His willow first took guard for India in 1987. The bat has been at his service for 24 years now. And how! It has been scoring runs relentlessly, courtesy its maverick maestro.
The willow-owner we are talking about is a man, who needs no introduction. Time is the testimony of his success. Time has seen him grow by leaps and bounds. Time has made him immortal. And now time will see him go, but no, not before he leaves imprints that will be hard to emulate. The nation is obsessed with him and the hysteria surrounding his retirement is to an extent acceptable.
His swansong will be his 200th Test match, which would also make him the first cricketer to have played so many Tests. Of course, figures related to him don’t astound us anymore. He has been there and done everything humanely possible. Wait…did I say humanely..? In our cricket-frenzied nation, he is equivalent to God. No. He is God.
When he plays his last match at his home ground in Mumbai at the Wankhede stadium, a full house is expected. The nation is supposed to be glued to the television, to see its favourite son for one last time, and of course, when he retires, there ought to be teary-eyed moments. His glories will be sung for generations to come. It is once in 100 years that such icons are made. In his illustrious career, he has created records; the most Test appearances, the most runs, the most centuries, records that are hard to be broken.
Some people started watching the game because of him; some started playing the game because of him. He is idol for some, inspiration for many. He made people believe, chasing dreams is possible.
He made people believe in him. Such was the trust factor, that once when the crowd went berserk at a match, the organisers sent him as a peace ambassador to ease the tension. It did work.
Anecdotes recounting his journey are innumerable. In 1989, at Sialkot, a Waqar Younis delivery hit the sixteen-year old boy hard on nose; there was blood all over but he did not leave the field. He declined medical assistance and went on to score 57 runs in the match. Such was his passion. In 1998, the master blaster scored 134 off only 131 balls, the then-Australian captain Steve Waugh, declared him the best batsman after Bradman. In fact, even Sir Donald Bradman made a confession that he saw his own reflection in the man. Shane Warne had nightmares about him.
Virat Kohli doesn’t know how he will react after the man retires. The T20 team, Mumbai Indians, he plays for, has decided to retire jersey number 10 in his honour.
His dream was to see India lift the World Cup, it was achieved in 2011. There was a time, when he used to come to bat, as apocryphal it might sound, the nation use to come to a standstill. He was match-winner, brilliant stroke master, a rescue-ranger. The nation and the team depended on him and the Little Master carried this responsibility on his shoulders efficiently. He has been playing cricket for 24 years. Some of his current team mates were not even born then.
As a person, his fellow team mates vouch for him. He has no controversial past records. His stature has reached such heights that people refuse to even talk about his drawbacks. Not that there are many.
He says it will be hard for him to imagine life without cricket. We say it is hard to imagine cricket without him.
Sachin Tendulkar, as clichéd as it may sound, you are irreplaceable and the void you leave in millions hearts, in the dressing room, and in the game will never be filled. Never.