The wave that made waves

New Delhi, March 24: Moments after captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit the winning boundary and collected an off stump to treasure, the cameras caught Sachin Tendulkar, then in the dressing room, wave twice to the Kotla turnout.

Immediately, the focus shifted from India's never-before-achieved 4-0 win in a four-Test series, that too over the once-ruthless Australia, to The Master.

Was it the final goodbye in the India colours? With no word from the dressing room and no announcement, some became emotional.

Over the years, Sachin hasn't just been a record-breaker and to the average Indian, has always been much more than a cricketer.

Around 6pm, this reporter met Sachin at the ITC Maurya. The brief conversation, as he walked towards his 17th-floor suite, was as follows:

Sachin: Hi.

Reporter: Hi…. Why did you wave not once, but twice?

Sachin: But why not? We'd won 4-0 and I wanted to thank the crowd (around 22,000 turned up) for their support. I've done it before.

Reporter: So, there was nothing more to it?

Sachin (grins): Nothing more.… No.… Chalo, we'll talk later.

A team man to the core, Sachin didn't take the first available flight to Mumbai, but spent time at the party to celebrate a momentous first.

It came about with over two days to spare, capping a dramatic Day III which saw as many as 16 wickets fall, not all to terrific bowling.

Around 9.15pm, Sachin took leave of team-mates and the support staff and left via a service elevator to avoid the crowd in the hotel's lobby. With him was Ajinkya Rahane.

With India's next Test at home in late 2014 only, against the West Indies, it's almost a given that Sachin won't again be seen in whites in a ghar ka series. So, one chapter of an incredible career seems to have ended today.

But Dhoni's advice is "don't speculate". He added: "No ifs and buts.… In 2005, the media said the same thing."

Sachin had an ordinary series, falling for one in the last innings to average 32. The Kotla wicket was far from ideal, but he's raised the bar so high that it's assumed that the conditions don't matter.

Yet, it should be noted that Sachin turns 40 in exactly a month.

What Shane Warne told The Telegraph earlier in the day is interesting. "Hopefully, it won't get to a situation where he gets a tap on his shoulder.… He deserves more than that.… Hopefully, he has the right to choose the time of his exit.…" (Interview in Sport)

India's next Test will be in South Africa eight months from now.

Moving to India's win, it wasn't driven by one or two performances and quite a few players stood out. Like Man of the Series Ravichandran Ashwin (29 wickets), Murali Vijay (430 runs), Cheteshwar Pujara (419 runs), Ravindra Jadeja (24 wickets), Shikhar Dhawan (187 on debut) and, of course, Dhoni. Dhoni's 224 under pressure in the first Test, in Chennai, set the tone. Besides, he was superb behind the stumps and, significantly, was a distinctly more visible and audible captain.

Captains have to play their part if history is to be created and Dhoni wasn't found wanting. He admitted having changed his style somewhat, thanks to younger players coming into the squad.

Not the type to go overboard, Dhoni refused to describe the win as a "revenge" for the 0-4 thrashing in Australia last season.

Rather, characteristically, he preferred to term it "good".

Missing from the India ranks were Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Gautam Gambhir, all regulars till recently. Zaheer and Gambhir had no role in the series, while Sehwag was dropped after the first two Tests.

V.V.S. Laxman, who produced a string of great innings against Australia, described the result as "very, very special". He added: "There's no better way to hail a 4-0 win."

There's no denying that the Australians were short on everything, including (believe it or not) character, but that wasn't India's problem.

India's move to promote Pujara as a stand-in opener paid rich dividends; Australia's ploy of getting No.7 Glenn Maxwell to open in the second innings proved disastrous.

The Maxwell bit was really bizarre, much like the off-the-field happenings in Chandigarh a fortnight ago.

Stand-in captain Shane Watson was quick to concede that the "biggest challenge" was to learn "very quickly".

It's time Watson himself performed and played according to the demands of the situation. More than the rest, he needs to be a quick learner.

For India, the season has ended, and in such a wowing manner. The next engagement, the 50-over Champions Trophy, is in June.

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