Mumbai - Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed for 74 in the first innings of his 200th and final Test match on Friday, shattering the hopes of a billion Indians praying that the legendary batsman would bow out with a century.
In what may have been his last-ever innings for India, the record-breaking cricketer was caught in the slips on the second morning of play at Mumbai's Wankhede stadium, television footage showed.
He took to the crease to resume against the West Indies to a deafening roar from the crowd and with Indians across the country praying that he could end his glittering career on a high.
The 40-year-old, the world's leading scorer in both Test and one-day cricket and the only batsman to score 100 international centuries, is bowing out after a 24-year career.
Friday morning's innings would be his last if the Indian team do not bat a second time in the match in his hometown of Mumbai, where thousands of fans have gathered to cheer on his emotional farewell.
The end of his innings was met with a stunned silence from the crowd, which turned into a standing ovation as he left the pitch, raising his bat in acknowledgement of the overwhelming support.
Lengthy queues of fans, with painted faces and Indian flags, had snaked down south Mumbai's famed Marine Drive boulevard on Friday morning in hope of catching their idol's final moments of glory.
Within 45 minutes of play he had notched up more than a half century from his overnight score of 38, with each run greeted with frenzied applause, Indian television broadcasts showed.
With many offices and schools closed for the Muslim festival Muharram on Friday, fans across the country gathered around television sets to watch a national hero acclaimed for his off-pitch humility and sporting skills.
"On 38, with a billion prayers," a Hindustan Times headline read ahead of the second day's play. "India waits for the big one," said the Asian Age.
Tendulkar has now gone 40 innings without a Test ton, with the last of his 51 Test centuries nearly two years ago in January 2011 against South Africa.
Since then he has had eight 50-plus scores, including 91 against England at the Oval in August 2011 and 94 versus the West Indies in Mumbai three months later.
His waning powers in recent years had led some to suggest he should have retired earlier, but his god-like popularity in cricket-mad India has remained constant.
Tendulkar had walked in to bat late on Thursday to an ecstatic welcome from the stands, entering through a guard of honour created by his West Indian opponents, television pictures showed.
The batsman's wheelchair-bound mother, Rajni, watched her son bat for the first time after a special ramp was built for her at the stadium. She had previously worried her presence may bring her son bad luck.
Along with Indian politicians, businessmen and Bollywood stars, cricketing greats Brian Lara and Shane Warne flew in for the game at Wankhede, where a huge security force has been deployed.