Tag Archives: Mumbai

Tendulkar Time

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. Nov 14, 2013, the first day of the second test match.  It’s the evening session. After West Indies were bundled out for a measly 182 in their first innings,  India begin their innings rather smoothly and briskly. The West Indies bowlers are delivering on a plate for the Indian openers and they are taking full toll of it. Murali Vijay drives one past the bowler, a picture perfect on drive. No, not quite though, everything is perfect except for the fact that it is played by the wrong batsman. We wish if it had been played by the number 4 batsman, the man who is assumed to have patented that shot.

We personally don’t want to see him coming out to bat today. What if  he gets out today itself ? We don’t want the main act to be finished, done and dusted, within the first day. There should be something to look forward to on day 2. We want to feel the anxiety and thrill over a Tendulkar-to-bat day overnight. We want to be a part of an early morning crowd thronging into the Wankhede stadium anticipating something special. 

Shikhar Dhawan pulls out his favourite sweep shot against Shillingford and top edges it. That is very much against the run of play, we think.  Chetheshwar Pujara joins Vijay, the duo which knows how to string together big partnerships. Surely they will play nightwatchmen to Tendulkar, we hope. But after two balls, Vijay gets an inside edge to backward short leg. He looks disappointed, rightly so because he has been batting beautifully. The umpire consults with the Third Umpire for the no-ball, but everyone knows that it’s only a formality.

Vijay walks back and we can now see ‘The Man’ coming down the stairs. It’s not clear from our end. We are at the North Stand exactly opposite to the players pavilion, but we can see it in our mind, Tendulkar putting on his gloves through the steps. We can hear the decibel levels going several notches up as he takes each step towards the middle. In fact we are contributing to the noise even though we are tensed. The guard of honour from the West Indies players is already in place. The umpires also join in. Tendulkar reaches the middle now. 

The grand entry

The grand entry

It’s 3.30 only now. The play can be extended to 5 pm if 20 more overs are not bowled within the scheduled close of play. That’s a lot of time and overs. I am trying to tell myself to concede the fact that I might have to leave the stadium disappointed today. The fun might well be over by stumps. But there’s Virat Kohli anyway. What a treat watching him has been of late. What about a swashbuckling knock from Dhoni tomorrow. It’s going to be entertaining in any case. But even then we badly want him to stay not out at the close of play.

What can be done to make sure that Sachin doesn’t get out. The first and the easiest step is not to sit. Nobody is sitting in the crowd anyway.  The first ball, he survives, bounces short of  the short -leg fielder. There is real tension in the air. You can cut it with a knife, but you can never make it subside. My friend is urging people to keep quiet and not to put the master under pressure with the Sachin- Sachin chants that have been resonating around  Wankhede. What an absurd request by him !

An over later, it’s Shillingford again to Tendulkar, his nemesis from Kolkata. In fact, off spinners have been fancying a bowl at Tendulkar for a while now. He needs to get off the mark. He plays an ugly hoick across the line and manages to pick up a single. It’s felt as if it is a release shot.  He won’t be emulating Bradman in his last test, after all.  I am trying to make sure that I stay in the perfect position. I don’t want to jinx him in anyway possible. If  Tendulkar’s quest at the crease is for balance, ours is also for balance of a different kind. A balanced state from where we can let him play without getting out, simple. If that means keeping even the tiniest piece of paper around us in the exact same position as it was for the previous delivery, then so be it. It’s an esoteric superstition that only cricket fans can understand.

Tendulkar is beginning to hit his stride. He has already hit Shillingford for a couple of boundaries. The crowd is beginning to loosen up. But I can’t do that just yet I feel. I am ready to stand up for the whole innings if needed, I am ready to repeat the routines if that keeps him going out there in the middle. Shillingford is the main danger, I feel. My friend is telling me that Shillingford hasn’t yet hit the right length to trouble Tendulkar. I understand that, but I reply to him saying that he will hit his length the very next ball. I often try this counter jinxing technique with Tendulkar, where I think or speak about all the possible harmful things that can happen to him while batting.  It can be a ball that keeps low all of a sudden, I picture him squatting and getting bowled. It can be a ripper of an off break going through the gates. It can be him trying to play a cute paddle and missing the ball and finding himself dead in front of the stumps or it can be an umpire trying to show his ability to not be swayed by emotions and thus giving a marginal decision against Tendulkar. I have gone through all such scenarios in my mind. Hopefully I have counter jinxed them all for Sachin.

