There comes a time when the head of a family relinquishes his responsibilities. For 24 years, Sachin Tendulkar’s trade wasn’t restricted to just batting. He was the face of Indian cricket, the selling-point for investors and darling of the masses.
Life after Sachin begins this weekend. And Test cricket in India faces its biggest challenge.
If you’re one for symbolism, there’s a lot to be deduced from the chain of events 40 minutes past 10 on Friday morning. For a minute or so, Sachin disappointed with the way he got out, was spaced out. All at the Wankhede rose to their feet. It took him a few seconds to snap out of his zone and acknowledge the prolonged applause.
Sachin’s heir to the throne, Virat Kohli, didn’t show a flicker of emotion. Kohli whispered a few words to Sachin before patting him on the back as they crossed. A minute later, Kohli smashed his first ball for a four. If there was ever a passing-of-the-torch moment, this was it.
“Kohli is very special and now carries a lot of responsibility,” says VVS Laxman. “For the past few years, Sachin has done a lot of work with youngsters. He’s gone out of his way at times. And the future is bright. Now, it’s up to Kohli & Co to put all that information to good use,” Laxman adds.
Kohli and Sachin have come really close in recent times. During the Kolkata Test, Sachin advised Kohli against eating exotic Bengali food that was sent over to the hotel. He said it was important to resist temptation and stick to fibre-rich and healthy food, especially on tours.
Sachin has been playing the father figure for few years. Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma are others who, behind closed doors, have spoken in depth of his personal involvement.
Cheteshwar Pujara revealed one such conversation: “I was getting beaten by out swingers in the nets. Sachin told me my right shoulder was opening up, told me to use a side-on stance and take a longer stride. I tried what he said and it was very helpful.”
But then Test cricket in India may be on its last legs, in spite of Sachin’s efforts. Pujara was nearing his century on Friday. India’s gen next was standing up. But a third of the crowd had left minutes after Sachin’s dismissal. Fans barked chants such as “Declare Dhoni” and “We want Gayle”. They even said “Let Ishant bowl”, wanting West Indies to score enough runs so that Sachin can return. MS Dhoni hit the nail on the head when he said that if the Sachin farewell Tests don’t draw packed houses, he’d never witness one again in his lifetime. He may be right.