A collage of Indian newspapers highlighting Sachin Tendulkar's answer to Gulf News on how his family maintained the balance following his success. Image Credit: KR Nayar/Gulf News

November 18, 9am

Highlight on Tendulkar's answer to Gulf News

K.R. Nayar, Chief Cricket Writer

Sachin Tendulkar’s attachment to his parents and his mother’s sacrifice for him was the lead news in all Indian newspapers on Monday. Gulf News’s question to Tendulkar on his parents’ appreciation and support was prominently displayed.

Answering to the question during Tendulkar’s first interaction with the media after his retirement, he said: “The beauty of my family is that they never lost balance. Whether I scored a 100 or 15 or 20 it did not matter. My father and mother always had encouraging words for me. I was able to perform well since my school days because the balance was maintained at home.”

Tendulkar also said how his mother used to keep sweets for the almighty everytime he played and that he understood his parents support only after he grew up.

As Tendulkar is a role model for all youngsters, the Maharashtra State Education department has decided to include a chapter on Tendulkar in the state curriculum.

Many Indian legends had made their way to state board’s text books and Tendulkar will be the latest to join the list.

Meanwhile, politicians are hoping to capitalise on Tendulkar’s popularity and want him to join their party. Conferring him the Bharat Ratna itself is being seen by many as a political stunt by the ruling Congress party to gain mileage before the oncoming elections.

To take the gloss away from Congress, some opposition parties have remarked that hockey legend Dhyan Chand should have been given Bharat Ratna before Tendulkar.

Congress minister and IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla is keen to project all the honour that his party is giving to Tendulkar. He has even said that Tendulkar was made Rajya Sabha member as recommended by Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

Shiv Sena, one of the leading parties in Mumbai is not happy with Tendulkar being used by Congress. Years back the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had warned Tendulkar to keep himself to 22 yards and not make political comments.

Meanwhile, some spectators who came for the last Test match of Tendulkar has complained to the Mumbai police over taking away many personal belongings from them at the entrance and not keeping them safely and returning it.

The police at the entrance did not allow pen, pencils, ear phone, headphones, lip balm, sunscreen lotions and even combs.

The police had said that they can leave it below the stairs at the entrance and collect it on return after the match but nothing could be found at the end of the match.

Some not only picked their things but also the costliest things which were kept. None of the costly sunscreen lotions could be traced. 

 

November 16, 1.45pm

When will Sachin's first record be broken?

Robin Chatterjee

With Tendulkar having left the game, the questions have now started to seem all too familiar; who will overtake the legend’s first record?

The milestone that could be surpassed first is the 51 Test centuries and the total number of Test runs that Tendulkar had amassed in his career. The cricketer poised to get past that mark could, in all probability, be South Africa’s Jacques Kallis who has a total haul of 44 Test tons and 13,120 Test runs under his belt.

While the rest of India and the cricketing world had been going overboard with the news of Tendulkar’s retirement, Kallis has gone about the business of posting some serious numbers into his bio data. With every Test series that he plays the South African all-rounder re-negotiates the value of the prize money that has been put upon his head by the opposition.

Kallis is similar to Tendulkar in temperament, going about his business without much fuss, but he also has all the trappings of an impact player not just with the bat but with the ball as well. Many a victory for the South African team has been the result of his machinations.

It is in batting, however, that Kallis makes his statement of intent, though he has a habit of growing into every role that is required from him by his captain and by the demands of the occasion in a game. There is no craftier or perceptive cricketer in world cricket at the moment than the burly South African.

Kallis is not the prettiest cricketer that one can see on the pitch but that does not negate the fact that he is capable of compiling – unobtrusively and surreptitiously – some impressive centuries to boost his average to an impressive 55.44.

India’s forthcoming tour to South Africa could see Kallis at his fighting best, waiting to prove a point to the visitors, on his home pitches. He is aware that only seven centuries separate him from Tendulkar’s record so, in that respect, he has everything to play for.

November 15, 9.40am

Tendulkar's knock of 74 and the joy of the crowd

K.R. Nayar

Sachin Tendulkar’s 150 minute knock ended at his score on 74 after playing 118 balls and cracking 12 boundaries. He gifted the home crowd, who had come two hours before the start of the match with some spectacular strokes.

The joy of the crowd on Tendulkar reaching his half century was indeed spectacular. From the moment Tendulkar walked out to bat, they cheered for their hero.

When Tendulkar took guard, the whole stadium stood up and when he scored his first run off Tino Best to mid wicket, the roar shook the stadium.

Some were seeing praying for him to stay on and score a century. Each and every run off him were welcomed with thunderous applause.

In the second over of the day when he hit two consecutive boundaries off Shane Shillingford, the crowd could not contain the joy. Shillingford had dropped the ball short and Tendulkar using the width cracked it off the backfoot past point to the boundary. The second four was a paddle sweep.

Tendulkar brought his half century through his favourite shot - the straight drive off Best. It was the shot that fans had been waiting to see as the giant scoreboard flashed the message: “Salute the legend.”

When Shillingford dropped short another delivery, Tendulkar carved out a beautiful shot going off the backfoot and hitting him through backward point. The giant screen showed ‘Sachin Genius’.

Best, who generated tremendous pace tried to unsettle Tendulkar. The battle that ensued was a delight to watch. Tendulkar cracked Best through the covers for boundary and he responded with a 143kmph bouncer.

Tendulkar fell in the 48th over to off break bowler Narsingh Deonarine sinking the whole stadium into silence. Attempting to cut it fine, the ball bounced a bit extra and the thick edge went to West Indies skipper Darren Sammy at first slip who took the catch in front of his face. 

The giant screen showed the face of Tendulkar's mother watch his son walk away from the wicket as Bollywood stars waved at him. The whole stadium stood up and watched Tendulkar disappear into the dressing room wondering whether they will be able to see another knock from him in the second innings.

November 15, 7.45am

Early birds catch Tendulkar practice

K.R. Nayar

A huge uproar almost shook my room. It was for the gates of the Wankhede Stadium which were opened for the spectators as early as 7am. As I am among the lucky few who managed to get a room inside the Wankhede Stadium's Garware Club house, I did not have to stand in the long queue undergoing heavy security check.

