How should we mark the last hurrah for Sachin Tendulkar, India's greatest sporting legend?

Sachin Tendulkar is reported to have requested 500 tickets for friends and relatives for his final match before retirement.

I was at the Sydney Cricket Ground in January 2004 when Steve Waugh played his final Test. It was the last match in a four-Test series and Waugh, the Australia captain, had only to walk out of the pavilion or touch the peak of his baggy green cap or pick up the ball and throw it back to the wicketkeeper for the stadium to erupt in applause.

The Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, where Sachin Tendulkar will play his final Test from 14 November, seats 12,500 fewer spectators than the Sydney Cricket Ground. But expect the din to be louder, more relentless and laden as much with hysteria as with a sense of – to borrow from the commentator and former Australian cricketer Matthew Hayden – a nation’s frantic appeal to one man for one more miracle.

The reverberations will be felt across the country. They are already being felt – and not just in terms of the cricket. In the wealthy but murky corridors of Indian cricket administration, no one will say if Tendulkar – like Waugh – was told that he should make this his final Test and retire rather than risk being dropped (in Tendulkar’s case, from the forthcoming series against South Africa).

The Indian cricket board has long had no love for Test cricket (other than in the brief period when India was ranked number one in that format of the game), preferring instead the far more popular Twenty20 and even 50-overs-a-side formats. Yet this was an opportunity to create a grand stage for a grand farewell. This was a chance to make money from a Test match against a lowly opposition. This was, perhaps, the opportunity to get the Tendulkar retirement issue out of the way, as well.

So the West Indies series was conjured up. The tour to South Africa was pushed back. Tendulkar duly announced his retirement. It was decided that the final Test would be played in Mumbai, Tendulkar’s home ground. If there was a quid pro quo, no one was breathing a word about it.

The Wankhede Stadium is expected to be full – now a rare occurrence for a Test match in India. More than ticket sales, however, the big money comes from advertisers on television. Indian papers have reported that ads for a ten-second TV spot are likely to be sold at a premium of 200 to 300 per cent.

The hospitality industry is ready to exploit the event in every way it can, with bars and restaurants rolling out special offers and menus and showing the match on big screens.

It is not just about the money. This will be a game that everyone will want to remember. That is a reflection of what Tendulkar means to India.

A special postage stamp will be issued for his final Test. A commemorative coin will be used for the toss. There will be Tendulkar masks for spectators. In Kolkata, the venue of his 199th Test, a tableau commemorating the high points of Tendulkar’s career will travel across the city.

The cricketer is reported to have requested 500 tickets for friends and relatives for the Wankhede Test. He has also asked for the construction of a special ramp for his wheelchair-bound mother, who has never seen him play in a stadium before.

The noise surrounding his final Test will grow and grow in the coming weeks. The match will mark the end of the career of India’s greatest sporting legend. It will also be the last chance for everyone to make as much as they can out of Indian cricket’s first global brand and wealthiest sportsperson.

Soumya Bhattacharya is editor of the Hindustan Times (Mumbai) and the author of “Why India Can Never Do Without Cricket” (Peakpublish, £9.99)

Sachin Tendulkar of India bats during the One Day International match between Australia and India at Sydney Cricket Ground on February 26, 2012 in Sydney, Australia. Image: Getty

This article first appeared in the 06 November 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Are cities getting too big?

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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war