India could bid farewell to Sachin Tendulkar sooner than later as Test match with West Indies looms, writes Dileep Premachandran.
India planning send off for legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar
The awareness of sand hurtling towards the bottom of the timer has been found among foreign fans, too.
As long ago as Australia in 2007/08, Tendulkar walked out to standing ovations at every venue, as he did in England in the summer of 2011.
After 198 Tests spread over nearly 24 years, the finish line may finally be in sight. After the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had a working committee meeting in Kolkata on Sunday, it was announced that West Indies had been invited to tour India for two Tests and five ODIs later this year, a step that casts further doubt over the tour of South Africa which was supposed to take place between November and January.
The itineraries for the tours of New Zealand (January-February 2014) and England (July-September 2014) were approved, but there was only ominous silence when it came to the series that was to precede them.
Indian displeasure at Haroon Lorgat being appointed chief executive of Cricket South Africa (CSA) was acute, given their run-ins with him when he was chief executive of the International Cricket Council, but few expected a marquee series to be held hostage as a result.
If West Indies do take up the invitation - and who would refuse the BCCI? - it is not possible for the South Africa series to start before the second week of December.
The itinerary planned by Cricket South Africa, yet to be approved by their Indian counterparts, had the tour starting almost a month earlier than that. As things stand, it is hard to see how it will take place.
India's A team, featuring a sprinkling of Test players, acquitted themselves well in South Africa recently, winning a triangular series featuring the A sides from South Africa and Australia, and squaring a two-game first-class series.
Now, it appears as though all that advance preparation may have been for nothing.
The proposed itinerary for the West Indies series has clearly been drawn up with a Tendulkar farewell in mind. The first Test will be at Eden Gardens, India's most storied venue, and the second at the Wankhede in Mumbai, where India won the World Cup two and a half years ago.
If he plays both, the match on home turf will be Tendulkar's 200th Test, and almost certainly his last.
He has already played 30 Tests more than anyone else - Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting finished on 168 apiece - and the tally of 51 centuries is unlikely to be broken. Another 163 runs will take him past 16,000, another landmark beyond the imagination of most.
Regardless of whether the bad blood with CSA is sorted out, Tendulkar looks likely to get his hometown farewell.
Steve Waugh earned it in January 2004 in Sydney, exiting with 80 after Tendulkar caught him off Anil Kumble's bowling. A decade on, Indian cricket's most-celebrated era is also almost over.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE