x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Tendulkar-Dravid exits steal Champions League T20 final

Mumbai Indians beat Rajasthan Royals to clinch title but crowd were more focused on fact it was last time India's batting legends graced field together, writes Dileep Premachandran.

The India batting legends Sachin Tendulkar, left, and Rahul Dravid have 91,659 runs between them across all three formats. Pavel Rahman / AP Photo
The India batting legends Sachin Tendulkar, left, and Rahul Dravid have 91,659 runs between them across all three formats. Pavel Rahman / AP Photo

Nina Simone introduces her haunting rendition of Who Knows Where the Time Goes with a little monologue. “Time is a dictator as we know it,” she says. “Where does it go? What does it do? Most of all, is it alive?”

Time was on the minds of many Indian cricket fans last night, as Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid graced a field together for the final time. For Tendulkar, it was a final game in a Mumbai Indians shirt. For Dravid, it was his last competitive outing. It really was the sort of occasion that made you sit up and ask: Where did the time go?

They came into the final of the Champions League Twenty20 with 91,659 runs between them across the three formats. Of their 231 hundreds, Tendulkar had scored 142. In the Test arena, their partnership – 6,920 runs, with 20 century stands – is unlikely to ever be surpassed. And the mutual regard was very evident in the build-up to the game.

“He was someone you looked up to as a cricketer because, growing up, you saw this young kid do amazing things around the world,” Dravid said. “It was an inspiration for all of us playing first-class cricket, that if this guy can do it, maybe we can do it. Growing up and to be on that England tour in 1996, sharing a dressing room with him, it was a huge thrill.”

“Any day, in my team, he would be No 3,” Tendulkar said. “There are so many innings when he has batted brilliantly. When most of the guys found it difficult and he was comfortable. He loved challenges and when the situation demanded, you could bank on Rahul.”

They last played together in India colours at Adelaide in January 2012, at the end of a series that was lost 4-0. The intervening months had not been kind. Dravid had a decent IPL, but in previous CLT20 games, he had looked very much like a man who no longer played the game day in, day out. Tendulkar, too, had started the tournament poorly, before a lovely cameo against Trinidad & Tobago in the semi-final rolled back the years.

In the final, he was fortunately to survive a vociferous leg-before shout from Shane Watson when he had made just one. A lovely back-foot push for four off James Faulkner, feet so deep in the crease that you feared the bails might be dislodged, got the Feroz Shah Kotla crowd roaring, as did a neat glance for four off Watson. When the next ball was dismissed with the most gorgeous of off-drives, you feared for eardrums inside the venue.

But this was not the Tendulkar of Sharjah 1998 or the Centurion destroyer of 2003. This was a man, at 40, whose reflexes aren’t quite what they once were. Watson’s next ball jagged back off the seam, found a sizeable gap between bat and pad, and sent off stump cartwheeling.

The Mumbai Indians welcomed him back to the dugout with a guard of honour. Dravid stayed out in the middle, only to be stymied by a new generation of batsmen who know no fear and whose bats come down like wrecking balls rather than scimitars.

His young guns, Sanju Samson (60 off 33 balls) and Ajinkya Rahane (65 off 47), kept Rajasthan in the game till the last, but by the time Dravid walked in at No 8, they needed 44 from 18 balls.

The first ball he faced was worked through midwicket for a single. The second, an inswinger from Nathan Coulter-Nile, a bowler he wanted to sign before the last IPL, uprooted middle and leg stumps.

And just like that, an era had passed. For the old-timers in the crowd, the fact that Mumbai won was almost incidental.

sports@thenational.ae