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Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement did send shockwaves in the world of cricket and the countdown to his last Test has begun. Even when he missed games due to injuries or other reasons, the fans always had hope of watching him bat again — a feeling that would cease to exist on November 18, 2013 — which is the final day of the second Test between India and the West Indies at Mumbai. Nishad Pai Vaidya discusses the last month of “utopia” for the Indian fans.
The countdown to Sachin Tendulkar’s final day in international cricket has begun. For his fans, it is like a ticking time-bomb, whose result they dread and fear. His retirement announcement sent shockwaves in a cricket crazy nation and, three days on, they are still coming to terms with the fact that an Indian side would no longer feature Tendulkar. Over the last 24 years, he has missed a few games due to injuries and other reasons, but the fans always knew he would be back some day. That assurance and hope would cease to exist on November 18, 2013 — which is the last day of the second Test between India and the West Indies.
Late last year, Tendulkar called it a day from One-Day Internationals (ODIs) on a lazy Sunday morning and it was like a buzzing alarm clock. It did come at a time when he had a torrid time during the Test series against England and the world was divided over his future. That a man who had battered Shane Warne at Sharjah and carted Shoaib Akhtar over point at Centurion would no longer don the blue jersey was unimaginable. Yet, there was hope! People said, “It’s alright! We can watch him play the Test series against Australia.”
However, the moment of reckoning came on January 6 this year. India and Pakistan were facing off in a hazy atmosphere at Delhi in a dead rubber. You switched channels and on the other you found Tendulkar batting for Mumbai against Baroda in the Ranji Trophy. He did go on to score a ton and a fan marched on to the ground to touch his feet. But, it was still hard to fathom. How could Tendulkar play somewhere else when his Indian team were taking on their arch-rivals! For the majority of India’s population, cricket started and ended with Tendulkar. On that day, they didn’t know which game they preferred. It was a conflict between the country and the national hero.
So, on that day, the signs were obvious. Indian cricket and the fans had to brace for the post-Tendulkar era. The retirement announcement was indeed a jolt, but things became too obvious that day and the fans couldn’t ignore their worst fears. Then, they still pacified themselves and waited for the Test series to begin to get a glimpse of his hero.
Two months down the line, India were speeding towards a 4-0 victory over Australia on an evening at the Ferozeshah Kotla. During the run-chase, Tendulkar’s leg-before silenced the crowds. They asked each other, “Is this the last time we will watch him? Will he quit after the South Africa tour?” There were no indications about his future and they continued to hope until October 10. Once a few tweets from the Board of Control for Cricket India (BCCI) made it clear, the character of that hope morphed into sadness.
The anticipation of watching Tendulkar bat again was like a utopian world set in the future. It was this dream that you knew would come true no matter what. You missed him when he was injured, but you knew he would be back. Now, they brace themselves for the final salvo. The next one month would still harbour that want to watch him bat. There still are two more Tests the fans say.
The feeling has not sunk in yet and it would only hit the fans when he bats for the last time. That would be the end of that hope, which at one point was almost eternal. Paradise lost!
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