Pujara is turning over the strike at will and Tendulkar is looking more and more assured at the crease. But all the setting up work could come to nothing in the next three overs. Darren Sammy bowls a loosener, or is that the best he offers. The straight bat meets the ball, not much of a  follow through. Mid on fielder can fetch the ball from the boundary. Now that is a perfect on-drive. Everyone around knows that this is special. We are high-fiving with people we don’t even know. There is a genuine sense of satisfaction on everyone’s face. We are no longer clapping and praying for a toothless old master, we are cheering on and witnessing the real master who has just produced his trademark shot. There are people who have spent the same X as us or less than X or more than X for their tickets. But everyone now feels as if whatever has been spent is well worth it.

The day is over. Sachin is batting on 38. The perfect scenario. Next day will turn out to be a full house. Pujara’s score and  India’s total score ? Most people don’t know and they don’t care about it too. To be fair, we too are not aware of the overall picture. We are walking by a maidan after play and someone asks us what the state of the match is. “Sachin not out on 38” . He asks for nothing more too and goes away. Has he smiled hearing the news ? We want to tell it to everyone, spread smiles all around and just basically cherish those moments.

******

Day 2 arrives. The moving day of a test match these days, except that for this match, the game has moved forward a lot on the first day itself. We are sitting on seats that offer the best view from the North Stand, upper level. We know that today someone will come demanding our seats (theirs in fact) showing the seat number. We reach two hours prior to the game. But that is of no use now as more and people come saying “yeh, mera seat hai, please move”. 

Thus we are now sitting on our original seats. The view is not as perfect as it was before. But why bother about that, we never thought we would be able to get in and there were days when we might have had wished to become a fly on the walls of Wankhede for this match to get a piece of the action. So let’s settle and enjoy Sachin or get really nervous for him. Sachin looks relaxed today morning. This is not a fresh start for him it feels. He is trying to dazzle the crowd one last time.

He goes for that favourite upper cut despite a third man fielder is being stationed. For a moment, I think it’s over. No, the umpire hasn’t heard anything and he is safe for now. May be it’s time to become more careful now as a spectator. We shouldn’t be betraying him in this last hurray. I start to follow a pattern of pre-ball routines that will serve Tendulkar well in the middle. I look to the scoreboards to my right and left one after another before every delivery that Sachin faces.

It seems to be working wonders. Sachin drives Tino Best past mid off for a four to reach his half century. ‘Sachin, Sachin’  gets louder and more importantly happier by the minute. Our throats are working overtime, but not everyday they have to do this. We are talking among ourselves that Tendulkar seems to be in that zone. Moreover he is determined to show off. He is happy to go for shots and risk his wicket in the process. Tino Best has been following through on the pitch and coming very close to Tendulkar at the strikers end, trying to upset his concentration with some words and stern looks. After the end of an over, Sachin goes past Best who is on his haunches and seems to have gently tapped on his head. This is a master of 24 years of experience cherishing every moment of this grand finale.

First over after the drinks break, fifth ball. Has he caught it ? We know it’s over. Tendulkar is gone for 74. How did it happen ? Have I violated my balance ?  Have I been sitting when the ball was bowled ?  More importantly, what should we do now ? Stay silent and analyze that dismissal ?  But before that we have to  give that rousing applause for one last time for Sachin seems to be in no mood to hang around. He walks back pretty quickly and takes off his helmet within the field itself. That’s so rare, I’m thinking. He turns around and raises his bat acknowledging all sections of the crowd.

Not again!!!

Not again!!!