By the time Tendulkar arrived the stands were almost half full. Fans want to see every moment of his batting. Tendulkar right away went out to have a net session which made the fans happy.

With the television relay starting early, one could see Sunil Gavaskar, Wasim Akram and Shane Warne getting into the ground early. Many after entering did not want to go to there seats and waited in and around the VIP entrance to have a glimpse of the Bollywood stars like Aamir Khan.

Everyone here wants something of Tendulkar and some want the legend himself. On the first day Tendulkar’s day had begun much before all his teammates. On arrival at the ground Tendulkar had to oblige to a few requests for felicitation. He had to unveil the special edition postage stamps to mark his 200th and final cricket Test match at the Wankhede stadium here.

Waiting for him at the ground were ministers and politicians. The stamp release was attended by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, BCCI chief N Srinivasan and vice president Rajeev Shukla.  Though days of writing letters have dwindled, many want Tendulkar’s stamp as a souvenir.

Within minutes after the release of the stamp he had to receive a memento and his painted portrait from the BCCI. Soon after India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni present the legend a special cap that had '200' printed on its brim. The West Indies team also then lines up to present him a framed autographed shirt.

Tendulkar also met well wishers before the start.  On the first day he seeked the blessing of his idol Sunil Gavaskar. He also made sure his family members were comfortable at the box reserved for them.

"Tendulkar’s daily diary must be full. We understand that requests are pouring in to have his appointment for felicitation function for many days after his retirement,” remarked a Mumbai Cricket Association official.

November 14, 11.30am

Suru Nayak: 'Sachin took batting stance at night'

K.R. Nayar

As Sachin Tendulkar plays his last match, watching from the stands is Suru Nayak, his first room-mate in the 1987-88 Ranji Trophy match.

Speaking to Gulf News, Nayak recalled the days when young Tendulkar and he shared a room during the Ranji Trophy match against Baroda. Though Tendulkar was selected at the age of 14, the selectors decided not to play him in the fast Moti Baug pitch since some of them felt he was very tiny and may not be able to play."

"At 14, Tendulkar was the youngest member of the team, and Chandrakant Pandit who was our captain decided that he shares the room with me since I was the senior most in the team," recalled former Indian pacer Nayak, who is now the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Cricket Operations Manager.

Nayak was the first to experience Tendulkar's restlessness at nights although he did have some idea that he may not be selected into the final eleven. "Whenever I looked at him, he was taking batting stances in the room and practicing different shots. I used to find him very fidgety at nights, and he was quite a restless boy," he noted.

Though Tendulkar had to wait till the next season to be picked into the Mumbai eleven, the way the young boy batted at the nets impressed Nayak. "Watching him bat was indeed a treat. Our team had some good bowlers at that time but he handled them with ease," said Nayak.

"The sparkle in his eye coupled with his enthusiasm was something special. But frankly, at that time I never thought he would go on to become such a great batsman,"  Nayak was going down memory lane, and describes Tendulkar as very shy during his school days.

Recalling his delight when Tendulkar scored his century on debut against Gujarat, he said, "The way he batted in that match was superb. That's when we got the feeling that he will go a long way. And he has exceeded all our expectations to become the greatest batsman of the era."

November 14, 10am

Cashing in on Sachin

Robin Chatterjee

Companies would do anything to cash in on the Tendulkar brand.

Some insurance companies are even advising the public to have a plan and invest in their children's secure future.

Accompanying this message is a picture of the toddler Tendulkar taking a stance against the wall.

The picture is used with the slogan 'before he became the God of cricket, he was just a boy with a plan'.

It is believed that the Tendulkar brand is set to grow another 30-35 per cent post retirement and will remain strong for at least three years.

November 14, 9am

Pen-pushers...

Robin Chatterjee

Security has been unprecedented for this Test match. The presence of the Mumbai police has not been enough to tackle the steady stream of people who were hoping to see Tendulkar bat on the first day. The Mumbai Mobile Armed Group, a commando unit, has also been brought in.

 Metal detectors and cops keep frisking the crowd as they queue up in front of their gates. I too was given the treatment and then informed that I would not be allowed to take my pen into the stands.

 So here goes an attempt at mailing my first blog of the morning through my Blackberry hoping the phone lines haven't been jammed as well.

November 13, 6pm

Tendulkar is the greatest, here's why...

K.R. Nayar

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni feels Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest cricketer because he had to withstand the pressure and expectations from India’s legion of fans.

“I would consider Tendulkar as great because when it comes to Indian cricket, you’re under the microscope throughout. He's seen the format change, right from the start in 1989. From that time, Test cricket has changed significantly. In one-day cricket too, there have been a plenty of changes. The introduction of Twenty20 has come, and overall it had an impact on each and every thing.”

Dhoni feels that Tendulkar not only withstood the changes but also the demands from the Indian fans. 

“It’s not only the cricketing aspect; I think what’s difficult is to handle in India more is how to handle the success, the expectations of the people. We’re expected to win each and every game, which is not possible,” he said.

Dhoni then went on to say: “Yes, there are other greats, but there was one thing they didn’t have to deal with, and that’s the level of expectations. 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.”

According to Dhoni, Tendulkar’s biggest strength has been the ability to withstand pressure. “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 Tendulkar has been fantastic, and there’s plenty to learn from him. Right from 1989 he became a big star, for a quarter of century he’s played for India and he’s always been a star,” he said.

November 13, 4.30pm

They never miss a delivery...

They are famous for never missing a delivery, but Mumbai's famous dabba wallahs, who deliver lunch boxes to people with clockwork precision, may miss out on presenting Tendulkar with a classic Indian dabba, or lunch box, because tickets have been sold out.

Not to be disheartened though, the spokesperson for the Mumbai dabba wallahs promised that they have a plan B.

"We will make sure that we deliver the dabba to his wife Anjali. She uses our services for getting her lunch delivered to her at her office so we know how to get her husband’s dabba across."

That's what you call the perfect delivery.

Perhaps Tendulkar will also enlist their services once he gets out.

November 13, 4.15pm

Mumbai never short on drama

Robin Chatterjee

Trust the city of Mumbai to never be short on drama.

