Wankhede Stadium is expected to burst at its seams when Sachin Tendulkar walks out to take fresh guard on Friday morning. The 40-year-old genius will start at his overnight score of 38 as India start Day Two of the second Test against the West Indies at 157 for two wickets, just 25 runs adrift of the Caribbean first innings total of 182 all out.
A billion Indians will pray for the Master Blaster and many will have a sleepless night as Tendulkar fans want nothing less than a hundred in his farewell game. Tendulkar is playing his 200th Test and is a proud owner of a 100 international centuries. “Why not the 101st?” VVS Laxman told NDTV, adding: “He has shown the right intent and the body language to get a big score.” Tendulkar has a record 51 Test centuries and 67 fifties ever since making his debut in 1989.
On Thursday, Tendulkar came in to bat with India at 77 for two wickets. Never have Wankhede fans ‘celebrated’ the fall of an Indian wicket when Murli Vijay was caught by Darren Sammy off Shane Shillingford’s bowling for 43. This Test match is all about Tendulkar and fans gave him a thunderous ovation as the Caribbeans welcomed him to the middle with a guard of honour. The pleasantries over quickly, it was time for business as Tendulkar settled down and quickly started middling the ball on a Wankhede wicket that afforded both turn and bounce. The sound of leather meeting the sweet spots of the willow is the ultimate signal that gives confidence to a batsman and Tendulkar is no different. The initial hints of nerves soon transformed to confidence as Tendulkar quickly flashed a smile to say all was well.
“With Indian two wickets falling in an over, Tendulkar didn’t get too much time to prepare. But once he went in, his body language was positive and his intentions very clear,” said Sunil Gavaskar to NDTV. Having scored just 10 runs in his 199th Test at Eden Gardens last week, the pressure to score on what perhaps will be his last Test innings was high. But Tendulkar grabbed the bull by its horns and used his feet and guile to score runs freely. By judging the length of the balls almost to clinical perfection, the vintage cuts and drives followed and there were three exquisite fours in his first 20 runs. A screaming on-drive on the rise off a Sammy delivery stood out as it had the trademark Tendulkar’s timing and grace written all over it. (Sachin gets guard of honour)
“That’s the beauty of this man. He reacts to a situation extremely well. What makes his innings praiseworthy is the fact that he came in and adjusted to the situation very well and kept the scoreboard ticking,” explained Laxman. (Watch Video)
Tendulkar refused to cow down even as the day was coming to a close. His 38 had six boundaries, each one a treat to watch. His partner, Cheteshwar Pujara (batting on 34), must have felt like a student. The duo put on 80 runs for the third wicket and looked good for many more. “The way Tendulkar batted in tandem with Pujara speaks about his commitment to the team. It reflects his team spirit and the foundation for a big score has been laid,” felt Gavaskar.
India will hope to bat just once in this match. With so much batting to come, MS Dhoni will not like to bat last on a turning track. A hundred from Tendulkar will be the perfect coup de grace and the hunger in the master blaster’s eyes were clear on Thursday. The first hour of a day in a Test match is always crucial. In a career spanning 24 years, Tendulkar must have been in such situations many time before. Tendulkar loves challenges and this is just the perfect setting for him to prove why he is called the ‘God’ of cricket. It will be travesty of justice if Friday doesn’t belong to Sachin Tendulkar.