With the match treading a ho-hum phase, the crowd lulled to tedium by the general tempo of the contest, Mahendra Singh Dhoni breathed life into it. He threw the ball to Sachin Tendulkar, and lo the crowd erupted from the post-lunch siesta.
It seemed like Dhoni’s way of urging the dulled crowd, “C’mon, wake up, let’s get them out.” It seemed like, as they do in movies, giving the fading yesteryear superstar a cameo to retrieve the dragging stretch of the plot. To give a bit of colour or flavour and the audience are again hooked to it. Anyway, the trick found its desired effect, almost at an instant. For the stands, understandably scant, were again soaked in sheer celebration.
But in terms of the match’s context, it hardly changed the dynamics. If any, it lend the Darren Bravo and Kieran Powell the much-needed release of pent-up pressure. Bravo did survive a scare, when he loosely drove to the midwicket and the ball fell a trifle short of the fieldsman. The next ball, though, was fleeced through the covers. Very Caribbean—all power and gusto.
Reels of his one-time competitor and fellow legend Brian Lara would have flashed through Tendulkar’s mind. He was lucky that the more boundaries didn’t flay from Bravo’s chunky willow, for he was too full on each instance. One such ball thudded onto Virat Kohli’s solar plexus.
Another Tendulkar over seemed unlikely. But after Pragyan Ojha, upon completing his over, took his cap and shades back from the umpire, the crowd literally implored Dhoni to give Tendulkar another over. And Dhoni wasn’t to antagonize them. In strode Tendulkar for another cameo and with similar effect.
That was surely it. Tendulkar was certainly not going to get another over. Eden Gardens might have seen the last of Tendulkar’s bowling. Hush. Clap. But phew, Dhoni signaled towards Tendulkar’s direction again and the master jogged again to his run-up. Another set of those usual floated, leg breaks, and surely this was it.
But with his last delivery, he reignited their hopes of seeing one more over from him. It rapped Kieran Powell’s pads, was pitched in line and heading stump-ward. Tendulkar instinctively appealed. So did the crowd. But the umpire deemed it otherwise and signalled run. A miniscule feather had saved Powell’s day—or may be the fate of being remembered as Tendulkar’s last international wicket.
The replays were inconclusive, but the crowd were convinced it hadn’t taken Powell’s bat. Justice denied. Again. By the time Ojha completed his next over, the crowd teemed in anticipation. But that wasn’t to be. Mohammed Shami was reintroduced.
The theatre part wasn’t over yet. As the umpires called tea, a swarm of photographers thronged aside the boundary ropes. For Tendulkar, with Sourav Ganguly, was to launch off bunched tri-colour balloons with a poster of Tendulkar acting like a propeller. Soon after it was dispatched to its orbit, a hundred of such like popped out from various layers of the stadium, giving the already theatrical Eden Gardens an all the more sense of theatre.
Perhaps, it’s the wondrous bliss at the sight of something beyond the natural, the common or the mundane. It’s the sort of sporting mysticism that only men of Sachin Tendulkar’s stature create and recreate, time and time again. Even the thinly-trimmed grass-vanes seemed aglow with his radiance, as he waved the Eden crowd a final goodbye.