New Delhi, June 26 -- The date, October 23, 2011. It is an India versus England ODI on a Saturday evening at the Wankhede Stadium, barely six months after India had won the World Cup at the same ground. Diwali is fast approaching. It calls for a spirited atmosphere, right? Mumbai is after all Indian cricket's oldest hub.
Turns out it was the worst ever attendance at the ground since the first Test played in 1975. Only 13,000 tickets were sold (or acquired as passes), according to a Mumbai Cricket Association official.
While everyone chipped in with their views on the shocking turnout, it was obvious -Sachin Tendulkar was not at the ground.
And that was the first scare administrators and television networks faced, dreading the sport's popularity in the post-Tendulkar era. Remember, India is not playing a home Test for at least the next 12months.
Indian fans will perhaps never see him again, unless BCCI organises a farewell home Test. There's no denying cricket will remain the hottest sport. But are the likes of MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli ready to ensure that arenas sold out, year in and year out? They perhaps are.
India's Champions Trophy victory has come as a shot in the arm. The TV ratings have been top-notch. Fans are embracing the post-Tendulkar era with open arms.
One of Tendulkar's closest teammates, VVS Laxman, who retired from Tests last year, felt the nation is moving onto newer stars. "When you think of one-day cricket and India, Sachin is the best ever. He is irreplaceable. Nobody will argue with that. He has been a pillar of strength for Indian cricket and since he has decided to end his ODI career, it is time to move on. And I am glad fans and the players have taken that in their stride to begin a new era," he told the Hindustan Times.
Laxman showered praise on the young side that won the Champions Trophy, the first ICC event in the post-Sachin era.
"I was really impressed with what they were able to achieve. They played with great character and maturity. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the build-up to the event. They responded beautifully. This team has the capability to retain the World Cup. It is definitely one of the best teams to watch on the park. I really enjoyed watching them field," he said.
"I also liked the fact that they didn't show any complacency. Sometimes very young players, who want to win desperately, can lose their cool. But this team respected the opposition and won the tournament fair and square. This is one of the smoothest transitions we could have hoped for," Laxman said, referring to the new team sans Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh - all members of the 2011 World Cup squad.
The batting great also gave the thumbs up to India's Test batting future.
"After the whitewash in England and Australia, and then the loss to England at home, it was a tough phase. I was a little worried, to be honest. But I am so thrilled with the way Shikhar Dhawan and the rest have responded. These youngsters have shown lot of temperament. The tour to South Africa will be a big test. If we can do well there, Indian Test cricket will be back on track. It will also give us an indication of which players will be able to represent India in the long run."
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.