The inevitable was announced. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar (SRT) was to retire from cricket in November 2013 after his 200th test match, which would be known as SRT200. A farewell, a celebration, of a historical 24 year career. I wanted to be there no doubt. Once it was confirmed that this match would be played in Mumbai I HAD to be there at any cost as Mumbai is my home city too.
It is then that the dreams started. The first dream was silly and I got called crazy by the two people whom I told that the ticket for the match is yellow. Thereafter I dreamt about being in Mumbai every night for 2 weeks. On Monday 11th November 2013, 3day prior to the test match I received an email from my cousin Mitul with the subject title, “Your dream has come true. Get packing.” I managed to get a ticket in the members ballot, Mitul attached a scan of my ticket as proof…..the ticket was YELLOW! The subsequent few hours were adrenalin filled; booking a flight, packing my bags, deciding which sunglasses to pack etc etc. I was going to Mumbai to witness SRT200. I prayed and thanked God endlessly that day, I know I was the luckiest girl on the planet.
The taxi arrived to take me to Heathrow, as I was about to leave my parents put their coats on. I questioned where they were going, dad replied, “We are dropping you to the airport to give you a send off on this historic occasion. You are going to India to see Sachin’s final match, we are going to come with you to Heathrow.” I was touched. At the airport, I was like a child in a sweet shop (as were my parents). “I’m off to Mumbai to see SRT200/my daughter is going to see SRT200.” Terminal 5 knew exactly where I was going! We were full of excitement.
I kept receiving messages from friends and family saying I was so lucky but also crazy to be going alone. I explained I wasn’t going alone; I was going to be at a stadium with like minded people who are all there for one reason; SRT200.
Thankfully I slept throughout the flight so I was fresh when I landed, all set for SRT200. At immigrations I was asked why I was visiting India, “Mein Sachin Tendulkar ki aakhri test match dekhne keliye aiyi hun.” The man smiled at me, stamped my passport and said, “Aap khud naseeb ho.”
I jumped into the taxi and told the driver to take me to Wankhede! Whoop Whoop! I was on my way home, which is literally next door to the stadium. The place was surrounded by police and journalists/media vans. There was excitement in the air. That evening when Mitul came home he showed me the tickets. I was bouncing around the place with excitement, “My ticket is yellow. My ticket is yellow. My dream was true.” I am certain the entire household including the servant think I’m crazy. I was delighted to find out that other members of that household also got a ticket in the ballot. That evening Himanshi and I discussed trivial things like which cricket shirt, sunglasses and sandals would be worn on each day of the test match. Trivial perhaps, exciting yes!
That evening I was out with my cousins for dinner, before I got home we stopped outside the entrance of Wankhede, the place was buzzing. There were fireworks in the sky. Mumbai was ready for SRT 200.
Thursday 14th November 2013, day 1 of SRT200 had arrived. We left home and got into the entrance queue. I wasn’t excited at all. I had this dull feeling in my stomach that this is it, the final time I’m going to see the great man play. It was quite overwhelming and rather emotional. Before I knew it a BBC journalist had me on camera. I don’t recall what I said, all I remember thinking is that I was so happy I was wearing sunglasses to hide the tears.
I entered Wankhede and took my seat. I had an excellent seat, close to where the players came out from so I could clearly see everything. I looked around. I was on the front row a tier up. I held on to the bar and looked down on the pitch, around the stadium, closed my eyes and prayed. My silence was broken by a very welcome and apt call, “Ganpati bapa moriya!” A tear rolled down, this was SRT200; the final goodbye.
Out came the team, led by SRT, the crowd went mental. Both teams lined up for a small presentation of gifts to SRT including a signed shirt by the West Indies team and a portrait. Minutes later SRT200 commenced. “Sachin……Sachin. Sachin…….Sachin.” That is all you could hear. That and what my dear little 7 year old niece was saying, “Sachin…..Sachin, please come to my house for chai. Please come for some chai.” Even little kids who don’t know a thing about his career, the rules of the game, know who SRT is. Throughout the day I was finding out about other friends and family who also managed to get tickets for the game so it was nice to meet up with them as well and enjoy SRT200 together. There were everyday folk there as well as some big names in attendance ranging from sports personalities to actors, businessmen, politicians and the like. I was fortunate enough to bump into Aamir Khan one of my favourite Bollywood actors and speak to him for a few seconds.
