Saturday, November 16, 2013

Wake me up when November comes

I will never forget November 16, 2013. For it is the day that I was dreading the most ever since India won the World Cup in April 2011 - the day Sachin Tendulkar retired from cricket. He had already called time on his ODI career in December 2012 and from IPL in May 2013... retirement from Test match cricket was imminent. And on 10 Oct 2013 when he announced his retirement, the time for debate was well and truly over.

 The dreaded announcement

"Forgive them, for they do not know what they do"

But I just didn't want to say goodbye. Perhaps that's why I have not been able to get myself to read a since article amidst the unprecedented media deluge. (The American media even compared Sachin's retirement to Mahatma Gandhi's death! Read the articles from Wall Street Journal and NY Times)

I didn't bother trying to get a ticket to Wankhade. Neither could I get myself to see a single ball during the farewell series.

I missed the swansong innings of 74. It was as if I wanted to be in a time capsule. The broken set-top box was my best friend. Today once the news broke that Md. Shami uprooted Gabriel's middle stump to give India the series 2-0 - it finally struck me. It was all over. The flag-bearer of Indian cricket had waved a final goodbye.

Waving our flag.

At about 6 pm when I finally gathered enough courage to switch on the TV. The time capsule burst. I saw a couple of vintage shots of his last innings of 74. The final battle where he brought Tino Best to his knees like so many before him. I heard the deafening silence of the crowd when he got out. I stood up with the crowd to give him one last standing ovation as he walked back after his final innings.

 His final bow.

I saw the guard of honour that Team India gave him as Sachin walked off barely able to hold back the tears. I wept. I heard snatches of the stirring goodbye speech. I wept some more. A part of me died today.

Legends don't retire.

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar was cricket for my generation. Why? Because he gave us hope when there was none. And in doing so, he has cemented his place in history as one of the greatest sportsmen and holds almost every batting record in the game. His last Test match against West Indies was his 200th. He has scored nearly16,000 Test runs, 18,000-plus one-day international runs, 51 Test centuries and 100 international centuries. Sadly the triple century never came - maybe he's mortal after all... sigh!

"Those figures will almost certainly never be surpassed, simply because of the sheer unlikelihood of a player breaking into an international side aged 16, staying in it until the age of 40, and spending almost all of the intervening period at the very top of his game," the WSJ article said. Well, here are the staggering numbers of the best cricketer that the world has ever seen:

Sachin bowed out of international cricket after his 200th Test match - 24 years and one day after his first. He played in 664 international matches, scoring 34,357 runs and making 100 centuries. He scored almost 2,500 more Test runs than the second-placed batsman, Ricky Ponting:
SRT: First amongst equals
Here are some of Sachin's mind boggling records:
  1. In 24 years, Tendulkar has played in 90 different venues which is a record. Tendulkar has played with and against 989 international cricketers. That includes 141 Indian cricketers and 848 opponents. 
  2. Tendulkar remains the only cricketer to take more than 150 wickets (154) and score more than 15,000 runs (18,426) in ODIs. 
  3.  1,894 ODI Runs in 1998: These are most runs scored by a batsman in any season in ODI cricket. Tendulkar scored 9 centuries that year. 
  4.  In the six World Cup appearances (1992 to 2011), Tendulkar has amassed 2,560 runs at an average of 56.95 – the most by any player in the history of the event. The best moment of his career came on 2 April 2011 when he won the World Cup.
  5. Tendulkar leads the list of most Man-of-the-match awards in ODI cricket with 62. Sanath Jayasuriya with 48 is second. The third on the list is South Africa’s Jacques Kallis with 32 awards. He also has 15 Man-of-the-series awards - another record.
  6. Sachin Tendulkar has scored 51 Test centuries in his 24-year Test career. He hit his first century against England at Manchester in August 1990 and his last ton was against South Africa at Cape Town in January 2011. 
  7. Sachin Tendulkar took five years to score his first ODI hundred. The moment he got his first ton against Australia at Colombo in 1994, the little master’s career took off and he never looked back. His last ODI ton was his hundredth international hundred scored against Bangladesh at Dhaka in 2012. He was also the first man to score a double century in ODIs.

