Opinion: Windies must avoid farcical Tendulkar farewell
The West Indies must ensure this month's Test series against India does not become a farcical farewell to Sachin Tendulkar, writes Ryan Bailey.
Amidst the excessive and ostentatious hysteria – wax statues, gold coins and rose petals among other eulogies planned – surrounding the penultimate game of Sachin Tendulkar's illustrious career, you would easily be excused for overlooking the on-field proceedings.
The excitement and frenzy associated with the culmination of the most celebrated career in the history of the game was inevitable, with the two-game Test series becoming less about the cricket with every passing minute but the significance of the next fortnight cannot be neglected in the greater scheme of things.
In truth, Tendulkar – a largely private and restrained individual even in the unrelenting public domain – would happily head into the sunset with little fuss, allowing the twenty-one other players to share the spotlight.
While India's most adored sporting icon will be the cynosure at Eden Gardens and then in Mumbai, this series is a lot more than an extended celebration of his career, there is a bigger picture, a series to be won and ultimately some ten potentially fascinating days of cricket to be played.
Former Australian batsman Matthew Hayden once said; "I've seen God. He comes out to bat for India at number four." On this evidence, it's hard to disagree. The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) have transformed the iconic Kolkata venue, often regarded as the 'Mecca of cricket', into a shrine for the little master.
From every ticket sold being imprinted with the image of a young Sachin, to face masks for every member of the near 70,000 crowd or a wax statue, the CAB have pulled out all the stops to ensure his penultimate appearance in an Indian shirt is a memorable one. "This is officially 'Salute Sachin' week," claimed Biswarup Dey, the Cricket Association of Bengal treasurer.
However, their preparations for his farewell are over the top.
The opposition, the West Indies, had their pre-match press conference cancelled on Monday after officials decided the media centre was needed for a security briefing ahead of the frenzied scenes expected from Wednesday.
It's these measures and the individuality which conflict the values Tendulkar adopted during his twenty-four years at the highest level.
One almost needs reminding that there are twenty-one other players who will take to the field and another team who will be gunning for success and glory. Darren Sammy's side will be quietly confident of pulling off an upset and playing the villain role as they look to spoil Tendulkar's farewell.
In fact, the circumstances and situation arguably plays into their hands – all the focus and attention is elsewhere, while little is expected of a side looking to rebuild and re-establish the glory days of years gone by against the supposedly all-domineering Indian outfit.
The reintegration of the talismanic Chris Gayle, experienced wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin and Kemar Roach among others – all of whom missed the 2-0 series defeat exactly three years ago – only underlines the competitive nature of the tourists. West Indies haven't arrived in the sub-continent or indeed any tour with such a complete and powerful unit.
There one and only warm-up game ended in a draw with the highly talented and dangerous top-order offering a glimpse of their confidence and stability. The evergreen Shiv Chanderpaul, who blossoms in sub-continent conditions, acts as the cog in a well-oiled unit in which Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo and Kieran Powell provide class and destruction in equal measure.
Having said that, their last outing in the five-day arena was back in March when they, with all respect, weren't given an altogether probing work-out by Zimbabwe during a fairly one-sided two-game series.
And, while India have home conditions and the backing of a buoyant Kolkata crowd, the West Indies certainly have the ability to spoil the party and with the result seemingly insignificant and set to be overshadowed by one man's every more, the tourists will be confident of claiming their first series victory in India for nearly twenty years.
After all, pre-planned farewells rarely end in idealistic fashion.
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