Colin E. H. Croft
The hubbub is slowly becoming a much louder din, which, in turn, will become an almighty explosion of grateful noises and credits, as Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar prepares to play his final ever Test match, his 200th, against West Indies, at the historic Wankhede Stadium, in his beloved Mumbai; his home town!
Anyone who is anyone in international cricket, and international sports, generally, should be there, in spirit, if not also possibly in person. One should really desire to boast, afterwards, that “I was there!”
That other batting genius, Brain Charles Lara, would likely be there too, since these two, great friends and grudging foes all in one, have lit up the world batting firmament for just about a quarter of a century!
What an event that promises to be, for this is, very much more likely than not, the end of that long line where such real cricketing longevity is concerned. This is one record that would be very difficult to eclipse!
One could certainly believe that, with the transition of world cricket to more instant T-20’s, even with the massive fight to preserve Test cricket, that no-one in our life-time will ever again play 200 Test matches!
Test No. 199 for “Tendya” will be at Kolkata, at the magnificent Eden Gardens, home of the Cricket Association of Bengal, which, officially, holds 90,000 attendees.
Test No. 200 will be at the similarly appointed Wankhede, home of the Mumbai Cricket Association, which holds only 45,000, officially.
With the importance of the city itself, commercially and politically, though, and being the home city of SRT, MCA gets the final greatest honor!
Expect many, many more than capacity of these cricket grounds to be in attendance for these games!
West Indies cricket fraternity, extremely quick on the uptake, should be especially proud and excited that its senior team has been, by some scheduling possibilities, allowed to partake in these farewell celebrations.
India will be trying to win, as would West Indies, of course, but this is one time that the occasion would easily trump the final game itself.
West Indies winning that game, though, would be a wonderful historic asterisk, one to remember for all time. All other twenty one players on the field should feel especially special to be involved in such history!
To be honest, it is quite impossible, really, that “The Little Master” would ever go out of cricket quietly.
While he only made 15 from 13 deliveries – strike rate 115.38 – he also recently ensured a great start to the farewell celebrations by being one of Mumbai Indians, the team that won the most recent stanza of the Champions League.
His team celebrated that success by paying their own special public tribute, Sachin being chaired off the field on the shoulders of his team-mates, having played in only his 96th T-20.
Surprisingly, he had only played one solitary T-20 International, against South Africa, back in 2006. Sachin only made 10 then, but at least, India won!
When Sachin started his international career in 1989, Test No. 1 against Pakistan, having just passed his 16th birthday, it is almost a certainty that even he would not have thought that nearly 25 years afterwards, he would not only be playing cricket, but would have had such a presence and have achieved so much.
The spectacular statistics, to date, of Sachin’s batting have been noted already, but reminders will not go amiss – 198 Tests; 15,837 runs, average 53.86, 51 centuries, 67 fifties, highest score 248 not out, plus, 463 One Day Internationals; 18,426 runs, average 44.83, 49 centuries, 96 fifties, highest score 200 not out.
Just reading those stats is tiring, and even great cricketers world-wide have been calling him the greatest batsman ever, but it is Sachin’s influence on his entire country and countrymen that is more astounding!
Whenever he goes to the crease, in any game whatsoever, wherever, it is very possible that about one fifth of the entire world’s population of about 7.5 billion, 1.5 billion in India and in its diaspora, cease all other activities just to watch the “Little Master” at the crease!
No present politician anywhere can boast of such sense of presence or reverence!
Indeed, the days are long gone, thanks to tremendous technological advances, international travel and knowledgeable exchanges, those days of perhaps USA’s John F. Kennedy or USSR’s Joseph Stalin or even despots like Uganda’s Idi Amin, when any politician can boast of “being fully in control” of any country.
The advent of cricketer Sachin also started an upward mobility of India that saw the country become No. 1 in the world, in Tests and ODI’s, and also winning ICC World Cup.
These did not happen by accident, but by a team, a country even, quickly recognizing that they had something very special in this guy!
No-one yet knows what Sachin has in his future.
Who knows, he may even become a politician too, but he, as a cricketer, appreciates that he has been the brightest shining light for his country, and that his countrymen everywhere have always held him in very special, unique, esteem! Enjoy!
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