1973 Born 24 April, Mumbai
1988 Scores 100 not out in his first first-class match for Bombay against Gujarat in the Ranji Trophy – becoming the youngest cricketer to score a century on his first-class debut, aged 15 years and 232 days
1989 Makes Test debut for India against Pakistan in Karachi at the age of 16.
December: makes ODI debut against Pakistan but is dismissed by Waqar Younis without scoring a run
1990 Scores maiden Test century against England at Old Trafford
1992 At the age of 19 he becomes the first overseas-born player to represent Yorkshire
1994 September: hits his first ODI century against Sri Lanka in Colombo after 79 one-day matches
1996 Leading run-scorer at World Cup played in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, with a total of 523 runs
August: takes on the India captaincy, although suffers two relatively unsuccessful stints during a four-year period, winning only four Tests and 23 ODIs
1997 Named Wisden Cricketer of the Year
1998 Scores his first double century for Mumbai against Australia in the Brabourne Stadium
1999 November: involved in India's highest run-scoring ODI partnership with Rahul Dravid as the pair put on 339 against New Zealand. In the same match, he records the highest individual ODI score in Indian history, with an unbeaten 186
2000 Gives up the captaincy of India after the two-Test series with South Africa
2001 Given a suspended ban of one game in light of alleged ball tampering during a match against South Africa at St George's Park, Port Elizabeth. The ban is later lifted by the International Cricket Council after an investigation
2003 Named Player of the Tournament at the 2003 Cricket World Cup and scores 673 runs, the highest by any player in the tournament
2005 Overtakes Sunil Gavaskar's record of the highest number of Test centuries by clinching his 35th against Sri Lanka in Delhi
2006 Overtakes Kapil Dev by securing the record for the highest amount of Test appearances for India, with 135
2007 January 3: edges past Brian Lara's world record of runs scored in Tests away from home, with 5,751 runs.
June: becomes the first player to score more than 15,000 ODI runs during a match against South Africa in Belfast
2008 March: plays a record-breaking 417th ODI match against Australia

August: becomes only the third player in Test match history, and the first from India, to play 150 matches when he is selected in the third Test against Sri Lanka
June: nominated as the "Icon Player" of IPL franchise Mumbai Indians, signing a deal worth $1,121,250 per season
October 17: becomes the highest run-scorer in Test cricket, passing Lara's previous mark of 11,953, when he reaches 16 in the first innings of the second Test against Australia
2010 February 24: Scores the first double-century in one-day international history, hitting an unbeaten 200 against South Africa
April: named player of IPL3 after finishing as the tournament's top run-scorer
3 August: becomes most-capped player in Test history, making his 169th Test appearance in the third Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo to overtake former Australia captain Steve Waugh
19 December: becomes first batsman to hit 50 Test centuries, achieving the feat against South Africa in Centurion
2011 March: hits two tournament centuries as co-hosts India win the World Cup.

Read "The Age of Tendulkar" by Shashi Tharoor for Wisden India
November: becomes the first man to score 15,000 Test runs during series against West Indies
2012 March: scores his 100th international century in an Asia Cup match against Bangladesh, the first player to do so
2013 October: announces impending Test retirement
23 December: announces retirement from one-day international cricket
2013 10 October: announces he will retire from Test cricket after playing in his 200th Test against the West Indies in November
16 December: plays last and 200th Test match for India.


It's easy to see why the WSJ article further described Tendulkar as "more or less" cricket itself given that he has been the game's "most recognisable figure for two decades, its biggest star and very frequently its finest batsman. His retirement removes a constant from cricket - the game's purest source of technically perfect batting pleasure, a source none of us really believed in our heart of hearts would ever go away."

The NYT op-ed said it would be "entirely accurate" to describe Tendulkar as the most revered contemporary Indian, "or even, with only a pinch of hyperbole, the most revered Indian since Mahatma Gandhi held the nation in thrall. Suspend your disbelief and think of him as a cross between Babe Ruth and Martin Luther King."

Superman or God. That's the only debate.

We simply love Sachin! Why - read this article by Ramchandra Guha for BBC

It's only fitting that he has been awarded the Bharat Ratna today (another record - SRT is the youngest ever recipient and the first sportsman to get India's highest civilian award). And about time too if you see the parallels between Sachin's career and the Indian economy - read this Business Today article!

It has been a shade of 24 years since he first captured the imagination of everyone on 15 Nov 1989 at Karachi. The win over the Windies at Wankhade completes the full set - he has now won each one of his farewell matches: Test, ODI, T20, Ranji Trophy, IPL and CLT20!

