As the hype surrounding Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement reaches a crescendo,Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said the senior batsman should simply “enjoy his last Test match to the fullest” as there are “no guarantees” of a fairytale hundred that all his fans are hoping for.
As India get set to take on the West Indies in the second and final Test,Dhoni found himself questioned relentlessly on just one man — Tendulkar,who would be retiring at the end of it.
“I would like him (Tendulkar) to enjoy his last Test match. As much as you want him to score hundred,double hundred or triple hundred,you can’t guarantee performance,” Dhoni said in a very practical reply to one of the innumerable questions he answered about the retiring legend in the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
But Dhoni certainly wants Tendulkar,the ‘Man with Golden Arm’ to get a few breakthroughs.
“Since this is his last Test match,I would like him to enjoy to the fullest and may be get a few wickets for us. That will be fun as one expects some turn and bounce from the wicket,” Dhoni said.
It was inevitable that all questions were directly or indirectly related to Tendulkar but Dhoni again stressed that “focus was on the match” as there was “no point talking about the distractions”.
“It will be one of the greatest matches in cricketing history but as it is his last game,we need to keep it as normal as possible. There are plenty of things going around. We have done our best to keep focus at the right place. For us,enjoying the moment is the key,” the skipper said.
The most appealing aspect of Tendulkar’s 24-year-journey,according to Dhoni,is how he handled success.
“With due respect to the greats of earlier generation,they didn’t have to face the kind of pressure Tendulkar faced. It was not only about his success but how he handled it in all these years.
“I have seen a lot of foreign players who can handle on-field success but when it came to handling the off-field pressure,they buckle down. That’s what makes Tendulkar special.”
Dhoni also said that there has been no visible change in the maestro’s body language and the team members also want to keep it as simple as possible.
“If you ask about the body language,I have not seen any change. As far as doing anything special is concerned,we would like to keep things simple. As it is,everyone is trying to do something special. We do have a few things on our mind. But you guys need to wait and concentrate on the match,” the skipper said in jest.
Talk about whether the transition phase is complete and the Gen-Next is ready to survive the rigours on foreign soil,Dhoni gave a pointed reply.
“Taiyari toh main yehaan pe India mein khelke bata nahin sakta. Woh to tab pata chalega jab yeh log bahaar khelne jayenge. (I can’t talk about how prepared they are playing in India. It will only be proved once they play abroad).”
“You can’t have a replacement for Sachin Tendulkar or a Rahul Dravid. But you have to accept these youngsters at face value. They will have their own characters. A Virat Kohli should play as Virat Kohli. A Cheteshwar Pujara irrespective of how he bats would bring a different character to the team,” Dhoni explained.
Dhoni believes that if Tendulkar,Sourav Ganguly,VVS Laxman “brought colour to the team”,the new crop of players will “bring a different set of colours”.
“It’s not that cricket won’t remain colourful. New players will bring new colours. You can’t expect the new generation to bring the same colour that Tendulkar,Ganguly or VVS brought. These youngsters will also bring a lot of colour to the side.”
“It’s no wonder that for any cricketer,it was a privilege to share the field and dressing room with Tendulkar and Dhoni feels that he is blessed.
“I played 8-10 years with him. He guided the youngsters and showed us how to perform under pressure. The most emotional moment with him was winning the World Cup. The boys found it difficult to control their emotions. I have spent quite a number of Diwalis with him on various tours. We burst crackers together,” Dhoni recollected.
Dhoni had some words of encouragement for the West Indies team who were pathetic in the opening Test that ended in three days.
“It’s not fair to judge them on the basis of one match. They have some really good players and some quality fast bowlers.”
Dhoni said that Mohammed Shami’s deadly reverse swing was the reason for the Kolkata Test ending inside three days as the “pitch didn’t look like one that would have a match end in three days”.
On the Wankhede strip,Dhoni’s assessment was “It’s still a little damp. One will only get a feel before the match tomorrow.”
Dhoni is also not keen with the idea of releasing Ajinkya Rahane and Ishant Sharma for the Ranji Trophy ‘derby’ between Delhi and Mumbai being played at the Bandra Kurla Complex ground (BKC).
“If we release one player,then other state associations will say that why not release my player and ideally you don’t want to get into that situation. Also,we need a good fielder if someone goes out.
“Also for the bowlers,the first XI bowlers don’t like to bowl in the nets during match days so the batsman would ideally like to face a good bowler.”