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

France is changing: an army stalks the streets and Boris Johnson wanders the Tuileries

Will Self on the militarisation of France, and Boris Johnson at the Foreign Office.

At the corner of the rue D’Hauteville and the rue de Paradis in the tenth arrondissement of Paris is a retro-video-games-themed bar, Le Fantôme, which is frequented by some not-so-jeunes gens – the kind of thirtysomethings nostalgic for an era when you had to go to an actual place if you wanted to enter virtual space. They sit placidly behind the plate-glass windows zapping Pac-Men and Space Invaders, while outside another – and rather more lethal – sort of phantom stalks the sunlit streets.

I often go to Paris for work, and so have been able to register the incremental militarisation of its streets since President Hollande first declared a state of emergency after last November’s terrorist attacks. In general the French seem more comfortable about this prêt-à-porter khaki than we’d probably be; the army-nation concept is, after all, encrypted deep in their collective psyche. The army was constituted as a revolutionary instrument. France was the first modern nation to introduce universal male conscription – and it continued in one form or another right up until the mid-1990s.

Even so, it was surprising to witness the sang-froid with which Parisians regarded the camouflaged phantoms wandering among them: a patrol numbering eight ­infantrymen and women moved up the roadway, scoping out doorways, nosing into passages – but when one peered into Le Fantôme, his assault rifle levelled, none of the boozing gamers paid the least attention. I witnessed this scene the Saturday after Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel ran amok on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice – it was a little preview of the new state of emergency.

On Monday 18 July the French premier, Manuel Valls, was booed at a memorial service for the victims of the Nice attacks – while Marine Le Pen has been making all the populist running, whipping up anxieties about the enemy within. For many French, the events of the past week – including the failed Turkish coup – are steps along the way limned by Michel Houellebecq in his bestselling novel Submission; a via dolorosa that ends with La Marianne wearing the hijab and France itself annexed by a new caliphate.

Into this febrile drama comes a new player: Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary. What can we expect from this freshly minted statesman when it comes to our relations with our closest neighbour? There is no doubt that Johnson is a Francophile – I’ve run into him and his family at the Tuileries, and he made much of his own francophone status during the referendum campaign. In Paris last winter to launch the French edition of his Churchill biography, Johnson wowed a publication dinner by speaking French for the entire evening. He was sufficiently fluent to bumble, waffle and generally avoid saying anything serious at all.

Last Sunday I attended the Lambeth Country Show, an oxymoronic event for which the diverse inhabitants of my home borough gather in Brockwell Park, south London, for jerked and halal chicken, funfair rides, Quidditch-watching, and “country-style” activities, such as looking at farm animals and buying their products. Wandering among ancient Rastafarians with huge shocks of dreadlocks, British Muslims wearing immaculate white kurtas blazoned with “ASK ME ABOUT ISLAM” and crusty old Brixton punks, I found it quite impossible to rid my mind of the Nice carnage – or stop wondering how they would react if armed soldiers were patrolling, instead of tit-helmeted, emphatically unarmed police.

I stepped into the Royal Horticultural Society marquee, and there they were: the entire cast of our end-of-the-pier-show politics, in vegetable-sculpture form and arrayed for judging. There was Jeremy Corbyn (or “Cornbin”) made out of corncobs – and Boris Johnson in the form of a beetroot, being stabbed in the back by a beetroot Michael Gove. And over there was Johnson again, this time rendered in cabbage. The veggie politicians were the big draw, Brixtonians standing six-deep around them, iPhones aloft.

The animal (as opposed to the vegetable) Johnson has begun his diplomatic rounds this week, his first démarches as tasteless and anodyne as cucumber. No British abandonment of friends after Brexit . . . Coordinated response to terror threat . . . Call for Erdogan to be restrained in response to failed coup . . . Blah-blah, whiff-whaff-waffle . . . Even someone as gaffe-prone as he can manage these simple lines, but I very much doubt he will be able to produce rhetorical flourishes as powerful as his hero’s. In The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History, Johnson writes of Winnie overcoming “his stammer and his depression and his ­appalling father to become the greatest living Englishman”. Well, I’ve no idea if Bojo suffers from depression now but he soon will if he cleaves to this role model. His Churchill-worship (like so many others’) hinges on his belief that, without Churchill as war leader, Britain would have been ground beneath the Nazi jackboot. It may well be that, with his contribution to the Brexit campaign, Johnson now feels he, too, has wrested our national destiny from the slavering jaws of contingency.

Of course the differences between the two politicians are far more significant: Johnson’s genius – such as it is – lies in his intuitive understanding that politics, in our intensely mediatised and entirely commoditised era, is best conceived of as a series of spectacles or stunts: nowadays you can fool most of the people, most of the time. This is not a view you can imagine associating with Churchill, who, when his Gallipoli stratagem went disastrously wrong, exiled himself, rifle in hand, to the trenches. No, the French people Johnson both resembles and has an affinity for are the ones caught up in the virtual reality of Le Fantôme – rather than those patrolling the real and increasingly mean streets without. 

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt