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Sachin Tendulkar fever grips Eden Gardens

The Kolkata police have never had it so difficult. Agreed, veterans in the department are used to securing the city during Bengal’s favourite festivals — Durga Puja followed by the Kali Puja. But unlike other years, there’s no respite for this hassled outfit even days after the culmination of both festivals.

Sachin Tendulkar
Net bowlers in awe of Sachin Tendulkar at Eden Gardens in Kolkata yesterday

Security supreme
It’s now time for ‘Sachin Pujo’ as fans in the City of Joy are calling Sachin Tendulkar’s 199th Test match that begins at the Eden Gardens here today. And cops can’t leave anything to chance in this first of two Tests between India and West Indies that ends on November 10. Tendulkar has been revered across the country and abroad, but to see what his impending retirement means to millions of fans, one needs to be in the vicinity of the Eden Gardens, where large billboards hailing the legend have been erected.

The mood here varies: those with tickets in hand are ecstatic and eagerly waiting today’s Test, while those still looking to lay their hands on this prized possession, are losing hope with every passing hour. But, the man himself, has been a picture of concentration, just the way he’s been over the last 24 years, preparing relentlessly for the battle at hand. Tributes and appreciation from fans can wait till the job is done and India have returned with a favourable result.

Tendulkar joined the team on Sunday, giving Diwali a miss at home, and was cheered by thousands of fans at the airport. But thereafter, it’s been a couple of long and back-breaking net sessions at the hallowed venue. Just like Monday, Tendulkar, yesterday, faced up first to the pacemen — Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav for about 20  minutes, and then moved to tackle the spinners for another 20 minutes. Later, he spent some time speaking to Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara about their batting and then was at hand, speaking to coach Duncan Fletcher.

Back in 1993...
The Eden Gardens has in fact played a significant role in the evolution of Tendulkar the legend, and nowhere was it more manifest than on a wintry evening in 1993 when he rescued the Mohammed Azharuddin-led side from the jaws of defeat, restricting South Africa and giving India a narrow two-run win over SA, who needed just six runs to enter the Hero Cup final.

WC woes in 1996
Then in 1996, there were the unfortunate scenes which followed India’s collapse during the World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka. Even in defeat, Tendulkar had played his part: hitting a gritty 65 and kept the hosts alive on a difficult wicket. Three years later, during a Test against Pakistan, the maestro was at the centre of an event which turned nasty, the moment he was run out by Shoaib Akhtar. The crowd felt Akhtar had been grossly unsportsmanlike by blocking Tendulkar’s path when he attempted a run and was out to a throw from the outfield.
  
So difficult was the task at hand for the organisers, that the game concluded behind closed doors. Tendulkar, meanwhile has played a total of 12 Tests at the venue and collected 862 runs at an average of 47.88. But, this clearly is below his overall average of 53.86 in a whopping 198 games. He has scored two centuries and six half-centuries here and fans will be hoping, he comes up with a present befitting the elaborate preparations they have made for his send-off! 

Figure trigger

7
The number of calendar years, including 2013, in which Sachin Tendulkar has failed to score a single Test century.
Here’s the list...
> 1989 (4 Tests, highest score 59),
1991 (2 Tests, highest score 40),
1995 (3 Tests, highest score 52 not out),
2003 (5 Tests, highest score 55),
2006 (8 Tests, highest score 63),
2012 (9 Tests, highest score 80)
2013 (4, Tests 81 highest).
A ton in the two-Test series against West Indies can alter the record this year.

74
The number of international series Sachin Tendulkar has played in his career, including the upcoming two-Test rubber against West Indies in India. Tendulkar’s first ever series was against Pakistan that began almost 24 years ago in November 1989. The fact that his concluding is also scheduled in November, completes the circle.

138
The number of runs Sachin Tendulkar needs to complete one thousand runs in Test cricket at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata that will hosts his 199th Test today. In 12 Tests, which is the most by any player at this venue, Tendulkar has scored 862 runs, including two centuries and six fifties at an average of 47.88. VVS Laxman (1217 runs in 10 matches) is the only other player to have reached this milestone.

258
The number of runs and Sachin Tendulkar needs to become the highest run-scorer under captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The three India skippers under whom Tendulkar has excelled are...
Sourav Ganguly (42 Tests: 3768 runs, 11 centuries, 15 fifties)
Mohammed Azharuddin (47 Tests: 3767 runs, 15 centuries, 15 fifties)
Dhoni (43 Tests: 3511 runs, 11 centuries, 16 fifties)
It may be recalled here that Tendulkar once said that he enjoys his cricket while playing under Dhoni’s captaincy.
Thus it’s only fitting that the batting maestro accomplishes this landmark in the upcoming two-match Test series against the West Indies.  

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