Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar flung his hands in joy as Mohammed Shami hit the woodwork once again to seal the match along with the series for India. The crowd erupted in joy and for a few minutes, the giant screen focused on the jubilating Indian team uprooting the stumps. That was only a matter of a few minutes.
Soon enough, the much awaited image of the man enlightened the giant screen as the home crowd let out a deafening roar. Sachin Tendulkar shook hands with the West Indian players, hugged his teammates and prepared for a lap of honor on his home ground.
As Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni lifted him on their shoulders, the entire stadium rose to their feet and saluted the magician who had weaved a hypnotizing spell with his willow for almost a quarter of a century.
Strictly according to the routine of the last 24 years, the crowd had swarmed into the stadium leaving not a seat vacant just to watch the finest exponent of their religion execute what he does best.
From a sixteen year old schoolboy who had showcased unprecedented courage and astounding intent against an ominous Pakistani attack with a bleeding nose in 1989 to being the greatest batsman of his era – Sachin Tendulkar’s rapid yet effortlessly steady ascent has been as baffling for critics as has been challenging for statisticians.
For twenty four years, the man from Mumbai has orchestrated his instruments with surgical precision in the most elegant fashion. With all his brilliance, he has pioneered his art in its pristine form and has immortalized his identity in cricket’s traditional glory.
Throughout his exceptional career, Tendulkar has exuded incredible excellence in perfect synchronization with his unbelievable longevity. Not even for once has the average fanatic grown tired of him, or has made him feel redundant. Such has been the aura of this conjurer that he has earned unanimous reverence from around the world while continuing to claim unforeseen records and conquer presumably insurmountable peaks.
Recognized as a special talent right from his debut, Tendulkar took little time to establish himself in the international arena. With a smile knit on his unperturbed face that reassured the nation even during substantial crisis, Tendulkar shouldered the burden of a billion hopes with the same ease and grace with which he defended pacers on the front foot.
Guided by legendary coaches, Tendulkar nurtured his skills with remarkable concentration and unwavering focus. His inexhaustible passion for the game and insatiable appetite for success were regularly fed by a tremendous amount of perseverance that saw him toiling at the nets even when his teammates had retired to the comfort of the hotel rooms.
The dedication that Tendulkar displayed for his cricket was manifest in global proportions when he was hailed as the God of cricket by fans and experts alike. Rewards came in surplus; awards became a regular commodity as Tendulkar gradually dissolved into the hearts of millions.
They smiled with him; they cried with him; they celebrated with him. A brilliant knock from Tendulkar was a peaceful sedative at the end of a disturbing day at work. A fighting century from the Master was a convincing inspiration after a poor examination. A Tendulkar duck reflexively dampened the mood even at a wedding ceremony.
For those who swear by statistics and believe in on-field action, Tendulkar is a legend in his own right. But the stature of the finest cricketer of his era transcends far beyond that.
As a complete gentleman who sought humility and modesty in the age of ostentatious arrogance, Tendulkar is regarded as a role model by thousands. The down-to-earth disposition of the one who has been bejeweled in the most diverse fashion, works as a pure magnet to the common mass. The plainness and generosity of such a crowd-puller is undoubtedly amazing.
His decision of calling it a day sent a shock-wave though the entire nation albeit the fact that rumors of the inevitable had been doing the rounds for quite some time. Right from the BCCI to the State Cricket Boards, the desperation of giving the legend an unprecedented farewell was evident everywhere.
While the touring West Indies squad could muster only a deplorable effort, thereby cutting short the elaborate grandeur of an emotional farewell, the crowd managed to bring a tear to Tendulkar’s eyes with their repeated chants. In return, the man at the center struck a poignant chord even with a poised smile and composed voice during his mesmerizing farewell speech.
On this day, the sport didn’t say goodbye merely to its greatest batsman. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar will be missed as one of the purest human beings to have taken up a cricket bat in his hands. One only wishes him luck and prays that he returns to his religion in some way or the other.
After all, legends never retire.