New Delhi: A prodigal talent who went on to be revered as modern cricket`s greatest batsman, Sachin Tendulkar on Sunday called time on his ODI career after over two decades of phenomenal feats which are unlikely to be replicated for years to come.
A batsman who reminded the great Sir Donald Bradman of himself, Tendulkar bows out as international cricket`s top run-scorer by quite a distance in ODIs. He will, however, continue to play Tests.
At the end of his ODI journey, the 39-year-old right-hander stands on a mammoth mountain of runs -- a whopping 18,426 in 463 matches at an average of 44.83.
The Mumbaikar, fondly called Little Master and Master Blaster by his legion of fans all over the world, however, went through a tormenting lean pitch during the final few months in the game.
But without an iota of doubt, Tendulkar, the only batsman to score 100 international centuries -- 51 in Tests and 49 in ODIs, would be remembered as the greatest batsman to have played the game after Bradman even though his glittering career was not without its low ebbs.
He failed miserably as a captain and was bogged down by the massive responsibility of anchoring Indian batting during a time when the fall of his wicket was akin to the team folding up before the likes of Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid blossomed to take some pressure off him.
All of 16 when he made his debut against a ferocious Pakistani team that boasted of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, Tendulkar gave an early display of his steely resolve when he continued to bat in a blood-soaked shirt despite being hit on his face.
That resolve came to define the little man who had the world`s most feared bowlers bowing in admiration of his talent and skill. His wicket remains the most cherished for all those who managed to have it against their name.
Away from cricket this year, he accomplished another feat by becoming a Rajya Sabha member and has already showed his keenness to improve the sporting scene in India.
He was woefully out of form during India`s Test and ODI whitewash at the hands of England last year and carried the weight of expectations to what turned out to be a horror tour of Australia.
With an over two decade long career, records were fairly routine for Tendulkar but for the cricketing fraternity every run he scored just added to the legend that the diminutive right-hander has become.
Much before his debut on November 15, 1989, Tendulkar`s precocious talent was there to be seen when he shared an unbeaten 664-run stand with buddy Vinod Kambli in the Lord Harris Shield Inter-School Game in 1988.
His first Test century came in England in 1990 at Old Trafford and the Mumbaikar rose in stature after the 1991-92 tour of Australia, hitting sublime hundreds on a Sydney turner and a Perth minefield.
The rest is history. No existing batting record seemed safe. Other than Brian Lara`s Test match highest of 400 not out and first class highest score of 501 not out, every record became Tendulkars.
Tendulkar is also the first batsman in the world to score a double ton in ODIs, a feat he achieved in Gwalior against South Africa in February. This was included in Times magazine`s top 10 sports moments of the year.
A perfect team-man, Tendulkar limited his Twenty20 ambition to the Indian Premier League, ruling himself out of national reckoning lest it upsets the existing equilibrium of the side.
The biggest compliment to his batting came from Bradman himself in 1999 when he said that Tendulkar`s style of playing resembled his style. "That touch I used to feel when I batted," he had said.
Tendulkar`s colossal batting exploits have completely overshadowed his utility as a part-time bowler who revelled in breakthroughs.
He was a complete enigma with the ball, sending down military medium pace, orthodox leg-break and off-spin with the guiles that often caught batsmen off their guard.
His 154 scalps in ODIs underline the fact that Tendulkar could have also staked claim to be that elusive all-rounder that India has been desperately looking for since the legendary Kapil Dev.
But shoulder problems have not allowed him to bowl as much as he and the team would have liked.
In the field, he is among the safest pair of hands in the slip and his flat throw releasing strong arm saw him manning the deep with equal aplomb. He has taken 114 catches in Test cricket and 140 in the ODIs.
The aura only grew in strength because of his impeccable demeanour, on and off the field.