Sachin mania sweeps Eden Gardens

Kolkata: It was Sachin Tendulkar written all over the Eden Gardens here as thousands of his fans from all walks of life poured in to watch the batting legend in action one last time at the ground in his penultimate and 199th Test match.

Office-goers, who took leaves, and school and college students, who missed their classes, were welcomed at the stadium with large Tendulkar posters, which quoted the champion batsman as saying: "Enjoy your game and chase your dreams, because dreams do come true".

Die-hards fans walked in with `Sachin` painted on their faces in tri-colours. Among those in attendance were Tendulkar`s wife Anjali and son Arjun, who came from Mumbai to cheer him for the second last time.

The toss started amid chants of `Sachin, Sachin` but fans were left disappointed as India lost the toss and West Indies chose to bat first in the opening Test of the two-match series. Half of the seats in the 65,000 capcity Eden were empty.

On hearing the news, many fans chose to stay away from today`s proceedings as they wanted to watch their favourite cricketer bat for the last time at the historic Eden Gardens.

"I will come tomorrow instead. All I want is to see Sachin bat. This is my last opportunity to see him in action here," said banker Vinay Thakur, who cancelled his office leave at 9 am after checking the toss result on his cellphone.

The crowd got the opportunity to cheer Tendulkar when he went to the boundary line as a fielder from the 20th over after India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni introduced spin from both the ends.

Even the match tickets became a collector`s item for fans as it had Sachin photographs and autograph printed on it.

Earlier, playing his 199th match, Tendulkar was presented with a memento by Police Commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha as both the squads wished the maestro best of luck in his farewell series.

Despite all the hype and hoopla surrounding his farewell series, Tendulkar appeared calm and casual as he underwent the fielding drills with his teammates about an hour before the start of play.

Before the start of the game, he was seen playing a friendly football match alongwith his teammates and then did some catching practice in the shadow.

Tendulkar`s ardent fan Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary, who makes it a point to attend all his games, said he expects a triple ton from the champions batsman in his last series.

"It`s tough to believe that he won`t be playing anymore. As a farewell gift to all his fans like me, he should score a triple century," he said.

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