The film capital of India, better known as Bollywood, churns out the highest number of movies annually with releases slated for every Friday.

So it was with much interest that news channels kept going back and forth, from dwelling on the sheer emotion of Sachin Tendulkar's final Test match to the incidents being played out at a housing estate called the Campa Cola project.

Residents of this colony are faced with the prospect of having their homes torn down following an order from the Supreme Court which ruled that the land on which the buildings were erected was illegal.

The ruling came after two decades which is about average for rulings made by Indian courts.

Police and municipality officials armed with everything from sticks to bulldozers were waiting to storm the compound, while the residents had barricaded themselves within and were on a hunger strike. They were waiting for a last minute reprieve from the court and the timer for a classic drama had been set.

True enough, the order to storm the compound was given and the police and residents, some of whom were elderly women, attacked each other. One group were trying to tear the place down while another was trying to save their homes.

TV channels and the press were there to capture the havoc that ensued. And then suddenly, as if it were all part of some sensational script, the Supreme Court passed a stay order on their own decision. Much jubilation ensued with kissing and hugging and victory signs being flashed.

The residents who had made enormous sacrifices to buy their homes had lived to fight another day.

The climax also ensured that there would be no further dramas to steal the thunder from Sachin Tendulkar's final Test match which begins at the Wankhede tomorrow.

The planets are all aligned for a perfect send off for the Little Master as the complex gets completely shut down by security personnel this evening.

November 13, 1pm

Everyone wants a piece of Sachin

Robin Chatterjee

Corporate companies are falling over themselves to ensure that they don't miss out being stake holders in Sachin Tendulkar's final Test which starts tomorrow.

All kinds of slogans and events being organised across Mumbai to mark Tendulkar's final days in the game.

Amul, the pasteurised product maker known for clever ad campaigns, have stolen a march by posting clever hoardings and adverts newspapers.

Their current catchline is 'retired hurt', illustrating the sentiments of the Indian people over Tendulkar's retirement. They have a caricature of an infant Tendulkar batting at the crease (see image above).

November 13, 9.30am

Tendulkar's mother cried in joy after Sharjah centuries

K.R. Nayar

Mumbai: Sachin Tendulkar’s mother Rajni Tendulkar had cried in joy after her son’s back to back centuries in Sharjah in 1998. His mother had never watched him play live but for the first and last time she will watch her son play at the Wankhede stadium during the Test match commencing on Thursday. To bring his aged mother a special ramp to accommodate her wheelchair has been built at the stadium.

Tendulkar’s brother Ajit Tendulkar recalled the incident. “She heard of the Sharjah knocks and so touched was she by his performance that she began weeping.” In fact, Tendulkar considers his mother’s emotional outburst after Sharjah knocks as the biggest compliment from his mother.

According to Ajit it will be an emotional moment for his mother when his son, who climbed the greatest heights in the game, plays his last match. “Mother has never seen him play. This will be the first time. It will be a very emotional moment,” he said.

Ajit had shaped Tendulkar’s career in his school days. It was he who took Tendulkar to Coach Ramakant Achrekar with a request to shape his brother’s career who has natural talent. What did prompt him to take Tendulkar to Achrekar? “Three things. He had a beautiful back lift. He had a lovely swing of hands. While playing with the tennis ball he used to picked up the length of the ball quickly,” said Ajit.

Ajit then went on to narrate the whole incident which later went on to change the history of Indian cricket. “When I took him to Achrekar Sir, Sachin (Tendulkar) was wearing a T shirt and half pants. Achrekar told him to come next day wearing trousers. First day he did not get to bat but only fielding practice. The next day he made him take some catches and gave him a chance to bat. Tendulkar got his rhythm right away and Achrekar decided he would always bat at No.4.”

Ajit feels Tendulkar has realised all his dreams. “From day one he was disciplined and talented we did not need to do anything special. It's ending on a happy note and most of his dreams have come true he has fulfilled the expectations.”

However, Ajit cannot imagine how it will be for Tendulkar not wearing the India cap after November 18th. “One thing after November 18th is Sachin won't be wearing India cap again. It will be a big change for him. He has been wearing that India cap for last 24 yrs. He always stepped on the field and people expected to score him 100 always. Pressure is not going to be there further. He can eat as many butter chicken as he wants with no further media scrutiny,” he said.

Which among Tendulkar’s knock is Ajit’s favourite one? "His 136 versus Pakistan in Chennai is my favourite innings."

November 12, 3.30pm

Mumbai police block Wankhede internet access

Robin Chatterjee

In a moment of what can only be termed as classic overreaction the Mumbai police have blocked internet facilities at the Wankhede Stadium complex.

The complex, which also has rooms which are let out to guests, has had several bookings from journalists who have set up base here. Work now has become a problem given the lack of internet facilities and the press box is still not functioning.

Journalists, however, cannot be expected to file all their reports from the press box as they might miss the action on the pitch. More surprisingly, however, is the fact that the Mumbai police have blocked internet facilities without even informing the organisers.

Has the Tendulkar farewell saga returned to bite the journalists who are paying the price for their over enthusiasm?

November 12, 3.20pm

Tendulkar junior following his father's passion for the game

K.R. Nayar

As reporters and photographers waited outside the India dressing room at the Wankhede stadium for Sachin Tendulkar to emerge, to the surprise of everyone out came his 14-year-old son Arjun. For a long time Arjun spoke with Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and joined other India players for practice.

Tendulkar was the last to come out, carrying two bats and his pads. Despite his hands being full, a fan pushed out a notebook for his autograph. Tendulkar put everything he was carrying down to oblige the fan and nodded his head to all the others taking pictures on their mobiles.

Arjun, unlike his father, is a left-hander and he bowled at the nets. After Tendulkar’s retirement, Arjun may not get another chance to bowl to India players unless he rises to represent his country. He is already in the Mumbai Under-14 team.

As photographers snapped the young Tendulkar bowling, one journalist from the crowd remarked: “It would be better he becomes a bowler or every day of his life his batting will be compared to his father.”

Tendulkar recently appealed to journalists to leave his son alone after Arjun was out for one on his debut in the Kanga League and television channels flashed the news. The batting maestro said such acts could be detrimental for his son who is madly in love with the game.

