Sachin Tendulkar mania: Why the fall of the second Indian wicket is cause for outpour of ecstatic celebration

The fall of the second wicket has for long been a symbol of hope. It is the silver lining which has for long signalled that the sun is about to break through even if the clouds are at their darkest. A screengrab from Star Sports after the fall of India’s second wicket

Thursday was perhaps the last time one witnessed Sachin Tendulkar walk in at the fall of the second Indian wicket. Arunabha Sengupta looks at how the dismissal of the second Indian batsman had grown into a moment of expectant celebration.

The breathless expectation. The simmering excitement. The chants – ‘Sachinnn, Sachinn. The roar that amplifies as the peak of his blue helmet is spotted in the pavilion. The deafening crescendo as he trots down the steps and emerges on to the ground. The applause that follows, the chorus of expectant voices, the synchronised clapping of uncountable hands full of hope. The one look at the sun over the shoulder, the movement that is etched in the soul of every fan. And then the walk up to the wicket as people resume their seats in throes of fanciful dreams.

The fall of the second Indian wicket.

The event has long been transformed from a setback into a reason for rejoicing. That moment when one sees the country’s greatest icon walk out in the stage to put on his show —a familiar sight over 24 long years.

Yes, the crowd cheers for India. Yes, the crowd wants the nation to win. Yes, every stroke that puts runs on the board before the fall of the second wicket is celebrated as well. Yet, there is little disappointment when the opposition strikes for the second time.

Often there is plenty of bristling righteous indignation when one hears the elation. When one sees delighted looks as the dismissed batsman walks off the ground.

Yet, it has become the feature of an Indian innings. It can be resented — and often is — but can be neither ignored nor expunged.

Because, there are excellent reasons behind the unbridled ecstasy as the master walks in to bat. Reasons planted with deeds of valour, or single-handed heroism, of over two decades of emphatic brilliance. It is the celebration of a career that transformed Indian cricket.

The fall of the second wicket has for long been a symbol of hope. It is the silver lining which has for long signalled that the sun is about to break through even if the clouds are at their darkest. It is the cue that tells us that the innings is about to rise, if need be like a phoenix from the ashes. It is an indication that magic is in the offing that will often try to transform a losing cause into a winning one. It carries the portent of something special, something majestic, something magical. Scintillating strokeplay, unprecedented counter-attack, the wonder of a lifetime.

It has happened so often that we have lost count. We have forgotten some of the best turnarounds. Again and again, the little great man, the 27 for two expert of the Indian team, has walked out to perform his conjuring act. Most often when crisis stared at his face.

Hence, the fall of the second wicket has ceased to be an event of dismay. It is a moment of priceless images that one hopes will be enacted yet again.

Yes, in India we do have short memories. We cannot remember all such passages of play that demonstrated the genius of the man. So let us take a while to hark back and reflect on the saga of heroism we have seen at such junctures.

The snippets of memory float back, arranging themselves into a delightful retrospective.

Perth 1991-92, the score 69 for two, the procession at the other end soon makes it 159 for eight. And the 18-year-old strokes his way to a peerless 114.

Johannesburg 1992-93, the score actually reading 27 for two, the boy-wonder battling Allan Donald and the rest to score 111.

The summer of 1996 at Birmingham, India 17 for two after a 99-run first-innings deficit. No batsman manages to tarry for long at the other end. And that esoteric 122 is struck in a single-handed display of arrogant mastery. Another hour of Tendulkar and even a touring India of the mid-90s would have struggled to lose the match?

It carried on in the same vein, down the years and around the world.

Night-watchman Venkatesh Prasad was clueless against Paul Adams at Cape Town, and for a change Tendulkar walked in at three down, with the score reading 25. And he hit 169 runs of unparalleled excellence. At Colombo he got 139 from nine for two. At Hamilton 67 from 17 for two. At Chennai the heart-breaking 136 from six for two. At Melbourne 116 from 11 for two.
Yes, it actually continued all through his career.

He got 155 against South Africa, from 43 for two that became 65 for four, at Blomfontein in 2001. And again had to score146 against them at Cape Town in 2011 from 28 for two. He got two fifties in the three days against Australia at Mumbai from 25 for two and 58 for two in 2001, and again scored 214 from 38 for two to win the Bangalore Test in late 2010. At Mumbai in 1999 he got 97 against South Africa from 39 for two, and scored 100 against them from 24 for two at Nagpur in 2010.

Even after the 2011 World Cup, he had to go in at 13 for two at Nottingham to score 56, and at 64 for two facing an innings defeat at The Oval to get 91.

These are just illustrations, some file shots of the continuous wizardry that raised the hearts of the country in synchronised hopeful beats every time the second wicket went down. Whatever be the situation, it was the moment when the messiah of the Indian batting would walk in, to perform his miracles. Yes, they were miracles. Acts of alchemy that always tried, and often succeeded, to turn misery into elation.
The unrestrained joy of watching Tendulkar go in to bat is an effect of genius. It makes more sense to cherish the celebrations at the fall of the second Indian wicket it than to wonder at the oddity.
On Thursday, when Murali Vijay was caught off Shane Shillingford, the Mumbai crowd broke into a roar the like of which had not been heard even when Shivnarine Chanderpaul was dismissed earlier in the day. However, there was a reason.

It was perhaps the final occasion when the master would rise from his seat in the pavilion, walk down the steps, emerge on to the ground, look once at the sun, and proceed to the wicket. This was perhaps the final time that the scoreboard would whirr away and the name Tendulkar emerged against number four. This was perhaps the final time that one would revel at the sight of Sachin Tendulkar at the wicket.
Because after this Test match, life will never be the same again.
Tendulkar will no longer bat at number four for India.

The fall of the second wicket will once again revert to a moment of stutter in the innings, a normal setback in the mundane exchange of cricketing blows.

A new man will walk towards the wicket. And most eyes will have to adjust to the sight. Many will turn moist.

No longer will there be the master in the team who could reverse the flow of delight and disappointment at the fall of a wicket.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twiter.com/senantix)