Sachin immortalised by Paul Trevillion

After two decades of glory and a lifetime of memories, all I can say is that it has been a privilege to have seen Sachin bat. Thank you Sachin!

The morning after

On the day Sachin played his 200 Test match, this is also the 200th and the last post on this blog. That's all folks! Wake me up when November comes.


That's all folks!

The day Cricket died.

Sachin walks in to bat... The last walk back to the pavilion...

The King's Speech

All my friends. Settle down let me talk, I will get more and more emotional (crowd gets louder and louder as he composes himself). My life, between 22 yards for 24 years, it is hard to believe that that wonderful journey has come to an end, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank people who have played an important role in my life. Also, for the first time in my life I am carrying this list, to remember all the names in case I forget someone. I hope you understand. It's getting a little bit difficult to talk but I will manage. 

The most important person in my life, and I have missed him a lot since 1999 when he passed away, my father. Without his guidance, I don't think I would have been standing here in front of you. He gave me freedom at the age of 11, and told me that [I should] chase my dreams, but make sure you do not find short cuts. The path might be difficult, but don't give up, and I have simply followed his instructions. Above all, he told me to be a nice human being, which I will continue to do and try my best. Every time I have done something special [and] showed my bat, it was [for] my father.

My mother, I don't know how she dealt with such a naughty child like me. I was not easy to manage. She must be extremely patient. For a mother, the most important thing is that her child remains safe and healthy and fit. That was what she was most bothered and worried about. She took care of me for the last 24 years that I have played for India, but even before that she started praying for me the day I started playing cricket. She just prayed and prayed and I think her prayers and blessings have given me the strength to go out and perform, so a big thank you to my mother for all the sacrifices. 

In my school days, for four years, I stayed with my uncle and aunt because my school was quite far from my home, and they treated me like their son. My aunt, after having had a hard day's play, I would be half asleep and she would be feeding me food so I could go again and play tomorrow. I can't forget these moments. I am like their son and I am glad it has continued to be the same way.

My eldest brother, Nitin, and his family, have always encouraged me. My eldest brother doesn't like to talk much, but the one thing he always told me is that whatever you do, I know you will always give it 100%, and that I have full faith and confidence in you. His encouragement meant a lot to me. 

My sister, Savita, and her family, was no different. The first cricket bat of my life was presented to me by my sister. It was a Kashmir willow bat. But that is where the journey began. She is one of those many who still continue to fast when I bat, so thank you very much. 

Ajit, my brother, now what do I talk about him? I don't know. We have lived this dream together. He was the one who sacrificed his career for my cricket. He spotted the spark in me. And it all started from the age of 11 when he took me to Archrekar sir, my coach, and from there on my life changed. You will find this hard to believe but even last night he called to discuss my dismissal, knowing that there was a remote chance of batting again, but just the habit we have developed, the rapport we have developed, since my birth, has continued and it will continue. Maybe when I'm not playing cricket we will still be discussing technique. Various things we agreed upon, my technique, and so many technical things which I didn't agree with him, we have had arguments and disagreements, but when I look back at all these things in my life, I would have been a lesser cricketer.

The most beautiful thing happened to me in 1990 when I met my wife, Anjali. Those were special years and it has continued and will always continue that way. I know Anjali, being a doctor; there was a wonderful career in front of her. When we decided to have a family, Anjali took the initiative to step back and say that 'you continue with your cricket and I will take the responsibility of the family'.
Without that, I don't think I would have been able to play cricket freely and without stress. Thanks for bearing with all my fuss and all my frustrations, and all sorts of rubbish that I have spoken. Thanks for bearing with me and always staying by my side through all the ups and downs. You are the best partnership I've had in my life. 

Then, the two precious diamonds of my life, Sara and Arjun. They have already grown up. My daughter is 16, my son is 14. Time has flown by. I wanted to spend so much time with them on special occasions like their birthdays, their annual days, their sports day, going on holidays, whatever. I have missed out on all those things. Thanks for your understanding. Both of you have been so, so special to me you cannot imagine. I promise you [that] for 14 and 16 years I have not spent enough time with both of you, but the next 16 years or even beyond that, everything is for you.