Still some journalists could not resist comparing him with Tendulkar and said: “At Arjun’s age Tendulkar was already knocking at the doors of Mumbai team and two years later at 16 he represented India.”

As all the drama unfolded in the practice area, the stadium was getting dressed up for the Tendulkar’s farewell Test. Fifty-one posters describing each of Tendulkar’s Test centuries with a snap from each match are being fixed around the roof of the ground.

November 12, 10am

Salaam Sachin!

Robin Chatterjee

At strategic corners on the streets of Mumbai and in most local newspapers adverts have been put out highlighting a programme called Salaam Sachin.

The basic premise of this chat show, which will be aired on a TV station, is to capture the life of the legend by those who have shared moments with him.

Former cricketers like Brian Lara, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin's brother Ajit, who is credited with being responsible for his entry into cricket, Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan, Jawagal Srinath, Waqar Younis, commentator Rameez Raja, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir, Sania Mirza and Sushil Kumar will be the guests dissecting the impact Sachin has had on the game and people's lives.

Every attempt is being made to keep Tendulkar's contribution to the game in the limelight days before he fades away.

November 12, 9.50am

Countdown to Sachin's farewell begins

K.R. Nayar

It is very simple to imagine what is in store for the coming days in Mumbai. Here is a teaser...

At a function to rename the Mumbai Cricket Association's Kandivili sports facility the ‘Sachin Tendulkar Gymkhana’, fans thronged the facility in numbers that almost led to a stampede. But for the people of Mumbai who are used to crowds and manage such situations even without the police, the scene would have been chaotic.

Thousands of fans waving posters greeted Tendulkar as he arrived at the venue. Politicians used the opportunity to hog the limelight with speeches forgetting to even invite Tendulkar's idol Sunil Gavaskar, who was present with his uncle, 92-year-old Madhav Mantri (India's oldest living cricketer), onto the stage.

A few former cricketers like Karsan Ghavri struggled to get into the venue.

Knowing Tendulkar's passion for old Hindi film songs, especially those of late Kishore Kumar, a dance performance by Isha Sharwani began with a twist to Amitabh Bachchan's popular chartbuster Arre deewano...main hoon Don that was changed to Cricket ke liye I was born... main hoon Don.

Tendulkar then gave an emotional speech. "It felt different to walk into the club and find my name on top of the club; I am not used to it and didn't expect it either. From MCA, on my family's behalf, and from my personal point of view too, I am really humbled. A big thank you to MCA for this kind gesture," he said. The applause for his first statement went on for a long time.

Tendulkar then went on recall his Mumbai cricket history. "My association with Mumbai cricket started almost 29 years ago when I represented Mumbai in the Under-15 tournament, and from there on it has been a fantastic journey.

“Whenever I wanted to practice, wherever I wanted to practice, MCA ensured that I had the right facilities, the right pitches, the right bowlers to practice, to prepare myself for first the junior level to play for Mumbai and then go on to achieve my dream of playing for India.

“To play for India has been truly memorable. I think every step was different and every tour required different kind of preparations."

Tendulkar then went on to reveal how he used to practice even during monsoons. "Practicing during monsoon was tough because there were no indoor nets so I used to actually go out in the playgrounds and practice even when it was raining.

“In the rain it was lot of fun and my friends would get together and practice. In the past few years a beautiful indoor facility is available to us anytime.

“Here I want to again thank MCA for making the nets available to me at any odd hour, all I had to do is make one phone call and say that I am coming down and the nets were ready for me. Without the preparation, things would not have been the same."

“Talking about this club, I think this is the perfect platform looking at our population which is on the younger side.

“To continue to build that sporting culture in our nation is really important and that can only happen with the right guidance and coaching, proper training programmes for the next generation.

“I feel that this is the right facility and Mr (Sharad) Pawar  (Mumbai Cricket Association president) also mentioned that this ground is free for anyone and everyone to play and make the most of all the facilities available."

During the last part of his speech, Tendulkar turned emotional and said: "Thank you very much for all the respect, all the care, all the love you have showered me with. I really appreciate not just this evening but the last 24 years."

The function was called Aapla Sachin (Our Sachin) and Pawar along with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithiviraj Chavan presented a framed painting of Tendulkar.

November 12, 8.15am

The stars come out for Sachin's last hurray

Robin Chatterjee

Celebrities have already started pouring in for Sachin Tendulkar's 200th and final Test match, which commences at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium on Thursday.

Flying out to Mumbai were two former Pakistani fast bowers, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar, who have tested Tendulkar at the crease. Also arrriving in Mumbai for a post-match cultural evening in honour of Tendulkar was indi-pop star Jay Sean.

It was Younis who first tested Tendulkar's skills in his debut game against Pakistan. The Pakistani pacer, then one of the fastest and most feared bowlers in the world, broke Tendulkar's nose with a rising delivery but the Little Master shrugged off the pain and the bleeding to play on and give a gutsy account of himself.

Akhtar has beaten Tendulkar for pace in a few games but the highlight will always be the way Tendulkar and Virendra Sehwag brushed aside his fiery pace at the crucial World Cup game in South Africa.

The two greats have come to Mumbai to see Tendulkar walk off the pitch one final time before he joins them on the list of high-profile retirees.

November 11, 12.30pm

Ganguly: Mumbai the right place for send-off

K.R. Nayar

Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly feels that the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s decision to stage Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell Test in Mumbai is the correct one.

“It is important to send off such a great man with all the respect he deserves,” Ganguly said. “If he had to retire in South Africa, he may not have got the adulation that he is receiving here.”

“If I was Sachin (Tendulkar) maybe I would have gone a year earlier but I think he has got the timing right.”

Ganguly wants Indian cricket to use Tendulkar’s service.  “I am sure Indian cricket would use his service in some manner. He is such a great player.”

Would he want Tendulkar to retire on a high playing a big knock? “For me, it does not matter if he gets a hundred or not in his final Test. He will still be one of the best. He will always be the champion.”

Meanwhile, whether Tendulkar scores a century or not, or whether he gets to bat only once, official broadcaster ESPN has increased their advertising tariff for match. A ten second slot has risen from Rs50,000 (Dh3,000 approx) to Rs120,000 (Dh7,500 approx).

