Sachin catches prey when falcons take a break

The giant man-made canopy at Eden Gardens had just begun to creep into the greens at the pavilion end. At a distance, the falcons had begun their hover.

Published: 07th November 2013 01:01 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th November 2013 01:01 PM   |  A+A-


The giant man-made canopy at Eden Gardens had just begun to creep into the greens at the pavilion end. At a distance, the falcons had begun their hover. The scattered crowd had begun to twitch and twirl their limbs. The clock beneath the electronic screen flashed 1:39.

Then for a brief second, everything, even the falcons and shadows, paused fleetingly, caught as they are by something remarkable. The crowd put aside their siesta and sloth.

The eyes and walls of the stadium converged on a little, familiar frame. Sachin Tendulkar had just entrusted his floppy hat and shades with the umpire and traced his run-up.

The ball flipped and flickered between his palms, before with six measured strides, he sauntered in with the boyish grin that has always marked his bowling. A slight pirouette of his body and the ball fizzed out. Until the ball, after its airy reverie, landed, the crowd held their breath in collective awe.

Such was the roar that made its Mexican waves around the stadium that every ball was rendered lethal. It was as though poor Shane Shillingford was confronted with 20,000 bowlers aiming projectiles at him. Three seemingly harmless deliveries and Shillingford thought he had configured Tendulkar. He just hung his bat before his pads, trusting the ball to break away. Even if it had spun the other way, his stretched legs would have saved him.

But Shillingford was left stupefied. For upon pitching, the ball coursed straight and snuck beside his bat to thud onto his pads. His mind might have been as well rendered blank by the madness and frenzy around him.

Within the split-second Tendulkar took to twist his much-punished body after the follow through to seek the umpire’s approval, the crowd had erupted into a collective, impulsive appeal. Loud as a half-filled Eden Gardens ever can. Umpire Nigel Long lifted his index finger and the stands just broke into pure delirium.

The celebration in the middle was as exultant. Fielders converged from distant outposts to swarm the master, who beamed as beam it can. So lost were they in the moment that they didn’t even notice that the umpires were halfway through their strides to the pavilion for tea.

Amidst all these melodrama, shone the genius of Tendulkar the bowler, who now has 201 international wickets. The first ball was the conventional leg-break. The second was the big-spinning googly. The third was again a leg-break. The fourth straightened after pitching. Eight more high-voltage deliveries later, normalcy returned to the Eden Gardens. For Tendulkar was taken off the attack, and the shadows and falcons resumed their creeps and prowls.


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