One shudders to think what the once popular TV programme ‘Match Ka Mujrim’ would have in store for its viewers on a day when Sachin Tendulkar, playing his career’s penultimate Test, at one of India’s most famed yet volatile venues, the Eden Gardens, was ruled out leg before wicket by umpire Nigel Llong of England off a delivery that clearly seemed to be missing the stumps.
For once, the crowd, which was still building up when Tendulkar was ruled out for 10 (off spinner Shane Shillingford), stayed calm and applauded as the Little Master began his walk back. Their calmness probably lay in the fact that there was no TV replay available to them, but beyond this, there was little else they to celebrate, given that Tendulkar’s impending retirement has completely overshadowed the ongoing Test that has been gripping thus far.
Tendulkar’s entry to the crease at 9:39 am came about due to opener Murali Vijay’s indiscretion: he stepped out to smash Shillingford out of the park, only to see his stumps scattered by wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin. It was a poor shot as the hosts had just lost the other opener Shikhar Dhawan a few minutes earlier.
The 30,000 odd fans who had managed to enter the arena by this time began clapping and chanting ‘Sachin, Sachin...’ as the Little Master, having undertaken the customary ritual of looking up at the sun and adjusting his gloves, lined up to take strike. He defended the first ball off Shillingford confidently and then took a run off a ball that had struck his pads.
Tendulkar survived a strong lbw appeal on the third ball of the next over, from paceman Tino Best. He was lucky as the ball hit him just outside the line of the off-stump. The nerves were soothed as he managed a single off the next delivery. And then the crowd was roaring again in the next over when he struck Shillingford for two boundaries: the first driven off the pads to mid wicket, and then the next hit more convincingly in the same region.
By this time Tendulkar had raced to nine off nine, but after that he slowed down, managing just one run in the next 15 balls. Shillingford was clearly troubling the Indian batsmen and was rewarded in return with a rich haul.
In an ironic twist, one had hoped that the stadium would be packed to capacity by the time Tendulkar took strike, but it was a day wasted for thousands of fans, who were still negotiating huge queues outside the various gates by the time Tendulkar’s 41-minute stay at the crease in the first innings came to an abrupt end.