At around 2 pm on Monday,lensmen and TV crews converged in front of the home dressing room at Eden Gardens. A life-size wax figure of Sachin Tendulkar had become the centre of attention. Susanta Ray,a sculptor from Asansol,was waiting sheepishly to present it to his hero. The photographers wanted the real Tendulkar to come out and stand by the side of his replica.
Tendulkar was waiting in virtual captivity inside the dressing room. He had no option but to oblige. When he did come out,eventually,he was as calm as ever. He had just finished a two-hour net session and was keen to leave for his hotel. Still he retained his smile,had a brief chat with Ray,waved to everyone,and left amid loud cheers.
Questions could be raised about the media frenzy surrounding the Little Master ahead of any Test match. But this one comes with a difference. From November 6,Tendulkar will play his last Test at Eden Gardens. It will be the 199th and penultimate Test of his career. So,emotions run high and the whole city is gripped by Tendulkar mania.
West Bengal sports minister Madan Mitra described this as giving a fitting send off to a legend,Kolkata style. He also said the city of joy would beat Mumbai hands down when it came to love,affection and outpouring of emotion.
Tendulkar knows how much we love and respect him. He wont be unhappy, said Mitra. His words encapsulated Kolkatas mood. The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) is playing its part to up the ante and everyone wants to be a part of the celebration.
Mohun Bagan,East Bengal,Mohammedan Sporting and Kalighat Club have decided to deck up their tents with lights. They also plan to install giant screens at their premises. This a momentous occasion and we all want to be a part of history, said East Bengal Club official Debabrata Sarkar.
When has a the result of a Test match ever been this incidental? When was the last time that no one asked for autographs when MS Dhoni and other star players left the ground? When was the last time Chris Gayle came and went almost unnoticed?
From the fans point of view,everything in this Test is about the little big man. The CAB too have been swayed by the emotion. From showering 199kg of rose petals from the sky to handing out 67,000 Tendulkar masks to the fans on the opening day of the Test on November 6,theyve made some grand plans.
They flagged off a Tendulkar tableau yesterday,with life-size cardboard cutouts of the batting maestro festooned with lights. The state association will gift him a silver banyan tree and unveil a special coin with Tendulkars face embossed on it.
And when the CAB are so active,can Mamata Banerjee government be far behind? The West Bengal government too wants to felicitate the great man. According to a source,the chief minister wants to gift one of her paintings to Tendulkar.
But the government reportedly wants to organise the felicitation programme on November 9,which is the fourth day of the Test. Trouble is,Tendulkar doesnt want to attend any non-cricket event during the match.
He has also turned down the CABs request to attend a felicitation dinner on the eve of the Test. But with the Kolkata Film Festival starting on November 10,the government has asked the CAB to communicate with Tendulkar.
After a long time,Eden Gardens is expected to witness a full house for a Test match for all five days.
Two years ago,when the West Indies played a Test here,the turnout never crossed 10,000 per day. This time,the renovated stadium has a capacity of 67,000 and only 1,500 season tickets remain to be sold.