We are pretty sure that we have seen the last of  Tendulkar with a bat in hand and while it lasted,  those 2.5 hours in all, they epitomized our life thus far. It’s one big emotional roller-coaster that we are parting with, one that has been enjoyable all the way even through the tensions and the apprehensions, one that has made us do all sorts of weird things, and one that has made us look forward to another day in life.

Our message to Sachin!!!

Our message to Sachin!!!

*****

P.S : I miss those days, those days from two weeks back when we were on a massive mission, a challenge indeed where we had to be single minded and give all our attention to the task at hand to succeed. That was the biggest hunt for tickets for a cricket match we ever had to do and for sure will remain the biggest in the future too. The group we had created for conversation on the topic was buzzing always. In fact, it was the only group with so much activity that I have ever been a part of.

“Hey, I  found a guy on Twitter, he has tickets for North Stand”. “I got the number of a guy from Internet, who seems to be an MCA member or he seems to know someone from the MCA”.  “Good, keep in touch with him”, “I think  X  is a decent buy, but try to bring it down to X- Y “. It went on like that for two weeks and finally we got our tickets for an amount that we still thought was too high, but after all, this was no ordinary occasion. This was the curtains coming down to our childhood, or more clearly our life thus far. We just had to be there at Wankhede for the farewell and we managed it. Thank You Almighty for making it happen.

2 Comments

Filed under Cricket

That On-Drive

A report from the first day of the historic final test match of Sachin Tendulkar played at the Wankhede, Mumbai on Nov 14, 2013.

This post first appeared on Manorma Online on Nov 14, 2013.

*****

So much has happened over the course of the day. But in the end, what remains in my mind is only the deafening noise accompanying a short man to the field, the sacred turf where he was identified as a child prodigy. Since then he has gone on to conquer the world, moreover conquer our hearts. Our relationship with Sachin Tendulkar has always been about urging him to make us feel good, make us sleep better. It was no different today as well, when he came out to bat.

Mathew Hayden describes the Indian worship towards Sachin as a frantic appeal by a nation. Today, that frantic appeal had a demanding tone to it, a demand arisen purely out of the understanding of the fact that this would probably be the last chance for us to take solace in Tendulkar. Tendulkar came out to bat when India lost their second wicket, that of Murali Vijay with the score on 77. But the whole day, it has been about Tendulkar only.

The morning when I reached the Wankhede, an hour before the start of the match, there were long queues already in place with people wanting to get in and be a part of this historic occasion right from the very first ball. India won the toss and put West Indies into bat on a pitch which had good carry for the bowlers and a bit of sideways movement. Whether it’s his last match or not, whether he is actively involved in the play or not, one cannot escape the ‘Sachiiin Sachiiin’ chants in a ground in India. At once, Sachin himself gestured towards the crowd suggesting that it should not be all about him and that the bowler is the one in need of all the backing when he is charging into bowl.

West Indies lost Chris Gayle to a sharp and well directed short delivery from Mohammed Shami who seemed to be carrying his form from the Kolkata victory to here also. Darren Bravo played some attacking shots against Ashwin but fell prey to him just before lunch. West Indies finished the first session with the score on 93 for 2. Indian captain MS Dhoni must have thought about giving Tendulkar a bowl at some stage in the match, because the crowd was constantly in his hear with “We want Sachin, We want Sachin” .

Dhoni resisted that temptation and the main bowlers were more than par for the course as the second session saw a collapse from the West Indies team that has become a characteristic of their test performances in the recent years. The middle and late order batsmen were sorted out by the Indian spinners with sharp turn and bounce. Once Shivnarine Chanderpaul was caught behind off the bowling of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, a procession of wickets ensued. Pragyan Ojha bagged a five wicket haul and Ashwin picked up three. West Indies were bowled out for 182 just on stroke of tea.

