All my bags are packed I’m ready to go – Perhaps that’s exactly what Sachin Tendulkar must be thinking hours before stepping out for his 200th and the last Test match of his career at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
It been a surreal two weeks. From the time Sachin Tendulkar has announced his retirement, the entire country has gone into an emotional frenzy – the cricket boards organising these games have gone the whole nine yards and the cricket fans crashed the ticketing website.
It a big moment in Indian cricketing history on many counts. First, Sachin Tendulkar will be the first cricketer in the world to feature in 200 Test matches.
Second, this is will be also the last Test match for a man who has tirelessly carried the torch of Indian cricket for the last two decades. And thirdly, what next? Yes, India is blessed with a huge pool of talented batsmen but come Johannesburg in December, suddenly that Indian batting looks a touch vulnerable.
Back to Mumbai, where the city is gearing up in all its might to bid its favourite son a memorable goodbye. Every corner of the city is buzzing with one and one name – “Sachin.”
However, still there is a cricket match to be played and after the debacle at Kolkata, West Indies would be looking to bounce back at Mumbai and spoil the swansong of India’s greatest batsman. The last time West Indies played against India at the Wankhede Stadium, they produced a cliff hanger.
India needed 243 to win in the last innings and they ended the game on 242/9 with just one run away from victory . Although the scores were tied, the match was rendered as a draw since India still had one wicket left. It was the only the second time in Test cricket’s history that a match ended in draw with scores leveled.
Even though they demolished the West Indies in just 3 days in Kolkata, the Indian team is under more pressure. With all the fanfare and idolatry going around, keeping their focus on the match has to be their biggest challenge. MS Dhoni has tried very hard to keep his team away from the various distractions but the madness going around is bound to put the team under some pressure.
Although Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin batted beautifully and held the innings together in Kolkata, MS Dhoni would be a little worried with his top order, who succumbed to Shane Shillingford’s turn and bounce even after getting off to decent starts. The Wankhede pitch too hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Indian batsmen for some years now and Shillingford might cause a few more headaches with his doosras on a slow turner.
The bowling, however, looks much better. After the disastrous bowling display in the Australian series, the Indian bowlers managed to actually claim 20 wickets in the first Test. Mohammed Shami reversed the old ball beautifully while Bhuvneshwar Kumar had the better of Chris Gayle in both innings. Even in Mumbai, the morning sea breeze will assist the medium pacers and if India bowls first, these two can be a handful for the Windies top order.
The spinning duo of Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha will also get some help from the slow nature of the track and if the pacers can get through the top order quickly, West Indies would find it rather difficult to negotiate the spin twins.
However, all eyes will be on Sachin Tendulkar. He has struggled in the past 18 months in Tests and would like to end his career on a high with a big score on his home ground.
As far as the playing XI is concerned, India will not be tinkering with a winning XI. The batting is set, so are the four bowlers. So expect MS Dhoni to field the same eleven that scored a comprehensive win over the Windies in Kolkata.
India Squad: MS Dhoni (c, wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Pragyan Ojha, Umesh Yadav.