Sponsors like Coca Cola are gearing up for a new campaign involving Tendulkar. Trucks can be seen coming in and out of the Wankhede stadium with huge Tendulkar banners.

Meanwhile, a ramp has been created for Tendulkar’s wheelchair-bound mother to watch the match. Even commuters from the nearby Churchgate railway station are dropping in to watch the preparations for the final Test.

November 11, 9am

Lara lauds Tendulkar's service to the game

K.R. Nayar

Former West Indies captain and legendary batsman Brian Lara hit out at critics who said Sachin Tendulkar prolonged his retirement.

Answering a query on whether Tendulkar should have down tools earlier, Lara pointed out the enormity of his service to cricket.

“A Test match involves around eight days including travelling and practice,” he said.

“Now multiply that with 200 Tests. Then add all the One Day Internationals he has played for India and still he is very fit though his performance hasn’t been great in the last couple of years. I think this is the right time to walk away from the game.”

According to Lara, Tendulkar may find it tough to cope with the period soon after retirement. “He has served Indian cricket and world cricket so well over the years. He has given 25 years of his life to cricket. I’m sure when he wakes up on 19th and 20th in Mumbai after the Wankhede Test he is going to think what to do. He will be soon on his feet again. He is a successful man.”

For those who did not understand how tough it is for a sportsman to retire, Lara said: “Retirement is a tough decision. You devote all your time to the game as a youngster to make it to the top level but there comes a time when you have to make the tough decision and he has made it.”

When Lara was asked what Tendulkar’s mind set would be during the final match in Wankhede, he said: “It will be hard to give an opinion. Maybe he needs to think ‘I don’t need to prove anything’. It would be wonderful if he gets a big score. He should not put any undue pressure on him. He has had the greatest cricketing career. I would tell him to just enjoy the next five days of cricket. You have the ability to score 400 runs, so go and score 400.”

Lara was also asked whether any cricketer will come close to Tendulkar. “I don’t think we will have some one whom you can say will be close to achieving what Sachin did. In terms of statistics you may have players with better stats. There are boxers who have a better record than Muhammad Ali but if you mention boxing you have to mention Ali. Similarly in basketball, you have to mention Michael Jordan. So when I speak about cricket, I’ll speak about Sachin.”

Lara was also asked to name his top five cricketers. “It is difficult but it would be Sachin, Viv (Richards), Allan Border, Sourav (Ganguly) and Ricky Ponting,” he said.

November 10, 3.15pm

A wicket for Tendulkar to bat twice

K.R. Nayar

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has summed up the mood expected to be prevalent during the Wankhede Test match. "Every day of the Test match will be big for India."

It will not just be India but all cricket lovers around the world watching the last five days of Tendulkar in cricket.

Most players in the team are considering it a great honour to be playing alongside or sharing the dressing room with him in his last Test match. Ravichandran Ashwin toldGulf News : "I just can't imagine what the Mumbai Test is going to be like when it actually happens."  Everyone in the team has come here with the same opinion and are eagerly waiting for the drama to begin.

Dhoni added: "We will all do our bit to make it memorable for him," without revealing what was in store.

After Tendulkar was able to bat only once in the Kolkata Test match, the question now is whether his fans will be able to watch the legend bat twice. So Wankhede Stadium curator Sudhir Naik was the busiest man today with media approaching him with the same question again and again.

Naik patiently answered everyone. "We should be able to watch him bat twice and do well too." He then went on to say that "the wicket will have a nice bounce and good to bat for the first three days and then go on to help spinners."

Naik was asked to compare this wicket with the earlier ones he had made. "It will be like the wicket I made in 2011 against the West Indies. Sachin made 94," he said.

In the latest International Cricket Council ranking, Tendulkar is placed in the 24th position; so his fans are very eager to see him play a great knock here and retire after clinching a place among the first 20 batsmen in the world.

To ensure the pitch is in good condition, Daljit Singh, chairman of the Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) Grounds and Pitches Committee and West Zone region's chief curator Dhiraj Prasanna have supervised the making of the wicket.

The West Indies team came outto practice from 10am, and were delighted to see a bit of grass on the strip; but Naik said the grass will be trimmed before the start to ensure a good batting show.

November 10, 3.05pm

Mumbai’s most wanted man

K.R. Nayar

Sachin Tendulkar is the most wanted man in Mumbai these days. From the state government to cricket officials to his close friends, everyone would like to have Tendulkar attend functions in honour of his retirement.

The Maharashtra government's tourism department is looking at making him their brand ambassador. They plan to organise a felicitation ceremony in his honour and announce that a museum will be set up . Tendulkar is yet to respond to this invite. A few top politicians are trying to exert their influence to try and get Tendulkar for some events.

As the mad chase to get Tendulkar continues, thousands are already roaming around the Wankhede stadium for tickets for the Test match. Despite the fact that the ticket counter will open only on Monday morning, fans could be seen roaming around the venue hoping that someone with a ticket may want to sell it.

Considering the huge rush for the limited number of tickets, and that the stadium has a seating capacity of only 45,000, some fans have decided to station themselves in front of the counter until it opens. The ticket counters will be next to the Mumbai Hockey Association and Islam Gymkhana, and police have been ordered to be present at both counters fearing a stampede during ticket sales. The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) has decided not to sell tickets online as they believe the huge demand could lead to a website crash.

Tendulkar himself has requested 500 tickets. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has asked for 1,200 tickets over and above those that need to be given to sponsors. According to a MCA official, there will at the most 4,500 tickets only for sale through the counters; hence the police have decided to guard the counter sales persons from any violence.

Tendulkar fans are willing to shell out any amount to get tickets.

Amid the frenzy, Tendulkar is fighting hard to remain composed and focused on the Test match. On the way to Mumbai from Kolkata, he appealed to some officials to please inform everyone to avoid giving him any more gifts. In Kolkata, he has left behind a room full of gifts. "I thought I have a big house. With so many gifts, now I find it too small," he quipped.