WIndies were all out in 182 on day 1. India started to bat. I didn’t think WIndies would take out the first two wickets as fast as they did, but they did. This meant the great man, the legend, the little master SRT came to the crease. “Ganpati bapa moriya,” the crowd erupted as he walked down the stairs and onto pitch. WIndies gave him a guard of honour as he took his place. That was touching and beautiful.
Everyone around me was hoping and praying he didn’t get out for a duck. He didn’t. The next milestone was 10 runs which he surpassed quickly. What we witnessed in the final session of day 1 were the strokes of a genius. After 24 years of cricket, the shots, the strokes he played were those of textbook cricket. Day 1 ended with SRT on 38 not out. The conversation that afternoon was whether he will get a century or be out first thing in the morning. There was excitement and suspense in the air. One thing we all knew for sure is to get to the stadium early the next day as it would be packed, everyone and anyone will be there to watch day 2 with Sachin at the crease.
Post match I went for a drink with the Bharat Army. It was nice to meet everyone after a days play and wind down. I didn’t go out that night with the others as I was rather tired from little sleep the night before. Tiredness was catching up with me and I wanted to be fresh for day 2. Not that I got a chance. Around 7pm local time my phone went crazy with people telling me they saw me on the BBC news. I really didn’t think they’d air it as the journalists were doing lots of interviews. I thought to myself, “I’m so glad I had sunglasses on to hide the tears.” The tears may have been hidden however the emotion and quivering in my voice wasn’t masked as many of my friends and family told me who saw it. That evening as I walked home along the sea face I tried to gather my thoughts about day 1 and the magnitude of it all. My little mind couldn’t process everything. SRT200 was HUGE!
I hardly slept that night (I may as well have gone out with the others), I was quite sad about having to wake up for day 2 knowing this will be the final time I will see SRT bat. I got out of bed at 6am, walked down to Nariman point to clear my head, get some fresh air. Sat by the rocks absorbing the sea air, excitement of what would be a huge day. Next stop was The Oberoi for breakfast with Amers and Del. Breakfast next to Rahul Dravid, Shane Warne and Kapil Dev. I’m not a morning person, however seeing Dravid at 8am totally woke me up! Got to the stadium and queued for ages. It was packed. Everyone was ready for Sachin’s final batting. “Ganpati bapa moriya,” saluted the start of play and his historical, memorable final innings….
I for one held my breath when the first ball was delivered hoping he wouldn’t get out. He didn’t. Phew. The 50 came about quickly. Another half century to add to the already amazing statistics. The crowd was cheering and jubilant so early in the day. There were lots of cameras in the stand on day 2, it got me a bit annoyed as I didn’t have mines as so far cameras were not permitted. I wanted to picture this momentous occasion too. I sulked for a bit.
SRT played seamless cricket, a boundary here and there to the tune of Sachin…..Sachin. With his every stoke/shot the crowd cheered accordingly. No one cheered Tino Best though, instead the stands chanted, “Tino sucks.” I felt bad for him. Tino would resume his position after his over and signal pranam to the crowd. He was only doing his job. It was good banter. It was a brilliant morning of play. Well it was until Narsingh Deonarine dismissed SRT for 74, he was caught by Darren Sammy. The little master hit 74 off 118, of which there were 4 boundaries. That was it. The end of an amazing innings. No one would have ever thought he’d get 74. No one I don’t think even believed he was out. Usually when a player gets out after a good innings the crowd will cheer and congratulate his play. There was no cheering. Disbelief instead. We all kept looking at each other as if to ask is he really out? Did I just see him get out? Was that real? What followed was silence. Sachin walked off the pitch. We couldn’t believe it. Quickly people stood to clap and commend. However the crowd was heart broken rather than anything else. It was devastating to watch him leave the pitch and walk up those stairs. Tears rolled down. People left rapidly. The Sachin Show was over. The following hour or so felt as though someone has just died. I felt numb. Cold. Sad. A nation (not just me) was in shock. Yes India had a great innings and played on to get 495, with two centuries from Pujara and Sharma, hats off to them but this wasn’t about them. This was about our hero SRT. Windies started their second innings trailing by 313 runs. Before stumps they were 3 men down. It would all be over on day 3.
