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?

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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