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It's one of the greatest matches in cricketing history: MS Dhoni

D-Day has arrived! Today the world will witness Sachin Tendulkar for one last time. Those solid straight punches, classic drives and stylish cuts will all be history after November 18 — the fifth and final day of the second Test against the West Indies that begins at the Wankhede Stadium today.

Sachin Tendulkar
India batting ace Sachin Tendulkar is all smiles during a practice session on the eve of the second Test against the West Indies at the Wankhede Stadium yesterday. The match is Tendulkar’s 200th Test after which he will be retiring from the game. Pics/Atul Kamble

On the eve of Tendulkar’s farewell Test, which is also his 200th game, all eyes were on the batting legend — watching every move at his last practice session. Suddenly, the Test match seemed to have lost significance and the other 10 men in the Indian team had become inconsequential.

Crucial clash
Today’s Test is crucial since a win or draw will hand India the series, but a defeat will see the honours shared. Wankhede has not been a happy hunting ground for Team India in the recent past. India has not won a Test here since 2004 (vs Australia) and have in fact lost two of the last three Tests here. But nobody seems to be bothered about that. The focus for now is Tendulkar — the iconic batsman is momentarily bigger than the match.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni too was amazed with the buzz around Tendulkar’s final outing. “It has never happened in the past, let alone in the last decade that I’ve been around,” Dhoni said at the pre-match press conference. “It will be one of the greatest matches in cricketing history but as it is his last game, we need to keep it as normal as possible.

There are plenty of things going around. We have done our best to keep our focus. For us, enjoying the moment is key,” said the skipper, who also spelt out his wishlist for Tendulkar’s farewell match: “I’d like him (Tendulkar) to enjoy his last Test because you can’t guarantee performance. Of course, you can say (hope he gets) a hundred, a double hundred, a triple hundred or 500, whatever.

But at the end of the day, the most important thing is that it is his last Test match. It’s important that he enjoys this and hopefully get us a few wickets... You can get a bit of turn and bounce on this Mumbai wicket.”

Dhoni summed up Tendulkar’s career well. “I would consider him as great because when it comes to Indian cricket, you’re under the microscope throughout. He’s seen the format change, right from his start in 1989. From that time, Test cricket has changed significantly. ODI cricket has also seen plenty of changes. The introduction of T20 has had an impact on everything.

Pressure’s always high
“It’s not just the cricketing aspect, it’s difficult to handle success in India where expectations are so high. We’re expected to win each and every game, which is not possible. Yes, there are other greats, but there was one thing they didn’t have to deal with, and that is the high level of expectation. When you’re doing well that itself puts pressure on you. But imagine when you’re going through a lean patch, the expectations go up, they never come down.

“So you have to handle all those things. I have seen some of the foreign cricketers, they handle the cricketing pressures well. But when it comes to handling the pressures that are not really related to cricket, they buckle.  “So, Sachin has been fantastic. He became a big star right from 1989 and for a quarter of a century, he’s always been a star,” said Dhoni. 

Master mentors...

Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammed Shami
India pacer Mohammed Shami discusses his bowling with Sachin Tendulkar at the Wankhede Stadium on the eve of the second Test against West Indies yesterday

Sachin Tendulkar and Cheteshwar Pujara

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