My in-laws, Anand Mehta and Annabelle, both have been so, so supportive [and] loving and caring. I have discussed on various things in life, generally with them, and have taken their advice. You know, it's so important to have a strong family who is always with you and who are guiding you. Before you start clapping, the most important thing they did was allowing me to marry Anjali, so thank you very much.

In the last 24 years that I have played for India I have made new friends, and before that I have had friends from my childhood. They have all had a terrific contribution. As and when I have called them to come and bowl to me at the nets, they have left their work aside to come and help me. Be it joining me on holidays and having discussions with me on cricket, or how I was a little stressed and wanting to find a solution so I can perform better.

All those moments my friends were with me. Even for when I was injured, I would wake up in the morning because I couldn't sleep and thought that my career was over because of injuries, that is when my friends have woken up at 3 o'clock in the morning to drive with me and make me believe that my career was not over. Life would be incomplete without all those friends. Thanks for being there for me.

My cricket career started when I was 11. The turning point of my career was when my brother (Ajit) took me to Achrekar sir. I was extremely delighted to see him up in the stands. Normally he sits in front of the television and he watches all the games that I play. When I was 11/12, those were the days when I used to hop back on his scooter and play a couple of practice matches a day. The first half the innings I would be batting at Shivaji Park, the second half, at some other match in Azad Maidan. He would take me all over Mumbai to make sure I got match practice.

On a lighter note, in the last 29 years, sir has never ever said 'well played' to me because he thought I would get complacent and I would stop working hard. Maybe he can push his luck and wish me now, well done on my career, because there are no more matches, sir, in my life. I will be witnessing cricket, and cricket will always stay in my heart, but you have had an immense contribution in my life, so thank you very much.

My cricket for Mumbai started right here on this ground, the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), which is so dear to me. I remember landing from New Zealand at four o'clock in the morning, and turning up for a game here at eight o'clock just because I wanted to be a part of Mumbai cricket, and not that somebody forced me. That was for the love of Mumbai cricket, and thank you very much. The president is here so thank you very much, along with your team, for taking care of me and looking after my cricket.

The dream was obviously to play for India, and that is where my association with BCCI started. BCCI was fantastic, right from my debut they believed in my ability and selecting me into the squad at the age of 16 was a big step, so thanks to all the selectors for having faith in me and the BCCI for giving me the freedom to express myself out in the middle. Things would have been different if you had not been behind me, and I really appreciate your support. Especially when I was injured, you were right with me and making sure that all the treatments were taken care of, and that I got fit and fine and playing [right] back for India.

The journey has been special, the last 24 years, I have played with many senior cricketers, and even before that there were many senior cricketers with whom I watched on television. They inspired me to play cricket, and to play in the right way. Thanks to all those senior cricketers, and unfortunately I have not been able to play with them, but I have high regards for all their achievements and all their contributions. 

We see it on the mega-screen, Rahul, Laxman, Sourav, and Anil, who is not here, and my team-mates right here in front me. You are like my family away from home. I have had some wonderful times with you. It is going to be difficult to not be part of the dressing room, sharing those special moments. All the coaches for their guidance, it has been special for me. I know when MS Dhoni presented me the 200th Test match cap on day one morning. I had a brief message for the team. I would like to repeat that. I just feel that all of us are so, so fortunate and proud to be part of the Indian cricket team and serving the nation.

Knowing all of you guys, I know you will continue to serve the nation in the right spirit and right values. I believe we have been the lucky ones to be chosen by the Almighty to serve this sport. Each generation gets this opportunity to take care of this sport and serve it to the best of our ability. I have full faith in you to continue to serve the nation in the right spirit and to the best of your ability, to bring all the laurels to the country. All the very best.

I would be failing in my duties if I did not thank all the doctors, the physios, the trainers, who have put this difficult body together to go back on the field and be able to play. The amount of injuries that I have had in my career, I don't know how you have managed to keep me fit, but without your special efforts, it would never have happened. The doctors have met me at weird hours. I mean I have called them from Mumbai to Chennai, Mumbai to Delhi, I mean wherever. They have just taken the next flight and left their work and families to be with me, which has allowed me to play. So a big thank you to all three of you for keeping me in good shape.

