Sachin Tendulkar farewell: Presence of family heightened the emotional factor

Sachin Tendulkar’s (left) wife Anjali has been a constant presence throughout his career © Getty Images

Sachin Tendulkar’s entire family was present at the Wankhede Stadium during his 200th and final Test. More importantly, his mother, who has never watched him bat live, was also there. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes about the emotional enormity of the occasion for the Tendulkar family.

Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th Test is, in all likelihood, the first time when a player requested his board to host a Test match at the venue of his choice; more importantly, the board agreeing to that request. When Tendulkar makes a request, very few in India will turn him down. Such is the stature of the cricketing colossus.

Tendulkar has never acted like a prima donna. His request to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was only because he wanted his mother, Mrs Rajni Tendulkar, to watch him bat live for the only time in her life. While millions around the country yearned to watch him play for India from the stands, his mother was content in keeping track of him from her home. Mrs Rajni Tendulkar hasn’t been mobile for a few years and has been confined to the house, needing a wheelchair to move around.

Tendulkar has always found strength in his parents and has unfailingly credited them for the values they have instilled in him. When his father, Professor Ramesh Tendulkar, passed away during the 1999 World Cup, Sachin Tendulkar was shattered and returned home immediately. But he was told by his family to go back and serve the nation, once the funeral rites were completed. Tendulkar was quoted in the book Sach, “My mother sent me back. She said, ‘Your father would have loved to see you fighting for your country, not mourning at home.”

The author, Gautam Bhattacharya, writes in the same book, “Sachin suddenly started resembling a soldier who had to pack his bags despite an untimely death in the family. And now he had to guard the border.”

His wife Anjali and kids Sara and Arjun are often seen at games and have stood by him throughout. However, his siblings too have played a huge role in the making of a champion cricketer — older brother Ajit Tendulkar being the most crucial. This is a family that has stood by him throughout his glorious journey.

It’s not his mother alone, but the Tendulkar’s siblings too have generally stayed away from games he played. Ajit spoke about why the family wouldn’t go to watch the Master bat. He said during ‘Salaam Sachin’ by India Today, “My mother would pray and our sister would fast. Nitin would also do something. I would try to create positive vibes before Sachin would go to bat. Once a batsman goes to bat, nobody is in control, but it was an attempt from us to be with him in spirit. We knew there was no scientific basis, but we didn’t mind.”

The extended Tendulkar family was in strength at the Wankhede Stadium — their last opportunity to watch him bat. Ajit confessed that their nervousness kept them away from the ground, but this was a special occasion.

Consider Sachin Tendulkar’s thoughts during his final Test innings. The presence of family members would have made him a touch nervous and the enormity of the occasion certainly magnified. He has only played cricket since his childhood and has cherished the India cap all his life. That he would no longer don that cap sunk in the moment he walked out to bat on Day One and the West Indies team welcomed him with a guard of honour. Not only that, having made the request to the board for his mother, he wanted to celebrate the occasion with a big knock, dedicated to the lady who gave birth to him and nurtured him.

Talk about pressure! Batting in front of thousands chanting your name is one thing, but to have your family in their midst has a more emotional value attached to it. The fact that his mother was watching him for the first time during his final game altered the balance of things. But, the champion Tendulkar is, he had something special in store.

This was perhaps the most difficult game of his life considering the presence of his mother, the expectations of the fans and it being his swansong. When he entered the Wankhede Stadium, the crowds were buzzing in anticipation and roaring for their hero. Emotions were running high, but the man in the centre had a job to do. His body language was like that of a tiger on the prowl — as hungry as ever, although in his final march.

While the innings may not be his highest in terms of magnitude, it would rank alongside his dearest efforts. In a long time, he looked very positive and moved his feet with intent. The spinners were cut through the off-side if they ever so slightly erred in line. And the straight-drives and the cover-drives had that grace and class that have left the world spellbound for over two decades. Throughout the innings, he was looking to move forward and that was a sign that he was in the zone.

Tendulkar has a sense for the occasion and this was one made for him by the Almighty. His career has been like a dream and the final salvo was no different. Some parts were right out of a Bollywood script. When Rajni Tendulkar first came on the giant screen, the whole arena stood up and applauded in unison to acknowledge her for gifting a jewel that made the nation proud. Not used to the limelight, she smiled sheepishly. Then, in the centre, her son had one look at the screen and then put his head down to take strike.

That a dream would come to an abrupt end is something one never imagined — rather hoped would never happen, irrespective of the sides you supported. The stunned silence was acceptance that it was the end. In all probability, Tendulkar wouldn’t bat in the match again and as he walked back, you suddenly realised that you had to brace for life without Sachin Tendulkar the India player. The look on his mother’s face said it all — the disappointment was obvious, her face expressionless.

One could have asked for more, but it has been a beautiful farewell nevertheless!

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)