One interesting passage of play was when Sachin was employed to field at fine leg for a while. At first, there were only a couple of ball boys patrolling that area. They found a cute idea to get closer to the master. They picked up some bottles of water and went near him and offered that to him without him even asking for it. After a few minutes, when I looked towards the fine leg region, the ball boys multiplied in number there. Surely, the West Indies batsmen weren’t playing neat leg glances one after another for that area to be taken care of by so many kids. They were fulfilling their dreams, a dream most Indians would never be able to fulfill, be that close to their idol.

The third session started brightly for India with a solid and quick fire partnership between Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay. they scored at nearly a run a ball before Dhawan was out caught at deep square leg trying to sweep. By then people realized that Tendulkar batting today itself was a strong possibility and the collective wish of the crowd undid Murali Vijay who had been playing beautifully till then. Both the openers were snapped by Shillingford.

So the moment arrived, the moment everyone had been waiting for, but not expecting to come that soon. But that didn’t mean the crowd were any less pumped up in their reception for their hero. We all bowed down saluting the master. Once, twice, thrice and many more. The West Indies team members arranged themselves to give Tendulkar a guard of honour. He nodded to all the appreciations he was getting and took strike, not in any haste. He wanted the noise to subside so that he could focus better. The noise never went meeker. But this was Sachin, he had been to all the rigorous examination by his loyal fans. He knew he couldn’t afford to disappoint his people, both the screaming ones in the crowd at the Wankhede and the millions tuning in from all over the world.

He brought out his A game in place for the biggest of farewells ever known in sporting history. There was a certainty in his footwork today. He went back and forward with clockwork precision and smothered the off spin of Shillingford who had troubled him at the Eden Gardens. He was adamant in punishing any loose delivery that came his way.  Then late in the day, when West Indies captain Darren Sammy brought himself to bowl, Tendulkar came up with his signature shot, that on drive, that head going towards the offside and that bat coming down in perfect perpendicular and meeting the ball dead center. The ball raced away to the boundary and that was relieving for everyone. All is well with the Tendulkar world. He finished on 38 not out at the end of the day. The fans can now have a good night’s sleep and come back hoping for more vintage mastery. But most will concede that that on-drive has already given them the value for their money.

1 Comment

November 19, 2013 · 7:38 am

Grand Farewell – On the Eve

30 hours on a train. I have never been a complete a rail junkie to enjoy a trip like this without any boredom. What if at the other side of the journey awaits you the daily routines. That’s not something to look forward to. But one thing that  kept me going without any desperation was the fact that I had a lot to look forward. I reached Mumbai very late tonight, the city every cricket fan would want to be in at the moment. A cricket match is about to be played between India and West Indies. Yes, West Indies is playing in this series if anyone needs a reminder. But here, it has all been about one man and his farewell to the game he cherished more than anyone ever did.

The grand farewell party is upon us or it has been going on ever since Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement on October 10. I can remember the days when I used to wait and watch the post match analysis of matches in which Sachin had performed well  to hear all the praises showered on him by the experts. Every word on him or by him, said or written was a treasure. I somehow found them quite reassuring that my love for him is justified after all.

But these days, it has become very hard to keep track of all the Sachin articles and T.V. shows since there are too many. In fact we were too busy with our herculean efforts for getting tickets for the match so that there was simply no time to keep abreast of all the side shows accompanying this massive retirement celebration program. Finally we managed to get three tickets for prices that are undisclosed (Like they do in Football transfers). The mechanism of ticket purchasing itself is worth for a novel,  I believe.

We are staying at an Uncle’s place in Mumbai and he told us that in 1976, he purchased his flat for the same amount as the cost of our three tickets combined. The flat still serves him well. We only hope that the memories from here over the next five days will go on to serve us through out our lives.

Come on Day 1, enchant us.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cricket

The tea had been sweeter for a while

They say that the North Stand at the Wankhede offers the best view for watching Cricket. Not that it mattered much to me, I decided to make sure that I get one of the best seats in the North Stand to enjoy a day of Test match cricket. November 25, 2012, the third day of the India England test match is the setting. Ever since the fixtures came out for the series, It was pretty apparent to me that I would be there or rather I must be there for any one day of this match. I had already booked the tickets for the match online, but I had to collect my ticket from the counter outside the venue. So I missed the first 20 to 30 minutes of the day’s play. England had got off to a decent start to the day by then, but I was not at all thinking about the match situation. I was too busy getting myself seated properly and getting a feel of the atmosphere.

