This is it. An era that started its walk towards the exit door with Ganguly\'s retirement in 2008 will finally walk through it with Sachin\'s swan song.
This is it. An era that started its walk towards the exit door with Sourav Ganguly's retirement in 2008 will finally walk through it with Sachin Tendulkar's swan song in 2013.
A mother will be in attendance to watch her illustrious son, somewhat unbelievably for the first time at a ground - and incidentally the last as well. A coach, who gave India its most decorated cricketer, will be there as well - watching how the world, which has fallen to his ward's feet, has gathered for his farewell.
After Sachin decided to call it a day, he expressed his desire for a send-off at home. That ended the debate on venue, making the announcement of Mumbai's name a mere formality. And in less than 24 hours from now, Sachin will begin his walk to join Dravid, Ganguly, Kumble and Laxman at the boundary ropes.
This two-Test series turned into a 'Sachin Tendulkar Festival' when the master informed his decision to the BCCI. West Indies must have figured out in Kolkata that their win may spoil India's party, but not the mood. If there ever was a series not about India's wins or Sachin's runs, this is it.
The farewell will also see Sachin cross the milestone of 200 Tests, which reminds about the most incredible feature of his records: each one of those seem undefeatable. It's almost unhuman to complete a double century of Test appearances. But Sachin explained how he managed.
"I think every step was different, every tournament required different type of preparation. Without preparations, things wouldn't have been the same," he said at a felicitation function in Mumbai.
The game will see another man, in India's opposite camp, who knows a thing or two about running Test marathons. West Indian talisman Shivnarine Chanderpaul will play his 150th Test in Sachin's farewell. "I never thought I would get this far in the beginning. Who knows where you can go, if you keep persisting," Chanderpaul, who is 1056 runs away from Brian Lara's 11,953, said somewhat modestly.
But many fans will be robbed of watching the historic moment. The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) decided to sell just 5,000 of the 33,000 tickets to general public. And when those tickets went on sale online, the website MCA had roped in crashed in minutes. The lucky few then booked those 5,000 seats in the next 15 hours.
Besides history, there will, of course, be cricket at Wankhede. India won the first Test in Kolkata by an innings and 51 runs to go 1-0 up in the two-match series. The result also meant that Sachin batted just once. But Mumbai would want West Indies to breathe until Sachin bats twice and leads India to a win.
The Mumbai cast doesn't include just Sachin and Chanderpaul. There are Kolkata heroes Rohit Sharma, Mohammad Shami and R Ashwin as well. Rohit and Shami shared some of the spotlight that was always on Sachin, with a century and a 9-wicket match-haul respectively on debut. Ashwin put up an allround show by not only taking five wickets in the game but also scoring his second Test hundred in a mammoth stand with Rohit.
West Indies had a hero as well in Shane Shillingford, who, at one time, had the Indians in knots with his offspin. His fourth consecutive five-wicket haul (6 for 167) saw India slip to 83 for 5 before Rohit and Ashwin helped the team get back on its feet. The visitors would have loved to have Kemar Roach back fit, but sadly he didn't make the expected recovery and has flown back home with his injured shoulder.
It may be the first and last instance in Indian cricket when a player's farewell makes everything else about the game almost irrelevant. But there's nothing like a winning finale - like the ones Sachin got in the 2011 World Cup, which was his last, and the 2013 IPL and CLT20 finals, where Mumbai Indians lifted the trophy. The ten other players in the India playing eleven will have that at the back of their mind. On current form, though, it's difficult to see Windies as party-poopers.
But when it's Sachin Tendulkar for one last time, nothing else matters than a big Thank You. And there are only three words what will echo over the next few days in every corner of India: "Thank You Sachin".
Does it matter?