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Tendulkar mania grips Mumbai

Last updated on: November 13, 2013 19:09 IST

Tendulkar mania grips Mumbai

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Haresh Pandya

It’s not the contest between India and the West Indies, but the batting icon that cricket lovers are thronging the Wankhede stadium to see, says Haresh Pandya.

Not since Don Bradman, way back in 1948, has a cricket player triggered the kind of frenzy 41-year-old Sachin Tendulkar has with the announcement of his retirement from the sport after much speculation. Cricket-crazy India, where he enjoys Beatlesesque popularity and God-like status, has been in the tightening grip of Tendulkarmania for some weeks as he plays his last series, against the West Indiesy.

Farewell Sachin... write a postcard to the batting icon

As Tendulkar -- who has played more Tests (199), scored more runs (15,847 at an average of 53.71) and hit more centuries (51) than any other cricketer in history (in addition to being the only batsman with 18,426 runs and 49 centuries in 463 One-Day Internationals) -- is preparing for his swansong, the second Test between India and the West Indies, starting in his hometown Mumbai on Thursday, the madness surrounding him has reached almost a hysterical crescendo.

Just about every aficionado wants to get a close sniff of the Tendulkar aura and the hosts, Mumbai Cricket Association, have been swamped with demands and requests for tickets. But the Wankhede stadium can accommodate not more than 33,000 spectators, including VIPs. Much to the chagrin and disappointment of general public, only 5000 tickets, including 1500 special "hospitality tickets" at a whopping Rs. 10,000 on the upper tier of the Sachin Tendulkar Stand, have already been sold even after the website selling them online crashed on Monday.


Image: Fans outside the Wankhede stadium
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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Haresh Pandya

But there is said to be an inflated black market. “I’ve paid more than double the actual price of a ticket I was desperate to buy,” said a visibly delighted and proud Ganpat Patil, 37, a schoolteacher from a Mumbai suburb, who preferred to describe himself as “mad about Tendulkar”.

Had this not been Tendulkar’s 200th and final Test, tickets would have been easily available; and that too at throwaway prices. In the high-noon of the sport’s shortest version, the Twenty20 format, popularity of the traditional Test cricket is alarmingly on the wane. And rather than drawing crowds, this lowly West Indies team, boasting only one star in Chris Gayle, is inclined to drive them away. Yet, cricket lovers will throng the Wankhede stadium to bid a fond farewell to a universal hero, expecting him to sign off in style by batting like the vintage Tendulkar and playing a big, memorable innings.

Farewell Sachin... write a postcard to the batting icon

“I’ve neither time nor inclination to watch Test matches. I simply love Twenty20 cricket,” said Dhiren Mohite, 27, a young engineer from Pune. “But I’m a big fan of Tendulkar and I watch even Test matches when he is batting. I’ve specially come to Mumbai for his last hurrah. I’m sure he won’t disappoint his diehard fans like me and score a typical long overdue Tendulkar century.”

Another “admirer”, Ankit Dixit, 41, a businessman from Nasik, said: “I’ve enjoyed watching Tendulkar at different venues across the country. But Wankhede stadium has a pride of place in my heart. It’s like a pilgrim place for me because it’s Tendulkar’s home ground, where he has played some of his finest innings. I’ve promised my friends a grand party if Tendulkar hits a hundred in his farewell innings. But even if he fails, which is highly unlikely, it won’t make any difference to me and his legions of fans. We aren’t going to see another Tendulkar in the next 100 years.” 


Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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Haresh Pandya

Apart from their “love” for the master batsmen, fans have reason to believe that Tendulkar will make his swansong “memorable” by putting up a performance “befitting a hero”, particularly after he “disappointed” them in the first Test last week at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, where he scored just 10 runs in India’s first and only innings.

“He owes us a monumental innings, even a century, and I pray he won’t let us down,” said Namrata Shroff, 33, a professor of European classics.  

Farewell Sachin... write a postcard to the batting icon

While the enthusiasm and excitement of the Tendulkar devotees are understandable enough, the fact cannot be denied that if you leave out the Prince from Hamlet, there is hardly anything in this series to interest serious students, including former players, of cricket. The two teams just do not match at all. World Cup champion India is simply too big for the West Indies; so big that it won within three days in Kolkata. And when Tendulkar got out cheaply, there were suddenly empty stands in the gargantuan EdenGardens. It is possible that if the visitors continue to play badly in Mumbai, too, the much-hyped Test may not enter the fourth day, Sunday, which means a big loss for fans.

Even as the hype and hysteria surrounding Tendulkar have touched dizzier heights now as the conqueror is embarking on the last lap of his cricket conquests, his fans need to be reminded that this is a serious Test match, and must be played as one, not his benefit game.

“Even if the West Indies are a minnow of cricket, we ought to remember that this is a Test match between two international teams. And it must be treated as such,” said former India batsman and coach Aunshuman Gaekwad. “We shouldn’t forget that apart from Tendulkar, there’re 21 other players, who will also try to parade their talents in this Test match.”


Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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