Sachin Tendulkar is so beloved in India that when tickets for the India vs. West Indies cricket test went on sale earlier this week, close to 19 million people jammed the ticket seller’s website, rendering it useless.
Several thousands more people gathered at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, despite the fact that tickets were only being sold online. When told that they would have to go home and log onto their computers to buy tickets to the cricket test, the fans became unruly and it took police to break up the near-riot.
The India vs. West Indies match is far from an average contest. It will be the 200th and final for Sachin Tendulkar, the beloved 40-year-old who has sparked a fervor in his home country.
Tendulkar has broken nearly ever record there is in cricket during his 25-year career, and admitted that leaving the sport will be difficult.
“It’s hard for me to imagine a life without playing cricket because it’s all I have ever done since I was 11 years old,” he said in announcing his retirement.
Across Mumbai, fans are anticipating his final match, with signs wishing him well and murals of his face were painted on sides of buildings.
The match is so highly anticipated that tickets on sale for 1,500 rupees ($24) are on the black market for 60,000 rupees ($950).
Sachin Tendulkar himself has 500 tickets to the match, and already gave one away to his disabled mother. Tendulkar wanted her to get the chance to see him play for the first time, and was so determined to get her to the match that he arranged for a wheelchair ramp to be installed at the stadium.
Another ticket went to Ramakant Achrekar, his former coach. Arcrekar is now 82 and partially paralyzed, but his daughter said Ramakant shed tears when he learned that Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement.
“It was a very emotional meeting. Dad had five daughters but his two sons died young so he treats Sachin as if he were his own son. I think he might shed a few more tears this week,” said his daughter, Kalpana.
Sachin Tendulkar will play his last match for India vs. West Indies on Thursday at 9:30 IST.