Sachin Tendulkar's farewell speech will be long remembered

Sachin Tendulkar thanked everyone in his emotional farewell speech — Family, friends, teachers, teammates, fans, etc. © PTI

By Madan Mohan

It may sound like stating the obvious, but even a career spanning 24 years draws to a close, just like that, one fine day. No matter the amount of preparation and build up for the moment, sporting full stops arrive abruptly and suddenly. Saturday morning I had to head off to complete some formalities and when I returned in the afternoon, Sachin Tendulkar had already given his long and emotional farewell speech. There it was, the moment we had been waiting for — rather, dreaded. And it’s already a part of history.

Cricketing farewells have rarely been decorated, celebrated and anticipated to such an extent. Bizarre as it sounds, I don’t remember Tendulkar being feted so much through the course of his long career — for one who has been given much (and well deserved) adulation as he was in these last two weeks. In two weeks, a nation’s obsession with the sporting achievements of one man was summed up. That it all happened with the backdrop of a grossly unsatisfying cricketing competition was also apt.

That has been the general tenor of the relationship. The love and affection showered by the Indian public on Tendulkar has not sought things like context or importance. Anything, even a series involving minnows in the summer heat (Coca-Cola series, May 1998, featuring Kenya and Bangladesh), has been welcomed if only it would grant a glimpse of India’s favourite son. Incidentally, Tendulkar did sign off that inconsequential tri-series of 1998 with a century in the final.

He put his best foot forward to oblige eager spectators at Mumbai. The visiting West Indian squad didn’t seem to figure out till the end why exactly they were here and that made for some terribly unappetising, one-sided cricket. But, unlike the previous Test at Kolkata, Tendulkar did not disappoint. Not only did he compile a fairly brisk 74, he unleashed his trademark bowler’s back drive one last time for fans to savour… among other shots.  Glimpses of his brilliance have been harder to come by over the last two years, but he cheated Father Time for a bit to conjure up some picture postcard-worthy moments.

Make no mistake, though, this was the West Indies at possibly their most mediocre and lackadaisical, at least so far as their tours to India go. And the easiness of picking off this confused bunch of guests was underscored by Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma, both compiling brisk centuries. At Kolkata, it was Rohit and Ravichandran Ashwin.

That has been the story of the last two years. A 76 against England at Kolkata in 2012 was the last time Tendulkar produced the highest score of the innings in a Test match. Before that, it was a 73 at Melbourne in 2011. His last Test century was at Cape Town at the start of 2011. He only produced big half centuries, mostly spread thin at that, for fans to savour even as his teammates outshone him. Interestingly, with the retirement of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman after the Australian debacle, it’s the next generation of batsmen — Virat Kohli, Pujara, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit — who have stolen a march over him. Whether they live up to the high standards he set in overseas conditions, only time will tell.  But there has not been much opportunity to miss his presence in the home fixtures; by and by the younger set have filled the breach.

And so it was at Mumbai. But runs cannot overshadow the aura of a living legend and certainly not one as popular as Tendulkar. Nothing would take away from the significance of the occasion — not the ineptitude of the West Indies team and not the alacrity of the upstarts to get on with the job.

This was less of a Test series and more of a farewell carnival, perhaps the only one ever hosted in cricket to date. For one last time, Tendulkar, the supreme sporting demi god of India, was paraded around for the fans to get a good look (and, surely, some camera shots to preserve for the ages). It was only apt that it would end this way in a nation that eats, sleeps and breathes Tendulkar. I bet his farewell speech will be remembered as the man of the match in the years to come. Farewell and fare well, Sachin!

(Madan Mohan is a 28-year-old chartered accountant from Mumbai.  The writing bug bit him when he was 8 and to date, he has not been cured of it.  He loves music, cricket, tennis and cinema and writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake.  He also writes a blog if he is not feeling too lazy at http://rothrocks.wordpress.com/)