Where are the Tendulkarites? Who have bought/hoarded/sold/distributed all those tickets/passes? Why was the ground less than full? What does ‘sold out’ mean in this context?
After all the excitement, the predictions, the crash of the ticket-vending website, this is the result? If Mumbai does not turn up for its favourite son playing his 200th and final Test, what does it mean?
“So few of us in Mumbai have been able to get tickets that there are fans who hope that Sachin doesn’t do well – so they can save themselves the pain of a great innings missed,” the gentleman behind me in the early morning queue to enter the stadium said. It sounded excessively cynical, this sour grapes syndrome.
And now Sachin has given his fans another chance. If the stadium is not packed on Friday when he comes out to bat, I, at any rate will need to see a psychiatrist. There is promise that Sachin, touched by the gifts and the enormous outpouring of good cheer and back-thumping and hand-pumping he has been subjected to in the last few days and weeks has decided to give us all a take-home gift himself.
In the manner he knows best. By recapturing, however briefly, the innocence and mastery and technical certainty of his best years. The cheer when he stepped out to bat and as he walked briskly towards the crease was along expected lines. Not so were the nods to the Tendulkar of another time and place. He seemed to have dropped a dozen years – at least his batsmanship seemed to. Don’t we all hope that we could combine the experience of now with the youthful gifts of then? Sachin suggested he was working on just such a balance.
A drive against the break when the offie Shane Shillingford overpitched marginally, and then the sweetest of straight drives – this must count as his signature shot – showed that if Sachin bats on he would be giving back to us far more than a silver tree with 199 gold leaves or a postage stamp in his honour or a canvas with the painting of a tree or any number of rose petals or anything else he received from us.
‘We love you Sachin’ was the simplest message in the midst many banal ones at the stadium; his response so far has been equally simple: I love you too. And here’s a straight drive to prove it.
* Suresh Menon is Editor, Wisden India Almanack