A member of the West Indies team management at the Ferozeshah Kotla seemed bemused by the complete lack of buzz leading up to Sunday’s first Test.
Cricket on these shores is supposed to be chaotic frenzy, at worst. Or passionate celebration at best. The eerie silence and missing mobs which greeted both teams here on Friday seemed odd and out of place.
The official was informed that deserted stadiums greeted England in the recent one-day series. That the hosts had been playing non-stop since the World Cup win. That the nation had been in pregnant pause for nearly eight months, waiting for a significant individual cricketing milestone.
He took it all in and whispered, “All hell will break loose if he does it here, won’t it?”
For once, the game is hoping it will. Sachin Tendulkar has gone without a century since March 12, and the gap between the 99th ton, and the anticipated 100th, has now encompassed a World Cup win, a haze of matches and tours, a disastrous England campaign, a Tendulkar injury and eventually, waning public interest.
For cricket’s falling TRP graph, as usual there’s no one to turn to for an upswing but Sachin. This series against the West Indies is merely the means to an end.
For Tendulkar, this is just another chapter in a continuing story. The face gives away nothing. At the team’s nets session, he seemed happily ensconced in his favourite bubble of concentration, emerging occasionally to joke around with teammates, have an animated chat with coach Duncan Fletcher, obsess around with his back foot and bat swing, and even give the team’s young spinners a whacking or two.
When he bats well at nets and fusses around, younger batsmen in the team pause and watch. It’s usually a good sign, and with the Kotla being amenable to cricketing milestones, there’s hope yet of special things in store.