We want Sachin Tendulkar out first ball: Darren Sammy
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I have played enough cricket in India to know how the noise levels climb a few notches whenever Sachin Tendulkar enters the scene. And I know it's going to be crazier when he walks down the steps of the Wankhede Stadium in November, one last time. Not to forget the three innings before that. But I can assure you that every time Sachin walks out to bat in his final series, we will look to get him out first ball.
This is not to say that we don't realise the magnitude of the event. This will be the last time the passionate Indian fans will get to see their biggest hero on a cricket ground.
The atmosphere is going to be emotional and surreal but we are there as a proud team looking to win a Test match. And for that we need to take 20 wickets, including Tendulkar's. Plus, all my bowlers will be motivated to get him out. There's history at stake after all. All of them, including yours truly, will want to be the bowler who dismissed the great man for the last time. And there's going to be great competition amongst us. So we'll all come extra hard at him.
Probably at the end of the day, we will sit down for a drink with him, and celebrate the 24 years he has spent amazing the cricket world. But there's no question of us dropping our guard and getting swayed by Tendulkar mania. As the captain of the West Indies, I am more focused on being competitive during the Test series, and try and post a win in India.
We as a team have had a good run over the last 18 months in Test cricket and have climbed up the rankings. Our goal is clear when we reach India, which is to keep improving. Winning in India is never easy. This time, I am sure Sachin will be all over the place, and there will be a lot of off-field distractions we'll have to deal with. We'll do our bit to celebrate the legacy of Tendulkar, but once the match is underway, it'll just be an India vs West Indies Test match and not about one man. We will be pragmatic, and as captain it will be my responsibility to keep my lads focused.
I did get a taste of it when we toured here last time in 2011 and Tendulkar stood a few runs away from his 100th international century. The Wankhede was a cauldron. And it was me who hung onto that catch at slip off Ravi's (Rampaul) bowling to get rid of him for 94. It was a great moment as an opposition captain, even though I knew Darren Sammy probably lost a lot of friends that day across India. I spoiled what was shaping up to be a crazy party in Mumbai. But it has to be my greatest Sachin moment. I've seen him play so many incredible knocks on television but the time I foiled his 100th hundred will be my special moment. That wicket also set up a great finish.
Tendulkar has always been one of my heroes. You would want legends like him to keep playing forever, but unfortunately everyone has to move on. This will be the last time we'll see Sachin Tendulkar on a cricket field. I can't imagine how it must feel for anyone involved with Indian cricket, including the millions of fans around the world.
The other day, I was messaging Ishu (Ishant Sharma), whom I've got to know really well thanks to my time with Sunrisers Hyderabad, about our impending tussle in the two-Test series. And I told him, "Listen we are going to be part of history".
Growing up, like everyone in the Caribbean, I was keyed in to the never-ending Tendulkar vs Lara debate. I obviously always sided with Brian Lara but Sachin was always a great inspiration.
My conversations in high school about Sachin generally revolved around one shot of his. The one where he stands tall on his backfoot and punches a length delivery past the fast bowler for four. I have always been amazed by that shot, and my friends and I would spend hours discussing it. I have been at the receiving end of that Tendulkar special on a few occasions whenever I've bowled to him. But come November, I hope I won't see it even once.
Though I never got to see Tendulkar bat in person during the 1990s, I remember watching Courtney Browne (former West Indies wicketkeeper) drop a simple skier off Sachin early on during the 1996 World Cup. He went on to make an explosive 70 against an attack that had Walsh, Ambrose and Bishop. That innings left a huge mark on me.
I first met him during a Tsunami Relief match at Lord's in 2005, when I was a member of the MCC staff. Like any other starry-eyed fan, I told him that I had grown up watching him bat and asked him for his autograph, which I still have with me back home. I was touched by his humility. Here was the great Tendulkar and he was ready to greet me and have a chat with me.
We've had battles on the field and have had many conversations. But to be honest, for some of us, even a 'good morning' from him is huge. He is one of the greatest ambassadors that cricket has produced.
At the Wankhede, I will exchange greetings and a few words with Sachin, or try to, before the Test begins. Of course, I will also be keen to collect some memorabilia and take it with me. It is going to be a historic occasion and I too want a piece of it for keeps.
The threats to Sachin
Speaking to this paper last month, Craig McDermott revealed his theory as Australia's bowling coach to thwart Sachin Tendulkar: dragging him wide by bowling to his 'fifth' stump, with the odd ball nipping in from a straighter angle. The strategy worked Down Under in 2011-12 and other teams have also caught on. In fact, all his 14 dismissals against pace in the last two years have come as a result of drives away from his body or from sharp inswingers beating his defence. The West Indians have some bowlers with the potential to trouble Tendulkar in this manner. Tendulkar has also fallen prey to off-spinners, Nathan Lyon and Graeme Swann in particular. Both of them employed a line strictly outside his off stump, getting him either bowled through the gate on the drive or caught by the close-in catchers.
Kemar Roach: The skiddy pacer from Barbados has rushed a number of high-quality batsmen including Ricky Ponting. He bowls a mean inswinger, and 27 out of his 85 Test victims, or close to 30 per cent, have been bowled. Roach also bowls a fuller length than most other West Indian pacers and can get the ball to straighten and threaten the outside edge, much like Peter Siddle. His only flaw is a tendency to bowl no-balls.
Tino Best: A loose cannon on most days, his unpredictability doubled with an extra yard of pace can pose a threat to anyone. Best's main weapon is his ability to move the new ball away from the right-hander at pace and an inswinger bowled from wide of the crease. Tino the showman also has a penchant for testing the bounce of every wicket he bowls on and will test the 40-year-old Tendulkar's reflexes with a spate of short-pitched deliveries
Darren Sammy: The West Indian captain is his team's Mr Consistency with the ball. Bowling only at medium-pace, Sammy is still a dual-purpose bowler. He can be accurate and plug one end up, and could be the best bet to utilise the 'fifth' stump tactic against Tendulkar. He's otherwise a stump-to-stump operator and uses his cutters intelligently, with catchers positioned at short cover or short midwicket.
Sheldon Cotterell: If Cotterell does get a go, the pacy left-armer's best bet against Tendulkar would be bringing the ball in at sharp pace like Mitchell Starc or Trent Boult have done with success in the recent past.
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