13 cricketers all in whites were doing their stuff in the middle. All kinds of them were there. Heroes and flops, Those who delighted us and those who disappointed us, Those on whose abilities we believed and those whom we doubted. But my mind was wandering. It took me some good 10 or 15 minutes to really come to terms with the fact that I was having a taste of International cricket.

Pietersen and co. during a drinks break

Pietersen and co. during a drinks break

Coming to the match itself, now it is already well documented that what Kevin Pietersen did that day was something outrageous. He stood tall, defended calmly, played with the spin to the offside, slog swept, and lifted the ball straight back past helpless spinners. When a batsman goes like this it is always intimidating, but when Pietersen does it it looks a bit more, just because of the frame of the man.

When Cook and Pietersen were going great guns I was like this: “Yeah, I am here to see cricket, why bother about not being able to see India’s batting ? “. But India had a dream session after lunch, England lost 6 wickets during the post lunch session, and there I was, or rather us, the whole crowd, after all, our sunday was not to be spent for those Poms batting. We desperately wanted our Rockstars to wield their willows in front of us. There was an overwhelming sense of relief on the face of everyone.

Sourv Ganguly coming out to do some pitch side analysis during lunch break

Sourv Ganguly coming out to do some pitch side analysis during lunch break

So there were to be had 33 overs of the famous wristy, elegant Indian batting. The noise level at the Wankhede just went some notches up. But if the previous session was dreamy for India, this was nightmarish. Sehwag was the first to go. Chetheshwer Pujara was greeted with “Pujara, Pujara” chants, but poor man, his dismissal was accompanied with the loudest cheer for the entire match. He must have felt like he was given a false reception earlier, but it has been happening to every Indian second wicket for years. I was ready with my camera then for the occasion. Sure, no other sporting arena in the world would ever witness what took place at the Wankhede for the next one or two minutes. The video can be seen here

A shot from the Indian Innings


A shot from the Indian Innings

Tendulkar was beaten by Panesar a couple of times. The stumping claim which went upwards produced the most nervous moments of the day, The big screen read ‘Third Umpire Decision Pending’ for about a minute, but finally he was given Not Out. He scored two boundaries of Panesar too. He was stretching himself forward and smothering the spin well, it looked from the stands. But then the quicker straighter delivery did the trick, the finger went up instantly and that was it. Sachin was walking back. I was not opportunistic enough to be able to pick myself up to capture that moment of silence, which would have complimented nicely, the earlier video of the reception given to him.

Some started leaving then. With a tinge of disappointment, I stayed back to see the day coming to a close. India lost 7 wickets in that single session and the match was almost lost. It is not everyday that you get to see live cricket from the ground. So regardless of the match situation I was feeling great as I came out. I was seated near the press box where there were some familiar English faces like Michael Atherton and Lawrence Booth. I often looked at them, were they chuckling ? no, it was just my fickle mind. One thing about the hospitality at the Wankhede must be said. I have not been to many venues, but this renovated Wankhede has to be one of the most spectator friendly venues atleast in India. The security arrangements never came in the way of the viewer experience.

The Media Box

In 2002, as Sachin Tendukar was about to play his 100th test match, Tom Alter, the actor wrote a piece for Rediff. In which, he summed up a cricket fan’s emotion beautifully :
“Let us celebrate all the mornings he also has gifted us — the mornings when we wake and know he will bat today; the mornings when tea is especially good and hot, and the air clearer and crisper — only because we feel blessed inside, waiting to see him play”. Since the day I had decided to go for the match, I too was feeling blessed inside waiting to see not just Sachin, but this grand old stage of a Test match and its nuances and the twists and turns. Well, my tea had also been especially good and hot and sweeter.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized