MUMBAI, India, November 15 – Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed for 74 in what could be his last-ever innings for India on Friday, shattering the hopes of a billion fans praying that the legendary batsman would bow out with a century.
In his 200th and final Test match, the “Little Master” of cricket was caught in the slips on the second morning of play at Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium, where thousands had gathered for his emotional farewell.
The 40-year-old, the world’s leading scorer in both Test and one-day cricket and the only batsman to score 100 international centuries, is leaving the game after a 24-year career.
He took to the crease to a deafening roar from the crowd in his hometown, television footage showed, with Indians across the country praying that he could finish his glittering career on a high.
The end of his innings was met with a stunned silence from spectators, which turned into a standing ovation as he left the pitch, raising his bat in acknowledgement of the overwhelming support.
“I felt after he left the ground for the last time that the soul of cricket had left. That’s the exact feeling I got. Complete emptiness,” said diehard fan Yatin Joshi.
Joshi himself was not at the stadium because his first child was born on Thursday, but he still managed to watch Tendulkar’s innings on television.
He said he would “cherish forever” the timing of his daughter’s birth. Had it been a boy, there was “no chance” of any name but Sachin.
Lengthy queues of fans, with painted faces and Indian flags, had snaked down south Mumbai’s Marine Drive boulevard on Friday morning in the hope of catching their idol’s final moments of glory.
With many offices and schools closed for the Muslim festival Muharram, fans across India gathered around television sets to watch a national hero acclaimed for his off-pitch humility and sporting skills.
A billion prayers
Within 45 minutes of play he had surpassed a half-century from his overnight score of 38, each run greeted with frenzied applause.
“On 38, with a billion prayers,” a Hindustan Times headline read ahead of the day’s play. “India waits for the big one,” said The Asian Age.
Tendulkar has now gone 40 innings without a Test ton, with the last of his 51 Test centuries nearly two years ago in January 2011 against South Africa.
Since then he has had eight 50-plus scores, including 91 against England at the Oval in August 2011 and 94 versus the West Indies in Mumbai three months later.
His waning powers in recent years had led some to suggest he should have retired earlier, but his god-like popularity in cricket-mad India has remained constant.
A Times of India editorial suggested that Tendulkar, already a nominated member of parliament, should be appointed sports minister in his retirement.
“He commands a tremendous amount of moral authority based on his superstar status and unquestionable integrity,” the newspaper said.
“His words and ideas could start a new movement, as they have the weight to cut through the web of vested interests tying down Indian sports.”
Tendulkar had walked in to bat late on Thursday to an ecstatic welcome from the stands, entering through a guard of honour created by his West Indian opponents.
The cricketer’s wheelchair-bound mother, Rajni, watched her son bat in person for the first time after a special ramp was built for her at the stadium. She had previously worried her presence may bring her son bad luck.
Along with Indian politicians, businessmen and Bollywood stars, cricketing greats Brian Lara and Shane Warne flew in for the game at Wankhede, where a huge security force was deployed.
Due to an ongoing dispute between media groups and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Agence France-Presse is unable to provide coverage of the match.