Sachin Tendulkar's 'living a dream' phase winds down as he begins his final Test match
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As a child, Sachin Tendulkar was known to sleepwalk. Years later, he would confess to insomnia. On the eve of matches, Tendulkar would lie awake till the wee hours. For all perfectionists, sleepless nights come with the turf.
Just the other day at Lahli, speaking to the awe-struck Haryana players after his last domestic game, Tendulkar revealed his encyclopaedic pre-game checklist. Pitch condition, strokes suitable for the surface, dimensions of the field ... and, finally, a threadbare analysis of the bowlers. With so much mental maths to do, Tendulkar was usually too preoccupied to count sheep and steal a few winks.
The eve of his 200th Test will be the same. Or rather, very different.
From his room at Taj — by the way, the man of the moment has politely moved out of the special suite to the floor where his team mates are staying — Tendulkar, on Thursday, the first day of his final Test, is likely to emerge bleary-eyed. And it wouldn't be because he was tense under the blanket wondering of a way to read Shane Shillingford's doosra on Wankhede's 'live and kicking' red soil.
A couple of years ago, when Rahul Dravid was contemplating retirement, Tendulkar gave him a valuable piece of advice. During his dream run against England in the summer of 2011, Dravid spoke about those words of wisdom. Don't set a date to quit as it will keep playing on your mind, was what Tendulkar said. The thought of doing everything that is dear to you for one last time, he had added, can exhaust you emotionally, which isn't the ideal state of mind for a professional sportsperson.
To say that Tendulkar didn't practise what he preached would be silly. Brand Tendulkar is much bigger than Dravid. In a way, it's even more influential than Tendulkar himself. A Dravid kind of low-key departure for Tendulkar would have made fans, corporates and the media feel cheated. The nation famous for its big fat weddings instead got enough time to plan a long, extended and over-the-top farewell.