If Indian cricket fans were looking for life after Sachin Tendulkar, this was the day to be at the Eden Gardens.
On a day of intense drama, it was early despair for India and then delirium as one witnessed the passing of the torch between two classical Mumbai batsmen. Tendulkar scored 10 and Rohit Sharma went on to finish the day at 127 not out on Test debut.
The hype over Tendulkar’s 199th Test was boiling over. This is not a city where people like to wake up early and report for work on time. Yet, few had imagined that by the time the Kolkatans had finished their breakfast and headed towards the stadium, Tendulkar would be in for perhaps his penultimate Test innings at Eden.
The master was shaky from the time he arrived at the crease, even as there was some unpleasantness in the stands over the delay in Tendulkar masks being distributed to the spectators.
Finally when he drove Shane Shillingford through midwicket for two boundaries, “bhaalo Saaachin..” was the collective thought of the crowd at the half-full stadium.
In India, every cricket fan is as big an expert as those who wield the microphones in the TV commentary booths. ‘Sachin is in form’ was the remark after those two boundaries.
Yet, within a short span of time, when Shillingford produced a doosra to rap Tendulkar high on the right thigh pad, all eyes were focused on umpire Nigel Llong.
True to his name, Llong took time before raising his finger.
Tendulkar, who has been a victim of bad decisions at the Eden Gardens twice before, was clearly unhappy with the decision.
The same arena which had given him a standing ovation when he walked out from the dressing room to the middle went silent. As millions of Indians watched TV replays on their screens, the commentators were unanimous in their assessment that Llong had committed a howler. Well, the Indian commentators were certainly not going to speak against Tendulkar.
Then again, to be fair to the umpire, he is in the best position to judge if the red cherry was going over the stumps or the batsman was out.
Such debates could have continued all day long but two men answering to the names of Ravichandran Ashwin and Rohit Sharma showed that the West Indies attack could be collared.
The same Eden track which looked vicious and the same West Indian bowling attack was made to look ordinary once these two gentlemen got into the act.
As Ashwin batted with authority, the 50,000- odd spectators who had shed the tears after Tendulkar’s dismissal were happy again.
The new poster boy of Indian cricket, Rohit, put up a champagne-uncorking effort on debut. In enabling India to take a 120-run first innings lead, Rohit was the talk of the town.
This is the beauty of sport. As one icon readies to retire, a new one hogs the limelight. Having waited for years to make his Test debut, Rohit was all poise. And having slammed a double hundred in Bangalore in his 108th ODI just five days ago, his ton on Test debut was outstanding.
This Mumbaikar has matured like old wine but the timing of his knock and the 198- run unbeaten partnership with Ashwin has put India in the driver’s seat.