So near, yet so far!

A disappointed Sachin Tendulkar walks back after being dismissed for 94 runs in the first innings in the Mumbai Test.-K.R. DEEPAK

Sadly, like many tales that resonate for their sheer scale of tragedy, only pathos lingered in a billion hearts and silence reigned at the Wankhede Stadium when Sachin Tendulkar edged Ravi Rampaul straight to Darren Sammy, writes K.C. Vijaya Kumar.

The third Test in Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium was not just about India clashing with the West Indies. It was also about the city's collective yearning to witness its favourite cricketing son's 100th international hundred. “Sachin, Sachin,” remained a long drawn anthem in the stands and when Tendulkar tantalisingly remained unbeaten on 67 at draw of stumps on the third day, expectations reached fever pitch.

The next day dawned with people lining up at the gates and television crews scrambling for space on Marine Drive and indulging in their favourite hobby — sensing the mood of the nation. Tendulkar raced from 67 to 94 in 19 balls, a stadium waited with bated breath, fingers froze on laptops inside the Press Box, journalists, who flew in specifically to witness the great deed, watched expectantly for their ‘I-was-there' moment.

If the collective prayers of an entire nation could do the deed, this was the moment. Sadly, like many tales that resonate for their sheer scale of tragedy, only pathos lingered in a billion hearts and silence reigned at the Wankhede Stadium when Tendulkar edged Ravi Rampaul straight to Darren Sammy. “I told, didn't I? That we might break a few hearts?” Sammy later asked. Tendulkar walked away and the pursuit will now extend to Australia.

The roots that stirred

In a press conference during which Rampaul described the incredulous feeling he had after dismissing Tendulkar, a reporter asked the speedster: “Where are you from in India? Do you know the place?”

Rampaul replied: “Kolkata.” The reporter's eyes widened in amazement and laughter rippled through the room and the Bengali contingent in the press corps had a sense of wonder. Rampaul looked perplexed and he was then informed that the reporter, who probed his roots, was also from Kolkata. The two men looked at each other and smiled and it was a moment that encapsulated the sheer geographical spread of the Indian diaspora.

Laxman and longevity

The days leading to the third Test also marked V. V. S. Laxman's 15th anniversary in the game's longer version. “Before going to bat, Laxman stays calm and has two showers and does his puja,” quipped Virender Sehwag about the most popular player within the Indian dressing room. The Hyderabadi may not have fulfilled his desire to score a Test century at the Wankhede Stadium but his influence was felt around the Press Box.

In a stand adjoining the media enclosure, a group of fans held a placard that read: “Australian government will declare a national holiday on the day V. V. S. Laxman retires.” Later, on a nerve-wracking fifth day, Laxman was dismissed and a scribe said: “Listen to this, Laxman c Barath b Ram!” A fact in the scorecard had surprisingly developed a reference to Ramayana and its famous band of brothers.

Kolaveri Di

A ‘Tanglish' song, that has become a rage on the internet and social networking websites, sneaked into the Press Box during the breaks. The word ‘Kolaveri Di' and its meaning — murderous rage — were explained to inquisitive scribes, who spoke Marathi, Bengali and other languages at home. Music had leapt across linguistic divides and there was no getting away from the song as one night on Marine Drive, a girl leant on a boy's shoulder and from his cell phone wafted a familiar tune — Kolaveri Di! It was obvious that the couple did not know Tamil but the catchy tune and the English-driven nonsensical lyric, has caught everyone's imagination.

26/11 and a new reference

The third anniversary of the ghastly terror strikes on India's financial capital whipped up memories of despair for Mumbaikars. The bullets, the horror, the funerals and the fear were all remembered.

The day ebbed away with a new cloak as on the same date, India and the West Indies played out an incredible draw. Sport can never assuage the wounds left raw by terrorism but at some level it helps people to divert their minds from the terrible traumas of the past.

The lords and their fans

A recurring visual through the Test series, be it Delhi or Kolkata or Mumbai, was the ones involving Indian and West Indian cricketers having a chat after practice sessions. The rookies in the West Indies squad were ardent devotees of Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Laxman.

Prior to the match in Mumbai, Marlon Samuels cracked a few one-liners with Tendulkar and Kirk Edwards said: “When Sachin bats, I tend to focus so much on his batting that I forget to focus on my fielding!”

The bonhomie between the teams is refreshing to watch and even during the heat of a contest, wicket-keeper Carlton Baugh found time to chat with Sehwag. The highlight was when Sammy did a high-five with Dravid after the latter kicked the ball away from his stumps. “Good footballing skills, eh!,” Sammy said.