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'Sachin's last two matches a great Diwali gift for India'

November 05, 2013 10:16 IST

'Sachin's last two matches a great Diwali gift for India'

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Bikash Mohapatra

Former India all-rounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla tells Bikash Mohapatra there will not be any pressure on the batting legend in his farewell Tests as he handled it so well in all these years.

Sachin Tendulkar is on the threshold of becoming the first cricketer ever to play 200 Test matches. Even as he sets out towards that final landmark, playing in his penultimate Test at the EdenGardens, the whole of Bengal is in euphoria.

Laxmi Ratan Shukla is no different.

“It means a lot for all the cricket fans. Sachin is a legend, a class apart,” says the Bengal and Kolkata Knight Riders all-rounder.

“Whatever we say about him is not enough. But one thing is certain, we all are going to miss him,” he adds.

Shukla, who represented India in three One-dayers in the late 1990s, isn’t surprised by Tendulkar’s retirement announcement.

“I wasn’t surprised at his decision.  In fact, I am happy that he is going out on a high. Having played 200 Test matches is more than enough. His last two matches is a great Diwali gift for the whole of India,” he told rediff.com.


Image: Candles spelling out a message about Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters

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The 32-year-old is in awe of the manner in which the Master Blaster went about in his career.

“Ups and downs are a part of every sportsman’s career. To his credit he has always contributed to the side and given so many enjoyable moments,” explained Shukla.

“He has handled pressure so well in all these years. So I don’t think there would be any additional pressure in these last two Tests. The occasion doesn’t really make a difference.”

He added, “However, with Sourav (Ganguly), Anil (Kumble), VVS (Laxman) and Rahul (Dravid) gone, and Sachin retiring as well, the golden era of Indian cricket has definitely come to an end.”


Image: Laxmi Ratan Shukla
Photographs: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

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The Bengal player vividly remembers his discussions with the batting legend.

“We have had quite a few interactions and he has always been very supportive,” recalled Shukla, adding, the maestro was an inspiration to him.

“When you look at him playing you get inspired. His attitude, his behaviour and the manner in which he talks is all very inspiring.”

Asked to name his most memorable Tendulkar innings, Shukla came up with a pre-meditated response.

“I’d say that innings in Chennai against Pakistan in 1999. He had scored a brilliant 136 in the second innings at M Chidambaram stadium and India was going to win the match. But eventually we didn’t (falling short by 12 runs).

“And he was so upset. He didn’t come out for the prize distribution ceremony, even though he had been named the man of the match.

“It was that hunger to win that made him such a great player.”


Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: BCCI

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Bikash Mohapatra

Now that Tendulkar is retiring someone has to take his place in the side.

“The tag of being the next Tendulkar is a very heavy tag. So let’s refrain from bestowing it on anyone,” said Shukla, even before the question is completed.

For all his admiration for the batting legend, the Bengal player had on regret.

“I wish I could see him play in these last two Tests. But there are professional commitments, as Bengal has a couple of Ranji Trophy games lined up during the period,” he lamented.“But it is not that I am expecting anything out of these last two matches. I just want him to enjoy.”


Image: Sachin Tendulkar is chaired off the ground by his Mumbai teammates after victory over Haryana, in Lahli
Photographs: BCCI

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