Hundreds of former Tendulkar colleagues will be here to bid him farewell. The India Today Group has organised a one-day Salute Sachin Conclave on November 12 in which cricketers and sportsmen will speak on Tendulkar. Speakers invited are Brian Lara, Sunil Gavaskar, Wasim Akram, Mohammad Azharuddin, K Srikanth, Anshuman Gaekwad, Ajit Wadekar, Kapil Dev, Saurav Ganguly, Steve Waugh, Bishan Singh Bedi, Muttiah Muralitharan, Abdul Qadir, Madan Lal, Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Raina, Sania Mirza, Leander Paes, Sushil Kumar and Pullela Gopichand along with Noted Hindi poet Gulzar and Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan.

The BCCI's  #ThankYouSachin campaign on Twitter has crossed 500,000 followers. Whoever sends an appreciative message for Sachin to the @BCCI handle with the #ThankYouSachin hashtag will instantaneously receive a Tweet from @BCCI with a momentous picture of Sachin, including a personalised message and his signature.

November 9, 11am

'City of Joy' plunges into sadness 

K.R. Nayar

Kolkata is traditionally known as the City of Joy. But this city plunged into sorrow as Sachin Tendulkar walked away from the Eden Gardens for the last time. After the initial euphoria of India's victory over West Indies, the gloom set in. Some fans were in tears as Tendulkar waved at them and bid good bye.

With the match ending in three days, it denied thousands of fans who had brought tickets for Saturday and Sunday the opportunity to watch the legend in action. The Cricket Association of Bengal’s plan to give Tendulkar a memorable send off also crashed. Some 199kg of rose petals were due to be dropped from three aircrafts on Tendulkar on the last day, but not any more. Some fans turned their anger on the West Indies, one commenting: "The BCCI should have invited a stronger team."

A CAB official was heard saying: "If we could have had at least one hour of play on the fourth day we could have shifted all plans from the last day."  To this comment, a journalist remarked: "Only fools would think that West Indies can last all five days, especially after seeing how the wicket behaved."

The farewell function was to be attended by Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. Fortunately for the CAB officials, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, cancelling all her appointments, came for the presentation ceremony. Banerjee presented one of her own paintings, a turban, and placed a silk shawl around Tendulkar. She told him: "You are a favourite of the people of this city. They adore you. Please come regularly once you retire."

A picture of Sourav Ganguly placing a turban on Tendulkar's head and hugging him is featured in all the local newspapers. A banyan tree with 199 gold leaves was presented by Jagmohan Dalmiya, President of CAB.

West Indies legendary batsman Brian Lara was also planning to watch the last two days of the match. Photographers were gearing up to take pictures of both great batsmen together at Eden Gardens. This opportunity now moves to Mumbai since Lara has decided to be at that Test match.

The crowd wanted Tendulkar to do a lap of honour, and CAB officials even asked him to do so. But he said he would keep it for Mumbai. He gifted the India shirt he wore on the third and final day and his gloves to the CAB museum. Tendulkar was showered with so many gifts that he asked CAB officials to send them to his Bandra home.

The main bunch of balloons with the Tendulkar portrait was so heavy it refused to take off until Ganguly and Tendulkar gave it a push. Someone from the crowd shouted: "Sachin ...even the balloons don't want to leave you!"

November 8, 11.15am

Umpire Llong is hated for making it 10dulkar

K.R. Nayar

If there is one man who has turned most unpopular at Eden Gardens, it is umpire Nigel Llong. His howler of giving Sachin Tendulkar out leg before has fortunately been sportingly accepted by Tendulkar fans here. This ground has a history of a few riots following wrong decisions from umpires, and last time when it happened during the match against Pakistan in 1999, Tendulkar had to walk around the fence pleading with fans to remain calm.

Tendulkar may have been forced to do it again on Thursday after his dismissal but for the fact that the dismissal was not shown on the giant scoreboard.

In Eden Gardens, one has to walk through the spectators to reach the press box… and hilarious comments could be heard on Llong, especially referring to his name. “This umpire Llong should no longer be umpiring,” one commented. Some newspapers had the headline “Llong makes it short for Tendulkar.” Some held aloft a tweet from England skipper Michael Vaughan: “Llong would need Z plus security to leave Kolkata.”

What shocks everyone is the fact that Llong is a former player and also an off- spinner who knows the game and is well aware of the bounce a ball can generate! Some pointed out that he was a failure as a player who could hardly cement his place in the Kent County team. Interestingly, there are some supporters for Llong too who feel that for the naked eye Tendulkar was out.

Amidst all the anger, one fan displayed a placard: ‘Tendulkar lives up to his name through his score of 10, it is 10dulkar.’ Many had come with placards in Bengali saying: ‘Kono tara nei, guru’ which translates s ‘There is no hurry, guru’. Interestingly when Shane Shillingford appealed loudly against Tendulkar, the crowd had shouted: Shut up. Unfortunately the decision from Llong did shut them up and forced them to sit in silence.

Most of the spectators are hoping for the West Indies to post a big score in the second innings so they can see Tendulkar bat again.

Cricket fans here being well updated on Tendulkar’s statistics, one of them pointed out that umpires have been Tendulkar’s biggest enemy of-late. He has been dismissed leg before in his last three consecutive Test innings.

The much talked about Tendulkar masks were stopped from being distributed as it did not have the series sponsor logo. And the few who did manage to get hold of it found it too small for their face.

November 6, 4.25pm

Fan's ten year pursuit of Tendulkar

K.R. Nayar

Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary, known as Gautam, follows Sachin Tendulkar wherever he goes. Gautam is here at Eden Gardens for Tendulkar’s 199th Test and will follow him to Mumbai too.

When Gulf News asked him to pose for a picture, Gautam said: “My face is not important. The Indian flag which I have painted on my head is more important than me.”

Gautam has his chest painted with Tendulkar in saffron, white and green. “At the end of Mumbai Test I will insert two words and it will be Tendulkar miss you,” he said.

The tale of this fan's devotion to Tendulkar is nearly a decade old. He was once rescued by Tendulkar from the clutches of the police in Kanpur. A police officer suspecting Gautam of causing trouble beat him up and bundled him into the police van. Tendulkar on hearing about what happened to Gautam, immediately got him released, forcing the police man to apologise.

