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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Cheers, lots of tears and a strange emptiness

MVL Manikantan, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, November 16, 2013
First Published: 22:59 IST(16/11/2013) | Last Updated: 23:01 IST(16/11/2013)

It was 8.00am and Churchgate station wore a normal look. Trains were leaving almost empty with only a handful of commuters getting off incoming locals.

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Ninety minutes from the start of play of Sachin Tendulkar’s final day in cricket, you would expect more excitement in the vicinity of the Wankhede Stadium.

As you enter the stadium after frisking, the mild chant of ‘Tendulkar’ welcomes you. The India squad is busy playing football and the child in Tendulkar was evident for a few seconds. Whenever he dribbled or passed, the crowd chanted his name. A celebratory shout lifted the spirits in the stands when he scored a goal.

The scalping of the seven West Indian wickets was just a formality on Saturday, the opening act of a concert that ended in an ocean of emotions for thousands of spectators.

The stadium was almost filled to the brim eventually, but people started pouring in only after the fifth West Indies wicket fell; they only wanted to catch the presentation ceremony.

Temporary fans
West Indies did find a few fans, those who were hoping for a fightback that would ensure India, and Tendulkar, batted again. This bunch cheered every run the visitors scored. Sadly, that wish went up in smoke after Gayle was dismissed.

With the option of seeing the maestro in action narrowed to one, the crowd wanted to see him roll his arm over. ‘Tendulkar bowling kar’ and ‘We want Tendulkar’, the entreaties would surely have reached Dhoni’s ears.

The skipper finally relented in the 41st over of the West Indies innings and Tendulkar deposited his hat with the umpire. The two-over spell received more applause than any of Pragyan Ojha’s wicket-taking deliveries.

At the end of the 47th over, Mohammed Shami’s in-swinger knocked Shannon Gabriel’s middle stump out, handing India an innings victory, and from that moment on the crowd was on its feet for the next thirty minutes.

The noise was deafening during the guard of honour, for every step Tendulkar took the decibel level went up a notch. Bottles were banged harder on the railings, the whistling got shriller. Everybody wanted to capture the moment. By the end of it all, as the noise began to ebb, tears were rolling down the cheeks of many spectators. Some still stood in disbelief, parked outside the stadium to see the team bus depart. A cricketing journey had come to an end.


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