My dear friend, late Mark Mascarenhas, my first manager. We unfortunately lost him in a car accident in 2001, but he was such a well-wisher of cricket, my cricket, and especially Indian cricket. He was so passionate. He understood what it takes to represent a nation and gave me all the space to go out and express myself, and never pressurized me to do this ad or promotion or whatever the sponsors demanded. He took care of that and today I miss him, so thank you Mark for all your contribution.

My current management team, WSG, for repeating what Mark has done, because when I signed the contract I exactly told them what I want from them, and what it requires to represent me. They have done that and respected that.

Someone who has worked closely with me for 14 years is my manager, Vinod Nayudu. He is more like my family and all the sacrifices, spending time away from his family for my work, has been special, so big thank you to his family as well for giving up so much time for my work with Vinod.
In my school days, when I performed well, the media backed me a lot. They continue to do that till this morning. Thank you so much to the media for supporting and appreciating my performances. It surely had a positive effect on me. Thank you so much to all the photographers as well for those wonderfully captured moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life, so a big thank you to all the photographers.

I know my speech is getting a bit too long (crowd roars), but this is the last thing I want to say. I want to thank all the people here who have flown in from various parts of the world, and have supported me endlessly, whether I scored a 0 or a 100-plus. Your support was so dear to me and meant a lot to me. Whatever you have done for me. 

I know I have met so many guys who have fasted for me, prayed for me, done so much for me. Without that life wouldn't have been like this for me. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, and also say that time has flown by rather quickly, but the memories you have left with me will always be with me forever and ever, especially "Sachin, Sachin" which will reverberate in my ears till I stop breathing. Thank you very much. If I have missed out on saying something, I hope you understand. Goodbye.

Tendulkar's pulsating swan song

It was an emotional moment for Sachin Tendulkar as he walked out to bat on the second day, with the Wankhede crowd beckoning the man to one last century

N Hunter | November 15, 2013

Every stand was full. People sat along the stairs leading to the seats, they stood along the railings and the walls and whatever they could lean against or stand on. When Cheteshwar Pujara took a single allowing Sachin Tendulkar to face his first ball of the morning, the 40,000-odd fans at the Wankhede Stadium announced to the world who was batting. 

It was an emotional moment, even for Tendulkar, as he walked in to bat late on Thursday afternoon. On his return, undefeated, as he climbed up the steps towards the Indian dressing room he'd missed a step and lost balance. Wankhede was heaving and chanting "Saacchinn, Saacchinnn." Before climbing the stairs, Tendulkar had waved the bat to the crowd to acknowledge their support. He had waved the bat towards his family to acknowledge their support - gestures he would never have made unless he had reached a landmark.

The fans were back today. In huge numbers. With one common expectation: 'God, get a hundred'.
The atmosphere was similar to that two years ago at the same ground against the same opponent. In the final Test of the 2011-12 home series against West Indies, Tendulkar had walked in on the third morning on an overnight score of 67, in search of his hundredth international century. As he breezed to 94, Wankhede screamed and begged their most beloved son to get to the milestone with a six. Tendulkar, instead, steered into the hands of Darren Sammy at second slip off Ravi Rampaul. A college kid, who had told his mom he was bunking class that day, cried in despair: "Kyun khela yaar (Why did he play that shot?)." It was as though Tendulkar had deceived him. 

Today, thousands screamed at Tino Best, who had the temerity to bowl short balls at Tendulkar, who was attempting to guide the ball over slips. He failed on at least four occasions. On one such occasion, Best appealed for a caught behind, rushing towards cover with his arms splayed, dead sure he had his man. Tendulkar did not move. The umpire, Richard Kettleborough, was not interested. West Indies could not believe it. Wankhede booed Best in unison. "Tino sucks. Tino sucks," went around the ground like a Mexican wave.

On 48, Tendulkar tried to once again open the face of the bat against a Best delivery that was pitched short-of-a-length. The ball, however, did not rise as much as Tendulkar expected, and also moved into him. His wife Anjali cupped her mouth in nervousness.

Next delivery Tendulkar played the most beautiful straight drive with an open face, beating mid-on and getting to his half-century. Anjali clapped, but did not stand up. The crowd, though, did. Such was the cacophony inside the arena that a friend from Trinidad wrote in, saying: "That crowd's sounding extra loud even from the TV."

On 58, there was a minor blip once again when Tendulkar decided to attempt a slog-sweep, but fortunately the ball had hit outside the line. "Arre, bhai. Hundred dekhne ka hain! (What are you doing? We have come to see a hundred) said a man with a grey French beard.

