To a special branch police officer in charge of security for visiting cricket teams since 1998, the Test at Eden beginning on Wednesday is not just work. “For the first time in my career, have I realised how big an individual can be. I feel privileged to have come close to the man for one last time,” he said, on Tuesday after requesting anonymity.
Siddharth Agrawal, a 28-year-old cricket nut claimed to have not missed a match at Eden — Test, ODI or in IPL — since he was five. And he certainly wasn’t going to miss this Test, or the next in Mumbai. “I just have to watch him play the last time. I’m not obstinate about it. It’s something that comes from within,” he said.
That’s how India connects with Sachin Tendulkar. Which also makes this Eden Test stand out from the rest. Tickets are flying off the shelves faster than sixes from Rohit Sharma’s bat but you could sell and re-sell the Eden and still struggle to get demand equal supply.
The enthusiasm has spilled well beyond the boundary. From the team hotel which has introduced ‘Cover Drive in the Legend’s Style’ menu only for this Test to hoardings dotting Kolkata’s skyline, from a wax statute sculpted from memory augmented by some newspaper pictures by Asansol’s Sushanta Ray to a special 40kg cake and custom-made sandesh, Sachin Tendulkar is a theme running through Kolkata not long after Durga Puja. One also lasting five days.
“This is Sachin Pujo, after all,” said an official at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) on Tuesday while explaining why it plans to show some serious flower power — 199 kg of rose petals — when Tendulkar leaves the Eden the final time.
And if the opposition (the West Indies, in case you forgot) don’t baulk anymore at his presence alone, there would a full Eden wearing Tendulkar masks.
If Tendulkar’s distracted by this he isn’t showing it. Like most greats (think: Pele, Diego Maradona, Jimmy Connors, Alan Iverson) on the verge of retirement, Tendulkar too is a shadow of what he was.
But watching him go about preparations with zen like focus over the past two days tells you why this man’s international career has spanned 24 years and more.
For everyone, it could be five days of celebration. To him, it’s another game of cricket.