“Retirement is a way of life. You have to accept it and move on.” That’s the message Sachin Tendulkar has for his emotional fans in his last 10 days as an international cricketer.
Speaking after his 199th and penultimate Test, Tendulkar, who was given out leg before wicket controversially by umpire Nigel Llong for 10 in India’s only innings at the Eden Gardens Test which ended inside three days on Friday, said: “It (retirement) has not yet sunk in. Since announcing my retirement, I hardly stepped outside and I have very little idea about what’s happening outside.
But this I can tell you… recently, I visited a friend in Mumbai and after I left his home, I discovered that the building’s residents were down to give me a guard of honour with their bats raised. I was dumfounded.” On life post-November 18, he said: “I have given 24 years of my life to the game. Now, it’s time for my family.”
He is expected to have a media conference after the Test ends in Mumbai and leave the city once that is done. “I need to get away once this is all over,”
he said. In Kolkata, he was pragmatic in response to the emotions of people who have had a long association with him. He consoled a sobbing Pintu, the popular masseur in the Eden Gardens dressing room, with the words: “Don’t cry! This is a way of life. Be with the younger cricketers.”
Samar Paul (former Cricket Association of Bengal secretary), whose residence Tendulkar has been visiting for over two decades, was filled with emotion as well. Each day of the Test, he relished the food cooked by Paul’s wife Sukla save the crab curry which he felt was inauspicious to consume during a Test match. His younger colleagues in the team were told to stay away from this delicacy as well because he didn’t want them to be short on performance — another example of Tendulkar being the total team player at all times.
His room was flooded with gifts from well-wishers during the Test. In a lighter vein, he uttered, “I thought I have a big house, but I’ll find it difficult to keep all these gifts.” He had to leave behind several gifts before leaving for Mumbai on Friday. He hoped that his request for no more gifts will be taken in the right spirit.
Fans in Kolkata were disappointed that umpire Llong restricted Tendulkar’s stay at the crease to 41 minutes. A very senior CAB official opined that Tendulkar should have told Llong like WG Grace did many, many years ago — ‘the spectators have come to watch me bat and not to see how you umpire in a match.’ When Tendulkar was informed about this and the fact that a newspaper received numerous calls asking for Llong’s address in Kolkata, he just laughed it off.
On the standing ovation which he received while walking out to bat on the second day of the Kolkata Test, he remarked: “I didn’t notice it, I was in my zone. Kolkata has been very warm and receptive to me. Of course, there were those cut outs, masks all over the stadium and I noticed that. I hope this warmth stays that way.”
When reminded that he could, like in Kolkata, get only one innings in the Mumbai Test considering the West Indies team’s overall weakness, Tendulkar touched wood, looked at logistics manager MA Satheesh who had walked into his room and said: “Never say that. Cricket is a very funny game. You never know what happens where.”
It can be recalled that when the Caribbeans played their last Test series on Indian soil in 2011, the series was won 2-0 by the hosts before the third Test in Mumbai. Tendulkar was dismissed six short of what would have been his 100th international century and later, the West Indies denied India a win when Ravichandran Ashwin was run out off the last ball in the Test.
Tendulkar indicated that he too is telling himself that retirement is part of life. His ‘yet to sink it’ line comes up again. It is learnt that Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh have vowed to be at the Wankhede Stadium – their commitments notwithstanding – and carry him on their shoulders after the last ball is bowled in the Test match. Probably then, said Tendulkar, retirement will sink in.
Courtesy Anandabazar Patrika where Gautam Bhattacharya is Sports Editor