The crowd had become Tendulkar's pulse, yet the man himself remained calm. In what could possibly be his last innings he played every shot in the textbook, barring the hook and pull, to perfection. A crisp back-foot punch that raced past the empty cover region moved him to 60.

The youngster with his cheeks painted received a phone call. "God is on 67. 33 minimum Marega (He will get it)," he told the person at the other end in a loud and confident voice. On cue, that trademark on drive, with just enough power, beat Shivnarine Chanderpaul at mid-on.

Two balls after drinks, Tendulkar moved swiftly inside the line of the ball to paddle sweep Narsingh Deonarine for two runs, taking advantage of no leg slip or fine leg. Two balls later, trying to play a wristy cut at the very last moment, Tendulkar was caught by Sammy at slip. The crowd were caught off guard. Initially it was met with silence, but a fraction later everyone rose as Tendulkar walked back to the pavilion, probably for the last time. Anjali stood up and clapped finally, eyes hidden by her black shades. His son Arjun Tendulkar, who was one of the ball boys near the boundary rope, stood up to join the rest. 

Perhaps even Tendulkar understood that fact. The joy ride had come to an end in such a sudden fashion. Two yards before crossing the ropes, helmet on, gloves on, sucking his lips inside, Tendulkar waved around the ground to thank the fans one last time with bat in hand.
"End of an era" said a senior journalist in the press box, a man who had covered Tendulkar's Test debut 24 years ago to the day. North Stand did not empty out. So did none of the others. Tendulkar was yet to leave cricket for good.

It's stumps for Sachin: India's greatest player lays down his bat after 24 years, 50,000 runs and 200 glorious Test matches

It's like the passing of a beloved grandparent. One knew it was only a matter of time, but we still hoped for the pleasure of his company for a while longer.
On Thursday, Sachin Tendulkar announced that the two upcoming Tests against West Indies on home soil, his 199th and 200th in a landmark 24-year international career, would be his swan song from the game he has loved and adorned for four decades.

The announcement, which came via a press release from Board of Control for Cricket in India secretary Sanjay Patel, put an end to years of speculation about when the maestro from Mumbai would hang up his helmet, which had only intensified when the runs started drying up over the last 30 months.

"All my life, I have had a dream of playing cricket for India. I have been living this dream every day for the last 24 years… I look forward to playing my 200th Test Match on home soil, as I call it a day," Tendulkar said in the statement.
"I thank my family for their patience and understanding. Most of all, I thank my fans and well-wishers who through their prayers and wishes have given me the strength to go out and perform at my best."

To the country's great number of children born in the 1980s, Thursday's announcement is like the fall of the Berlin Wall. An Indian monument reminiscent of all that has passed since 1989 will no longer be on the horizon come November.
Incidentally, it was in the year the Wall fell that a baby-faced 16-year-old made his debut for India against arch-rivals against Pakistan and bagged a duck in Karachi. But starting with a fighting half-century - made despite a bleeding nose - in Sialkot, the Tendulkar phenomenon kept growing with every knock, till barely any statistical milestone remained standing.

The one batting record that no one could touch - Don Bradman's average of 99.94, was obviously out of his reach, but Tendulkar got the next best thing - a compliment from the legendary Australian stating that the Indian maestro's batting reminded him of his own.

In any conversation about the great batsmen of the modern era, the conversation always came down to Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis. Lara, whom most consider Tendulkar's lone rival for the tag of the 'greatest' of their generation, certainly was a more accomplished long-innings player, as evidenced by his Test knocks of 375, 400 not out and the first-class behemoth 501. 

But as far as comparisons go, Tendulkar is far ahead of the West Indian in terms of number of Test victories, though their numbers in matches won are quite similar. It was in One-Day International cricket that Tendulkar towered above mere mortals who had played the format before him, taking Desmond Haynes' record of 18 centuries before the turn of the millennium and finally finishing with 49.
Today, as cricket becomes more and more commercialised, it is necessary to remember that Tendulkar was among the sport's first global brands, when his revolutionary management deal with WorldTel made him a multi-millionaire overnight. Yet it always came down to the sight of the little man with a heavy bat striking the ball cleanly through the covers or straight back past the bowler, collecting laurels from every opponent who came across him.