I didn’t feel like doing anything that evening. I had one thing on my mind. I was adamant to have a camera on what would surely be the third and final day of SRT200.
My dearest brother-in-law Sandeep said I could borrow his. My hero. I spent that evening making sure I knew how to use his camera, played about with all the settings as everything had to be right or I wouldn’t have slept that night. I slept relatively early. Managed to get 6 hours of sleep before the sun came up. I met the guys for breakfast again, this time the restaurant was empty. People had made their way to the stadium early it appeared. So did we. There was no excitement that morning about seeing Sachin, more so a feeling of sadness saying goodbye for the final time. I had a dull feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was emotional from the start.
I entered the stand on day 3 earlier than the previous days and noticed that Team India were warming up. It was great to see that. It looked even better when I snapped that with the camera. I got a bit snappy happy. As the team were wrapping up to get go get changed and leaving the pitch my hands started to tremble; this was the third and FINAL day of SRT200.
The morning and final session flew by. WIndies needed another 270 runs to avoid defeat by an innings. That wasn’t going to happen. Everyone knew that. What everyone didn’t know from the outset but had hoped was that we would witness SRT bowl two overs. Wankhede erupted when Sachin came on to bowl. I’m not one for remembering match stats, however I will always remember that he bowled the 40th and 42nd overs on day 3.
It was all over at 46.6 overs. India won by an innings and 126 runs. It wasn’t about the win. That was the end of his playing career. The end of an era. The team hugged him. We all cheered our hero. Cheered for the wonderful cricket we saw over the 2.5days and more importantly the 24 years. People cheered for other reasons I’m sure, whatever they were, everyone was cheering #ThankYouSachin.
Sachin cried. I/We cried. I watched him closely almost as if by watching with concentration would make the moment last longer. I can visually recall those last moments so clearly.
What followed was nothing any of us knew about or were expecting. What would the BCCI/MCA put on in terms of a ceremony for SRT or what would happen next, everything was an unknown. Then came the most heart wrenching speech I have ever heard. I was surrounded by grown men, who were crying when listening. Sleeves, handkerchiefs, wrists were all wiping tears. It was heart breaking. I have always found Sachin to be eloquent in his words and delivery, he didn’t fail on this grand occasion either. Words don’t really describe how I felt at that moment or what I saw and what it evoked within me. All I do know is that I was there and witnessed that live. I was one of the 33,000 lucky individuals who got to see that at the ground as it happened. The atmosphere and the mood of the crowd amplified around the ground and in everyone’s heart. SRT200 was over. #ThankYouSachin.
What was lovely to see was the team lifting him on their shoulders in the lap of honour. We chanted Sachin……..Sachin at the top of our voices and waved our hero hello, thank you and goodbye.
A few hours later when I was poolside all of a sudden it struck me that a few hours ago I was inside Wankhede watching SRT200 and at that moment I was by a pool. It almost felt like a dream. So surreal. I had a lot of those ‘so surreal’ moments that day.
As I walked back home that evening, I stopped and sat at the seaface watching fireworks at Wankhede & trying to digest the events of the day, so surreal.
“I write this message as I look to the colourful sky with tears in my eyes and from the bottom of my heart.
The lil master, the legend that is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, has played his final, 200th test match. It’s been a pleasure, emotional and bitter sweet to witness this historical test match. And to be a part of history, his history.
Take a bow Sir. This stage is all yours.”
SRT200 was a dream come true for me. It was magical, momentous and an experience I will remember for the rest of my years. I truly am a lucky individual for making it to Wankhede and am thankful to my dearest Mitul for filling in that ballot entry for me without which I wouldn’t have been there. My 3 days at Wankhede from morning til bedtime were perfect in every way with all the people I met and my wonderful family and friends who I spent time with and shared the moments with online/phone/messages. You all made it perfect. My yellow ticket dream came true.
Goodnight, it is time to dream once more……