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The nation of a billion will finally witness the gazillion-dollar IPL extravaganza without the on-field involvement of a certain Sachin Tendulkar. Abhishek Mukherjee tries to gauge what the tournament will look like.
The Ranji, Duleep, Irani, Mushtaq Ali, Deodhar, and all Trophies named after cricketers had gone on peacefully without Sachin Tendulkar; the one named after Pepsi, on the other hand, is yet to come, and as we all know, soft drinks mean more to the sport than legends of yesteryear.
But that is another story. The country has got ready for The Greatest Show on Earth to begin tonight (on Wednesday). People are ready with their banners, flags, jerseys, cell-phone cameras, and Ray Robinson books. Okay, maybe not the last one. The unfortunate lot, the ones who do not stay in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are ready with their smart-phones to catch live scores and will tune in to their television sets to watch Danny Morrison lifting weights.
The tournament will, of course, gets going amidst a cohort of cheerleaders, a phalanx of fans, and exactly one Navjot Singh Sidhu.
The tournament will also witness Sachin Tendulkar outside the ground, sitting in the dugout, sharing bench with men who will leave his side to step on to the field, while he will be left behind.
One can only wonder what the legend will feel like.
What about us? What about the fans who will witness the tournament take off with Vindoo Dara Singh walk scot-free and Tendulkar remain confined to a fibreglass [this is simply an educated guess] box? Will the tournament ever be the same for them?
They have criticised their performance in South Africa and New Zealand. They have criticised Yuvraj Singh for his failure in the ICC World Twenty20 2014 final and MS Dhoni for his strategies. They also have shared jokes on social network on Ishant Sharma.
What they have not done is utter helpless cries of “Come Back Sachin” despite the failure.
There has been life for them after Tendulkar. In Virat Kohli, they have found a potential megastar and an icon; in Cheteshwar Pujara, they have found a rock; in Rohit Sharma, the greatest talent since Tendulkar who will live up to his potential some day; and in Shikhar Dhawan, a mercurial decimator who could rip apart any attack when on song.
Tendulkar is being missed. But Indian cricket and her fans have moved on and have accepted the hard fact that he will not pick up his bat again.
He will not be taking centre stage this time. But make no mistake, if the giant screen shows him every now and then, there will be deafening cheers across the ground. And who knows, there might be that familiar Sachiiiiiiiiiiiiin, Saaachin as well: one cannot rule that out.
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