birthday. Takes my mind to an innings he played against us (Australia) at Sharjah many years ago (1998)," before heaving a sigh of relief: "Luckily, this time, his birthday doesn't coincide with the match!"