Thousands trooped into Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Wednesday to see master blaster Sachin Tendulkar play his penultimate Test match. For some, the experience is equivalent to a "pilgrimage", while for others it is "an experience of a lifetime".
The two-Test series against the West Indies will bring down the curtains on Tendulkar's illustrious 24-year-long career. The cricketer will be playing his 199th Test in Kolkata and his 200th and last match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai November 14-18.
Daubed in colours of the Indian flag, donning headbands and waving the tricolour, residents gathered outside the arena-wrapped in security-since early morning. Many were seen with a wig resembling Tendulkar's curly hair.
"It is a pilgrimage...first day of the historic test match. Watching the master for one last time. Feeling emotional..," said banker Gourav 'Tendulkar' Chakraborty, who took five days leave to follow the Test match.
"We are from Assam and we have come all the way on a Sachin pilgrimage," said a group from the northeastern state.
Chants of "Sachin Sachin" resonated across the venue as officers of Kolkata police manned entrances and kept vigil. While some were fervently wishing a century from their favourite, others just wanted to catch a glimpse.
"It is an experience of a lifetime...we are here for Sachin...even if he doesn't score a century we won't mind...we just want to watch him play for the last time," said a fan at the venue.
Despite it being a weekday, Sachin mania drew fans from their offices.
There was loud cheering for "local boy" Mohammed Shami, who is making his Test match debut for India Wednesday at the Eden Gardens. Among the cheerers was Indian woman cricketer Jhulan Goswami.