Exactly 24 years after his international debut, on November 15 2013, Sachin Tendulkar played his final innings for India.
It will go down as a day that is remembered forever fondly in Indian cricket: the start and end of an era quite like no other.
The cheer that accompanied Sachin Tendulkar’s last walks (there were a few of them, to be fair) from the Wankhede Stadium dressing room to the middle were loud enough to have been heard far and wide away from the ground in Mumbai. It was a cricketing event like no other, one could say.
The innings itself, against West Indies, was a breezy half century as he came out to bat at 77/2 on day one (November 14) and then went on to make 74 off 118 balls, scoring 12 boundaries. When he was dismissed on day two, there was a strong possibility that India would not likely bat again in the Test. Thousands and thousands would have hoped for the match to go into day five so that their legend got another chance to stride out with the bat to the middle.
But the shots that Tendulkar played during the course of his half century were, in many ways, part of a fitting finale that ended with an emotional speech on November 16. A farewell speech that moved millions around the world to tears.
Tendulkar’s 68th Test fifty might not go down as an all-time classic but it gave enough opportunities for goosebumps, spread over two days.
He batted with a freedom of a man who knew he would not have to dissect his innings down to the last detail, his strokes had the lightness that came with the knowledge that a load was coming off his shoulders.
And for one final time in Indian cricket, the crowd fell silent as Tendulkar walked back to the dressing room, the bat tucked beneath his arm. The pin-drop silence, in the next few seconds, gave way to the roar.
“What an innings from the Master, thanks for the entertainment for 24 years. It would have been fantastic had it been a hundred. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, thank you, thank you, thank you” said Sunil Gavaskar on air even as the Mumbai crowd drowned out all other sound with applause and cheers.
And after 200 Tests, 329 innings, 15921 runs, 51 centuries and 68 half centuries, the journey was over.
Video courtesy: BCCI.tv