In India, Gautam travels by bicycle — he once even pedalled all the way to Bangladesh to watch Tendulkar play. He went to Colombo for the 2012 Twenty20 World Cup too. Many cricket lovers back Gautam’s enthusiasm, donating money for his expenses. Tendulkar gives instructions to all cricket venues to let Gautam in and also give him a pass or a ticket. Hence on Tuesday during the Indian team practice he could be seen in the empty stands when Tendulkar was batting. 

Gautam wants only the lowest rate ticket as he loves to sit with the crowd. Every summer, Gautam travels all the way to Tendulkar’s house in Mumbai and presents him with a box of litchis from his home town. Though Tendulkar knows him very well he never misuses that contact and does not even go near other cricketers.

Gautam’s greatest moment was when Tendulkar invited him into the Indian dressing room after they won the World Cup in Mumbai in 2011.

Gautam has accepted the fact that Tendulkar soon won’t be there for him to cheer from the stands. “It was bound to happen one day but I will not stop supporting Indian team and will continue to be at venues where they play,” said Gautam, who watched a Test for the first time in 2003 when India played Australia at the Wankhede stadium.

Gautam’s ten year trail of Tendulkar will also end at the Wankhede stadium at the end of the second Test of this series.

November 6, 1.27pm

Match ticket is a collector's item

K.R. Nayar

Hold on strongly to your ticket for the Eden Gardens Test. Every page for the next five days is in huge demand. When walking through the crowd fans to the press box, many spectators approached me with the request if I could hand over the day’s ticket after the match.

There are hundreds of fans outside the stadium who want to keep the ticket as a memento.  A curly haired young Tendulkar’s portrait has been drawn by renowned artist Jogen Chowdhury. It has Tendulkar's signature too.

Being a working day the stadium did not get filled to the brim though all tickets were sold out. Many fans with the tickets waited for the toss to complete and decided to go to office after West Indies skipper Darren Sammy decided to bat.

Jagmohan Dalmiya the President of the Cricket Association of Bengal unveiled the gold coin for the toss on Tuesday night. It has Tendulkar’s face on one side and the picture of Eden Gardens on the other.

Tendulkar who wanted to focus on the Test did not attend the function. The CAB officials will be presenting this 10g gold coin to Tendulkar. Unfortunately Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni did not win the toss.

The CAB officials are delighted with the kind of reception that they are giving to Tendulkar for his last appearance here. They claim that no where in the world has a cricketer’s picture with his signature been embossed on the match ticket and the coin for toss.

Two comments from Indian film actor Shahrukh Khan and tennis star Sania Mirza could be found in a souvenir distributed by CAB. Khan said: "I would like to thank you (Tendulkar) from the bottom of my heart for allowing us to breathe the same air as you do.”

Mirza said: “For me, it is a matter of pride that I have been born in the age in which Tendulkar is playing.”

November 6, 12.28pm

Tendulkar quiz and statistics enthrall fans

K.R. Nayar

The cricket fans in this city are all connoisseurs of the game. Many have come here armed with statistics on Tendulkar and in and around the press box there are many who offer you free help on anything you want to know on Tendulkar’s performance in Kolkata.

When you buy a ticket, a small booklet is also given in which there is even a quiz with the title “The Sachin Test”. The subtitle is the question how well do you know the Little Master. There are eleven questions and fans could be seen competing against each other to give the correct answer.

Among the questions is a question on what was Sachin’s contribution in making the first ever international match under lights at the Eden Garden’s very special? The answer is someone everyone knows here and all will answer promptly: “Tendulkar bowled a brilliant last over against South Africa in the Hero Cup semifinal in 1993. Needing six runs to win South African could make only three runs.”

There is also a question on who is Tendulkar’s favourite international musician and it is Mark Knopler and according to Tendulkar his favourite song is Sultans of Swing. Taking into consideration that Tendulkar is playing against West Indies there is a question on Tendulkar first Test man of the match award at Eden Gardens. It was against West Indies in 2002.

Pamphlets on Tendulkar’s performance in Kolkata are distributed quicker than the team sheets. He has played 12 Tests in Kolkata and averages 47.88 with the highest score of 176 which is also against West Indies in 2002.

However the million dollar question is will Tendulkar score 1000 runs in Eden Gardens?
Tendulkar has scored 862 Test runs at the Eden Gardens and is now in third place in the all-time list, behind VVS Laxman (1217 runs), and Rahul Dravid (962).

If Tendulkar scores 138 runs in this Test, he'll become only the third Indian batsman, after Laxman and Sunil Gavaskar, to score 1000 Test runs at a venue.

Tendulkar’s idol Gavaskar has scored more than 1000 at two grounds - the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Tendulkar's best is 970 in Chennai, followed by 869 in Bangalore.

If Tendulkar can score 153 runs more he will record 1000 Test runs in Wankhede stadium too.

November 5, 3.20pm

Dhoni irked by sign that reads 'Sachine' 

K.R. Nayar

In the most prominent place in Eden Gardens, the spelling of Sachin Tendulkar went wrong. Next to the giant scoreboard is a drawing of Tendulkar stating that the event is his 199th Test. It reads: “Celebrating Sachine Tendulkars 199th Test match”.

The spelling error did not miss the eye of Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni who was practicising not far away. When Dhoni came for the press conference, the first question he was asked was how he found the reception for Tendulkar in Kolkata. Dhoni, without hesitation, said: "First tell me who spelt Sachin's name wrong?”

What followed was some journalists trying to justify the mistake. One version is that the person who made the sign was so eager for Sachin to shine in this match that he actually meant to write “Shine Tendulkar” but changed his mind at the last moment.

Now that Dhoni has pointed out the mistake will the spelling be corrected in time for the match? Watch out for the scoreboard tomorrow.

November 5, 1.05pm

Press conference without journalists

K.R. Nayar

It would have turned out to be a press conference without the press! Journalists had a tough time entering the Eden Gardens on Tuesday, with the police deciding not to permit anyone to attend the press conference scheduled to be held at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) Club House area.

