In his 200th and last Test match, Tendulkar showed how a genius can keep overwhelming emotions under control as he scored a majestic 74 in what will probably be his last international innings.
The numbers mattered for the uninitiated but for those who loved the man for the last 24 years, each and every stroke that came out from that blade was a celebration. His 74 came off 118 balls with 12 boundaries.
A deft late cut off Shane Shillingford, straight drive past Tino Best, a shot off his hips off Shanon Gabriel, it was India’s most loved hero’s way of saying ‘Thank You’ as he completed 24 years in international cricket today.
The cobwebs were off his mind, 40,000 odd at the Wankhede and the millions in every nook and corner of India may have felt the pressure, but the man himself had a sage like presence at the crease. Nothing mattered to him apart from the bowler and the release of his delivery.
Today’s innings was a vintage Tendulkar, who made everyone sit on a ‘Time Machine’ as he rolled back those years.
What no bowler has done successfully in 24 years, Tino Best was trying to do — sledge Tendulkar. But predictably, it didn’t have an effect.
Best tried to intimidate Tendulkar with short-pitched deliveries. It hardly bothered him. He appealed fervently for a caught behind but the umpire negated it.
Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan’s sigh of relief was there for all to see.
Best walked up to Tendulkar on his follow through, asking “why doesn’t he hook?” The Master just smiled back.
But then Tendulkar showed that if the bowler is ‘Best’, the maestro from Mumbai has always been ‘Better Than the Best’.
the Indian’s answer was copybook bowler’s backdrive that took him past the half-century mark. The 50 came off 91 balls with nine boundaries.
As Tendulkar raised his bat to acknowledge the applause from a packed Wankhede, wife Anjali made a nervous gesture with her hands, probably to say “Just stay on”.
A few overs later, Best had his hands on his knees, a signature of surrendering to a genius. As he walked past Best, Tendulkar just patted his shoulders as if to say “Come on young man. You will have better days but it’s my day today.”
May be 40 years from now, a 70-year-old Best will tell his grandchildren about his duel with the Master as this will be the most cherished moment of his career.
To prove a point, a backfoot cover drive off Best was unleashed in his next over as Tendulkar moved into the 60s. Finally when Narsingh Deonarine induced an edge, skipper Darren Sammy took a catch at the slip.
Anjali was on her feet, mother Rajni was smiling, coach Ramakant Achrekar had a tear in his eyes, brother Ajit was emotional and one of the ball-boys standing at the boundary line called Arjun Tendulkar was certainly pleased at what he saw.
As Tendulkar acknowledged the standing ovation, one didn’t know whether he had a tear in his eyes but there were moist eyes all around as the revered Indian trudged his way back to pavilion.