The following game: Impressions of nation's adulation as Sachin's cricketing journey makes final three stops

Sachin TendulkarThanks to an inept opposition in Mumbai, 'Anjali Bhabhi' didn't have to wait till Tuesday (IE Photo Ravi Kanojia)

Sandeep Dwivedi, Shamik Chakrabarty & Mihir Vasavda record their impressions of a nation's adulation as Sachin Tendulkar's cricketing journey, spanning a quarter century, makes its final three stops

New Delhi

October 25

It's 48 hours to go for Sachin Tendulkar's last domestic game. Even before he could meet him, Tendulkar's minder has lost him. The designated shadow: Dr Gaurav Virman, one-time Haryana U-19 batsman, who now two-times as a cricket official in Lahli and businessman in Faridabad. To be fair to the doctor, he did follow the good old 'Escorting Tendulkar from Airport' drill. Well, almost. He was on time at the arrival lounge, had a bouquet in hand and a luxury car in tow. But he still missed his Man. Hearsay has it that these days Tendulkar is contractually bound to only travel in the car he endorses. So a BMW waits for him everywhere.

Lahli

October 25

Virmani, finally, catches up with Tendulkar at the hotel. It's a poignant journey to interior India, once home to cricket's insignificant many, but now well represented in Team India. It's where the unheard and unseen majority pursue the nation's shared passion to make this a country of a billion cricket experts. Before the well-marketed and corporate farewell by city slickers at Eden and Wankhede; it was time for the warm hug of the heartland.

Haryana's rural folk are charmingly rude. Almost by instinct, they choose coarse over courteous. Ask for direction to Chaudhary Bansi Lal Stadium and a young boy, possibly still in school, takes pains to draw a detailed road map. Though overtly helpful, his tone is strikingly harsh. "Na samajh aave tere ko, tu aage pooch le," says the slight teenager. Shock turns to smile upon reaching the highway parting lush fields. It's a bit of farm-wall graffiti that catches the eye. "Bhuppi tere raaj mein, fasal gayee vyaaj mein." When a political heavyweight, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, 66, is referred to as 'Bhuppi"; you don't stand a chance.

... contd.

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