When Ashwin said the Mumbai match will be an emotional moment, he spoke for all cricket fans. But what was left unsaid was Sachin’s departure is also a distraction, as focus shifts away from the game, reducing the Test to a minor sideshow.
This shift, from cricket to a cricketer, is understandable. Sachin is no ordinary player, his retirement is a huge moment and as a giant moves on the world is entitled to take one last, long look. More so, because the match is at the Wankhede and Sachin is Mumbai’s favourite son.
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Grace and dignity
Making the occasion even more significant is the nature and manner of Sachin’s exit.
Normally, sports stars do not leave with grace and dignity, they have to nudged, pushed, ousted and told to go. Politicians are voted out, film stars are rejected by fans, sports persons are dropped or fade into oblivion as their skills diminish.
Reversing this trend, Sachin has chosen the moment, and perhaps the venue of his exit set the agenda. Hence, the extraordinary interest about Mumbai and the celebrations that include special coins, paintings, functions, tickets, masks, messages and tributes.
But the show will go on, and already there are signs India are ready for the future. Only the other day, Indian cricket was concerned about losing stalwarts Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly, who held up the middle order with distinction for more than a decade.
But these fears have been quickly banished as able replacements have been found for the retiring giants and for out of form openers Gambhir and Sehwag. If these two rediscover their touch, and Harbhajan/Ishant relocate rhythm, Indian selectors will have plenty of options to choose from.
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Till that happens, at least this coming week, all attention will be centred not on cricket or the India team or on the Test match. For close to 25 years, Sachin played for India, always under pressure to meet the unfair expectations of his devoted fans.
As he descends the steps of the dressing room at the Wankhede a final time, with the entire world watching, the pressure will be at an all time high.
The writer is a Delhi Daredevils official.
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