Indian cricket great walks off to roars from crowd

C. RAJSHEKHAR RAO (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

MUMBAI, India (AP) -- When the crowd realized it was the end, they were stunned into silence.

Soon, the polite applause turned into a roar that grew louder and louder Friday as India's greatest cricket batsman walked closer to what is likely his final exit.

Sachin Tendulkar, known as the ''Little Master'' to more than a billion adoring fans, scored 74 runs against the West Indies in what could be his final batting appearance for India. But he was 26 runs shy of his 101st century, spoiling the wishes of the full house at Wankhede Stadium and millions more TV viewers who had begun to anticipate a storybook ending in his international swansong.

After Tendulkar edged a delivery that was caught by Darren Sammy, the opposing team barely celebrated as the 40-year-old Indian great immediately turned and headed to the clubhouse, tucking his bat under his arm with grim disappointment etched on his face.

Not until he was almost off the field did he take off his helmet, wipe his brow and raise his bat to acknowledge the crescendo of cheers.

''He has crossed boundaries, meant something to everyone, which is why you see such outpouring of emotion,'' former India captain Rahul Dravid said in the TV booth. ''He has touched the lives of so many people over the years.''

Tendulkar hit 12 fours and faced 118 balls, playing both spin and pace with stylish ease.

''It was disappointing to see him get out but he played some incredible drives,'' said India allrounder Yuvraj Singh, who was also speaking on television. ''When he walked in, how everyone cheered for him, well that was just amazing to see - the love of people for him.''

There's a chance Tendulkar could bat again, but that depends on the course of the test over the next three days.

The remarkable clamour for Tendulkar began before play on the second day of the test as he knocked the ball around in practice and spoke to Australia spin great Shane Warne, who is doing TV commentary.

People were still pouring into the stands when the greatest batsman of his generation, the holder of all the meaningful international batting records, walked onto the field of his hometown stadium to another rousing reception.

Tendulkar came into the day with 38 runs, and added to his total in front of a crowd that included his wheelchair-bound mother Rajni, watching him live for the first time in his 200th and last test.

But, sadly, the century wasn't to be for the ''Little Master.''

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