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?

Getty
Show Hide image

Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

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 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times