The cynosure of all eyes on Friday was a little boy in a Mumbai Indians jersey with the name Tendulkar on the back. He waited patiently as the Mumbai team finished a three-hour practice session in the middle of the day, and was rewarded when Sachin walked to the stands to sign an autograph and pose for a picture. The boy's mother is from Mumbai and the father a local from Bangalore, leaving the kid in serious doubt about who to support.
But young Rithvi is not alone in this dilemma. For the 50,000-plus crowd that will pack the Chinnaswamy Stadium on a festive Saturday, their loyalty to the home team will be tested to the fullest. If the IPL is all about fans getting right behind their team, then the Tendulkar test is the ultimate one.
For a major part of this tournament, the Bangalore crowd has proved to be a major boost to Anil Kumble's team. But Tendukar is no creation of the IPL, and anywhere you go in the country, he will invoke affection.
Understandably, fans, and even some officials in Bangalore, were jittery the day before Bangalore's last league game, as rumours of Tendulkar being rested did the rounds. Having already qualified for the semifinal, the thought was that Mumbai would take the field led by vice-captain Zaheer Khan.
The logic being forwarded was simple: Mumbai did not want to risk a situation where they bowled their overs slowly and had to go into the semifinal minus Tendulkar. But a source indicted that they were set to field a full-strength team.
The Royal Challengers have shown flexibility in their team selections, successfully bringing all-rounder S Sriram and medium-pacer Pankaj Singh into the mix on different occasions. While their position in the final four is under little threat, the incentive to win is no less for the home side.
After all, if they take two points from this game, they will end on 16 points and finish second after the league stage, eliminating the need to play Mumbai in the semifinal.
Kumble will underscore this fact to the team, as it will make their home advantage count for that much more in the final four.