All my bags are packed I’m ready to go – Perhaps that’s exactly what Sachin Tendulkar must be thinking hours before stepping out for his 200th and the last Test match of his career at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
It been a surreal two weeks. From the time Sachin Tendulkar has announced his retirement, the entire country has gone into an emotional frenzy – the cricket boards organising these games have gone the whole nine yards and the cricket fans crashed the ticketing website.
It a big moment in Indian cricketing history on many counts. First, Sachin Tendulkar will be the first cricketer in the world to feature in 200 Test matches.
Second, this is will be also the last Test match for a man who has tirelessly carried the torch of Indian cricket for the last two decades. And thirdly, what next? Yes, India is blessed with a huge pool of talented batsmen but come Johannesburg in December, suddenly that Indian batting looks a touch vulnerable.
Back to Mumbai, where the city is gearing up in all its might to bid its favourite son a memorable goodbye. Every corner of the city is buzzing with one and one name – “Sachin.”
However, still there is a cricket match to be played and after the debacle at Kolkata, West Indies would be looking to bounce back at Mumbai and spoil the swansong of India’s greatest batsman. The last time West Indies played against India at the Wankhede Stadium, they produced a cliff hanger.
India needed 243 to win in the last innings and they ended the game on 242/9 with just one run away from victory . Although the scores were tied, the match was rendered as a draw since India still had one wicket left. It was the only the second time in Test cricket’s history that a match ended in draw with scores leveled.
Even though they demolished the West Indies in just 3 days in Kolkata, the Indian team is under more pressure. With all the fanfare and idolatry going around, keeping their focus on the match has to be their biggest challenge. MS Dhoni has tried very hard to keep his team away from the various distractions but the madness going around is bound to put the team under some pressure.
Although Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin batted beautifully and held the innings together in Kolkata, MS Dhoni would be a little worried with his top order, who succumbed to Shane Shillingford’s turn and bounce even after getting off to decent starts. The Wankhede pitch too hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Indian batsmen for some years now and Shillingford might cause a few more headaches with his doosras on a slow turner.
The bowling, however, looks much better. After the disastrous bowling display in the Australian series, the Indian bowlers managed to actually claim 20 wickets in the first Test. Mohammed Shami reversed the old ball beautifully while Bhuvneshwar Kumar had the better of Chris Gayle in both innings. Even in Mumbai, the morning sea breeze will assist the medium pacers and if India bowls first, these two can be a handful for the Windies top order.
The spinning duo of Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha will also get some help from the slow nature of the track and if the pacers can get through the top order quickly, West Indies would find it rather difficult to negotiate the spin twins.
However, all eyes will be on Sachin Tendulkar. He has struggled in the past 18 months in Tests and would like to end his career on a high with a big score on his home ground.
As far as the playing XI is concerned, India will not be tinkering with a winning XI. The batting is set, so are the four bowlers. So expect MS Dhoni to field the same eleven that scored a comprehensive win over the Windies in Kolkata.
India Squad: MS Dhoni (c, wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Pragyan Ojha, Umesh Yadav.
Sachin Tendulkar will play his 200th Test but the West Indian great Shivnarine Chamderpaul will also feature in his 150th game at Mumbai. He will become the seventh player to go past the mark of 150 Tests after Sachin Tendulkar (200*), Steve Waugh (168), Ricky Ponting (168), Rahul Dravid (164), Jacques Kallis (164) and Allan Border (156).
It may be a great moment for him but the Caribbean army needs to up their game if they even want to compete with this very strong Indian side. The Darren Sammy led West Indies side looked in the ascendancy on Day 2 in Kolkata but they loosened their grip as Rohit Sharma and Ashwin ran away with the game. Even worse was their batting display in the second essay. Except Darren Bravo and Kieron Powell no other batsmen put up a fight and surrendered in front of a dangerous Md. Shami.
Darren Sammy would be worried about Chris Gayle’s form with the bat and will hope the left-hander to get among the runs at Mumbai.
Their bowling too, except Shane Shillingford, looked flat and lacked any sting. The injury to Kemar Roach came as a huge blow and the debutant Sheldon Cotterel hasn’t really made life difficult for the Indian batsmen. Tino Best tried hard and got the ball to reverse but his inconsistency of line had let him down throughout the previous Test.
However, the biggest problem for the Windies is their captain Darren Sammy. Sammy has to figure out his role in the side. He is, right now, batting one position above where he should be and his bowling hasn’t been incisive enough. Even his captaincy has been ordinary and he has let important moments slip in the Kolkata Test match.
The West Indies squad is pretty thin at this moment and the injury to Kemar Roach has left them in dire straits as far as their bowling options are concerned. There may not be any major change in the XI because West Indies simply don;t have better options. They would be heavily reliant on Shillingford for the wickets and would hope Permaul to chip in with his left-arm spin.
West Indies squad: Darren Sammy (c), Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Tino Best, Sheldon Cottrell, Narsingh Deonarine, Kirk Edwards, Veerasammy Permaul, Kieran Powell, Shane Shillingford, Chadwick Walton.