One had to wait for nearly an hour outside the gates. Tempers ran high as a journalist from a leading newspaper daily was prevented from entering the venue. A heated argument in chaste Bengali reached its crescendo when the police categorically noted that the gates will not be opened for the day. Screams from journalists saying that they had a job to do were ignored by policemen who retorted back that they were also doing their job and following instructions.

Officials from CAB too failed to convince the police to let the journalist in until they got clearance from the police headquarters.

There was suspense as to whether Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni would leave without addressing the press since the Indian team was nearing the end of their practice session. Finally the police men yielded and all journalists marched...something that resembled a procession.

After that the press conference room was filled to the brim and looked like a crowded Mumbai train...with journalists forced to share seats. Many had to stand and hang on to window panels as Dhoni spoke sipping his tea.

With so many things happening in an around the stadium,  CAB officials are finding it tough to handle the pressure but all are working hard to ensure that the Test match goes smoothly.

Despite a seating capacity close to 100,000 at the Eden Garden, the demand for tickets remains very high. So those who were not able to get the prized tickets decided to catch a glimpse of Sachin Tendulkar returning from practice.

November 5, 11.15am

Betting on Sachin Tendulkar 

K.R. Nayar

It is supposed to be an India-West Indies Test match, but no one is discussing the first Test which commences on Wednesday at Eden Gardens.

The usual discussion on who is likely to win, what are the strengths of both teams, etc. are missing this time.

The only point of discussion is Sachin Tendulkar. How many runs will he score? Will he hit a century or atleast a half century?

I happened to meet a group of students from Rabindra Bharati University who seemed excited to get tickets for the Test series.

However, a few of them could not manage tickets for all five days. Some had it  for the third day, while most of them got for the last day. 

All of them are hoping to watch Tendulkar bat on the day they have the ticket.  This led them to bet among themselves on which days would Tendulkar bat in this Test.

While this betting process was on, I chanced upon a couple who had travelled from the outskirts of Kolkata.

“We want Tendulkar to bat on all five days,” said Srijata Sen, who sports a neck chain with a pendant that has Tendulkar’s picture on it.

Outside the stadium, huge bets are being placed on how much will Tendulkar score in this Test match.

Usually cricketers are addressed by their first name, but on Monday fans were seen calling out to him as ‘Sachin Sir’  as he came out for practice. And surely, Tendulkar waved out to them, despite holding two bats and one arm guard.

“How will Tendulkar concentrate and play when the whole focus is going to be on him, and so many things are happening in his name?” asked a volunteer at the ground.

An exhibition displaying rare pictures of Tendulkar taken by a freelancer is on close to the stadium entrance, and another exhibition with his century photographs is on at the Maidan tent, not far away from the stadium. 

Seventy thousand Tendulkar masks are to be distributed in the stadium before the match. 
That led to another discussion on how he would be able to bat with his face staring at him from all over the stadium!

Yet another raging debate is about Tendulkar’s fielding position… whether it would be at the slips or at long on or third man… so people are able to get a closer look at him. This discussion began when fans saw him take slip catches during the training session.
 
So eager are fans here to savour every moment of the legend’s last match that detailed discussions on whether he would bowl in this match, and if yes, what kind of deliveries will he come up with, and whether he would take any catches, kept  ringing in my ears as I walked away from these obsessed  fans for the official press conference.

November 4, 4.40pm

It's Tendulkar all over the stadium

K.R. Nayar

From the moment you get out of the cab and walk towards Eden Gardens it looks like Sachin Tendulkar is welcoming you from different parts of the stadium. His huge banners are all over. His posters look at you from over the gate, at the top of the building and at the entrance. It is Tendulkar mania. Despite all the attention, Tendulkar practised hard and is understood to have turned down many dinner functions stating he wants to concentrate on the Test match.

Tendulkar was seen talking to Shikhar Dhawan for nearly half an hour. He was seen demonstrating many strokes and Dhawan stood in attention listening to him as if mesmerised.

West Indies’ Chris Gayle was supposed to talk to the media after their practise but the police officers had taken over the Cricket Association of Bengal press conference room to conduct detailed  plans of security for the Test match and hence it was cancelled. Top personalities are arriving for the match. Legendary batsmen Brian Lara and Viv Richards are expected and Steve Waugh is among the commentators.

November 4, 9am

The race for a piece of Tendulkar begins...

K.R. Nayar

The race after Sachin Tendulkar has commenced here. Everyone wants to catch a glimpse of Tendulkar, who arrived on Sunday night at 8.30pm for his last show at Eden Gardens.

The frenzy began at the airport with thousands of fans arriving to welcome him. My flight arrived just before his, so I decided to watch the frenzy.

Some of the fans were so optimistic of meeting him that they had brought huge bouquets of flowers. His flight was delayed but as soon as the news arrived that Tendulkar’s plane had touched down there was huge commotion with photographers racing from one gate to another. Each wanted the first picture of the master blaster, who will play his 199th Test match here. The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) officials were allowed to meet Tendulkar inside the airport.  The fans also began to run after the photographers from gate to gate.

Tendulkar, after a glance through the glass partition, witnessed the commotion outside and decided to leave it to the officials to ensure his safe journey to the hotel.  A large number of police officers rushed inside the airport to escort him. The journalists ran after Biswarup Dev, the CAB treasurer to find out if Tendulkar would make a comment on arrival. Dev, who was anxious to get Tendulkar out, remarked: “It’s not Diwali festival but Sachin festival and it commences now.”

A tableau carrying Tendulkar cutouts was flagged off by state sports minister Madan Mitra and CDs with songs in praise of Tendulkar were also released.

A fan with a bouquet of flowers with the figure 199 inscribed in it tried hard to reach Tendulkar but in vain. The CAB officials managed to present a bouquet of 199 roses. Excitement reached the peak as he came out escorted by police wearing a striped T shirt. He waved at the fans who screamed best wishes to Tendulkar.

The CAB officials revealed Tendulkar will receive Tendulkar at Eden Gardens as a life size wax sculpture has been placed outside the Indian dressing room. The artists from Asanol who made the sculpture want to gift it to Tendulkar if he is willing to take it to Mumbai.

Indian team skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni along with his players arrived from Bengaluru on Sunday afternoon and were resting in the hotel waiting for Tendulkar to join them.