“I have seen God – he comes in to bat at No. 4 for India.” – Matthew Hayden.
A short man with a bat that looks heavier than him stands in front of the stumps. He looks up once, and then takes guard, ready to face the opposition attack. On his helmet, you see a tiny tricolor, and on his shirt is painted the number 10. In the stands and outside, a billion enthusiasts await with bated breath.
Welcome to a new religion – one that truly unites all of India. For the time that this man spends on the pitch, all differences are forgotten. Every eye is fixed and focused on the Little Master. For he is no ordinary man. He is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
World cricket has seen a few defining moments in the modern era – be it cutting a 150 kmph Shoaib Akhtar delivery for six, or driving Glenn McGrath straight down the ground, or gently paddle-sweeping a Shane Warne turner, or even stepping out to the likes of Muttiah Muralitharan – and the one constant in all of those moments has been Sachin Tendulkar.
The longevity of his career bears testimony to his hunger and will. To play 200 test matches over 24 years, and end up with an average over 53 and close to 16,000 runs is quite simply an unbelievable achievement. These numbers are staggering in their own capacity, but add to that the glowing success of 463 ODI’s where he scored over 18,000 runs, capped off with the World Cup triumph in 2011, and you have the personification of greatness.
It was but inevitable that the Master would bow out as a winner. He won his last Test match, his last One Day International, his last(and only) Twenty Twenty International, his last Ranji Trophy game, his last IPL game, and his last Champions League T20 game. Sachin has won every laurel known to the cricketing world, and deservedly so. He is now also the first sportsperson, and the youngest recipient of the Bharat Ratna – the highest civilian honour bestowed upon an Indian. He has broken more records than one can count, and has created even more new records. The curtains may have finally fallen on a glittering 24-year long career, but the memories still linger on.
It is hard to imagine an Indian batting line-up without the familiar name of Tendulkar. Because for well over two decades, whenever the ball hit his bat, it never stopped. Only schools, colleges, offices and nations did.