Of course, if you have been undergoing the rigours of international cricket since the age of 16, by the time you turn 30, your body will start to show signs of wear and tear. Tendulkar struggled too, but kept coming back for more, giving infinite joy to the billions of cricket fans across the world, not just in his homeland.

For Tendulkar, playing cricket was never a job – just a matter of habit, like it was for his fans to watch him bat each time and discuss every shot and every dismissal. It's understandable that it took him such a long time to realise it was time to go – there was nothing else he knew how to do but play cricket. 

"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. It's been a huge honour to have represented my country and played all over the world," he said in Thursday's statement. 

There will, of course, be those who will take the announcement as another example of Tendulkar's alleged quest for milestones. But the legacy he leaves behind in the hearts and minds of every cricket fan, budding player and even those with a passing interest, will possibly never be surpassed. 

Candid interview of a teenage Sachin Tendulkar before he entered Team India

It's not every day that an ordinary citizen gets to meet and chat with Sachin Tendulkar. But back in 1989, the God of Cricket wasn't the icon he is today. Of course, many had already heard about the child prodigy who would play for India one day. Months before he was finally picked to play for India, Salomi Pinto, then a freelance writer for a now-defunct magazine, met the master blaster at his residence.

As Tendulkar gets set to take guard in the middle for one final time, Pinto recalls her first meeting with the legend.

When I heard the news that Sachin Tendulkar would be retiring post his 200th test match, my mind went back to that day 25 years ago, when I wrote for the magazine, Finesse, and interviewed Sachin at his modest dwelling in Ushakkal, in Bandra.

He was then a curly-haired 15-year-old, on the plumper side with rosy cheeks and shy.

At the time I went to his place only Sachin and his elder brother Ajit were at home. It was a sultry afternoon and I opted for tea when they asked me if I wanted a refreshing drink. One of the boys prepared the chai and the other quickly ran down to get a packet of wafers. Sadly, to be honest, I didn’t realise I was interviewing a future national icon. So I really don’t remember if it was Sachin who made me the tea, or did he get the wafers?

But I do remember the interview as if it was yesterday. Sachin told me he enjoyed studying at Shardashram Mandir and the class IX boy told me how he hated chemistry, his ‘worst subject’.
Realising I was a teacher by profession, he narrated some of his woes of being a day scholar and playing his favourite game simultaneously. But he hastened to add that his teachers were very helpful.
“Actually, I spotted his batting talent when I saw him playing in our colony and referred him to my coach Ramakant Achrekar,” chipped in the proud elder brother, Ajit. Tendulkar nodded in agreement and admitted he owed much to his brother. He said Ramakant sir was grooming him for matches at all levels and was happy that his protégé had been chosen for the Indian under 19 team.
But the little boy sounded upset. “I was disillusioned when I did not get the best junior cricketer award earlier this year. However, Sunil Gavaskar sir allayed my fears with his letter that I have preserved,” he told me before showing me Gavaskar’s letter of encouragement that stated: “If you go through the annals of cricketers who did not win the country’s best Junior Cricketer award, you will see one person’s name missing, and he didn’t do too badly for himself.” Gavaskar was referring to himself!

Apparently Gavaskar had also advised Sachin to pursue his studies along with the game for there was no substitute for education. Sachin may not have followed his advice, but then he too did not fare too badly in international cricket either, did he?

After our chat, our photographer from the magazine arrived for a photoshoot. We went down to the society’s compound where a young Sachin demonstrated his batting skills and we clicked several photographs of him in action. My photographer Rajesh asked, “Salome, do you want some photographs clicked with Sachin?” I hesitated a bit. I mean, it wasn’t like this boy was a celebrity. We clicked one photograph together and that was it. How I regret not clicking a hundred more!
Two years later, when he was a national cricketer, I decided to make up for lost opportunities. The Indian team was playing against the West Indies at Wankhede stadium. I took my cousin to the stadium, scrawled a note to Sachin requesting him to come out and meet me.

And you know what? The man did come out, had a chat, showed me the thick gold chain and bracelet his parents had given him to celebrate his inclusion in the team...and I got a picture too.
Today as he retires from the game, he is a national hero, an icon for millions of sports lovers across the world. Kudos to you Sachin. Over to the Arjuns.


Here's another very old article of Sachin aptly titled "In search of excellence":