Following is a work of fiction and completely imagined by the author.
When I came to know that the picture alongside won the Wisden picture of the year, I became emotional as memories of my last innings at the Wankhede Stadium came right before my eyes. It was as if I again started to hear those loud shouts of “Sachin Sachin” which reverberated through the entire stadium throughout the three days of the test match.
I never believed that I would get the chance to bat on the 1st day itself but, thankfully, God had written the script. We were trailing by 105 runs when two wickets- that of Dhawan and Vijay- fell in one over bowled by Shillingford. What followed after that was absolutely shocking! Never in my life had I heard such noise after the fall of an Indian wicket; and that too on an Indian ground. The Wankhede crowd erupted as if we had taken a wicket. But you know why they did so.
As I started walking down the steps, I glanced at the sky for the one final time while the Wankhede crowd was busy taking my pictures through their respective mobiles. I was a bit emotional at that time but I had to brave all that and concentrate on the game. I had to ignore the cheers of the nation in order to bat for one last time and bat to my best. However, it was really tough to do so!
On my way to the batting crease, I saw the West Indian players, the umpires and Pujara forming a guard of honour for me. That was even more emotional to me. Even I had to control my tears as I took guard. By the way, I had already made up my game plan- to produce every single shot I had played for the past 24 years and entertain the crowd.
Slowly and steadily I paced up my game. I was getting successful in middling every delivery that I faced. I had also extracted my favourite strokes- the backfoot drive, the cover drive and, my most liked shot, the straight drive. In this manner, I and Pujara batted till stumps and we were trailing by just 15 runs.
The next morning as I was coming out to bat, I touched my mother’s feet and got the best of luck wishes from my wife. That was the first time my mother came to witness a cricket match. The pressure on me was even more that morning but somehow I had to get along with it.
Two back to back boundaries- the back foot drive and the paddle sweep- and then I was oozing with confidence. After that, I tried to play the upper cut, which I had used throughout my playing days, against Best as his pace was suiting me to play that shot. But somehow I couldn’t connect it and every time I played and missed, the crowd roared- a roar signifying calmness!
I successfully reached the, very important, half century and acknowledged the crowd, my wife and my mother. The Mexican wave had started, the crowd had begun to wave their hands and believe me- it’s very tough for a cricketer to bat under these conditions. It’s a real test for them to showcase their talent under pressure. By God’s grace, I think I was a bit successful in this test.
My innings ended when I misjudged the bounce from Deonarine and ended up giving a regulation catch to Sammy in the 1st slip. The entire crowd became silent. Everyone was shell-shocked. I started walking, after waiting for just 1 second to feel the crease for the one last time. As I was half way from the boundary line, I realized that this could well be my last innings and then I opened my helmet and acknowledged thousands who were present in the stadium and a billion more who were watching on television and hearing on radio.
I, Sachin Tendulkar, am truly grateful to all of you from the bottom of my heart for the support you have given me for the 24 years of my wonderful career.