Each and every Sachin Tendulkar fan who came into the Wankhede Stadium on the second day of the Test against West Indies, and millions around the world following the match on their television sets, were hoping for a hundred from the little master in what most probably will turn out to be his last Test innings. Sachin provided a lot of optimism for fans on day one, when he remained unbeaten on a crisp 38, with a few flowing drives. Even on day two, he carried on in the same vein. Alas, the elusive century was not to be as he fell for 74, to a brilliant catch by Darren Sammy at slip.
Even though Tendulkar fell short of a hundred by quite some distance - -26 runs – it must be said that this was his best innings in Test cricket since his magnificent hundred at Cape Town back in 2011. There was so much to like about his innings at his home ground. Over the last couple of seasons, Tendulkar has been a shadow of himself, pushing and prodding his way through Tests, struggling even against the spin bowlers in home conditions, most notably against Monty Panesar last year. It appeared as if he was fighting a lost battle against his ageing skills and body.
Tendulkar’s innings at the Wankhede was in complete contrast. All this while he was batting under pressure, as he hadn’t score big runs for a number of Tests in a row. The scrutiny of his place in the side as well as the 100th hundred which took too long for everyone’s comfort made matters worse. However, there was no such distraction when Tendulkar came out to bat at Wankhede on Thursday evening. He knew that this could possibly be his last Test innings, and looked like he was enjoying his batting after a long time.
In his brief innings at Kolkata as well, Tendulkar looked calm before a poor decision ended his stay for 10. But, at Mumbai, it was like old times again. It is no secret that Tendulkar is at his best when he punches the ball straight down the ground, past the bowler. And in this particular innings, he played a couple of those punchy strokes which met the middle of the bat and raced to the boundary. It was the best indication of hundred which took too long for everyone’s comfort made the fact that Tendulkar was in his elements. And, he truly was.
So what if he didn’t get a hundred at the Wankhede. Tendulkar played the kind of knock we have been longing to see for the past two years. Numbers don’t tell the entire story of his innings against West Indies, but they do give us an indication of how comfortably Tendulkar batted in front of his home crowd – 74 from 118 balls with 12 magnificent boundaries. It was the kind of innings Tendulkar fans deserved for the love and affection they have showered upon the great little man. And Tendulkar did not disappoint them, in all possibility for one last time.
--By A Cricket Analyst