SachHe was an impatient bully that grew into the living embodiment of calm, cool and collected on the pitch. For a country that achieved organized chaos on a good day Sachin Tendulkar was the rock. A man that would tower well above his diminutive 5’5 frame and ascend into the glitterati of Indian society. Though he lived an impossibly lavish lifestyle compared to the millions of Indians that struggled to get through a single day, Sachin Tendulkar made it easier.

He made it seem like anything was possible. No matter what the limitations, be it financial or physical, it was possible.

After 200 test matches, 463 One Day Internationals and countless other first class and league appearances the end is here. The Little Master is calling it a day.

It’s hard to fathom how much a single person can mean to a country.

India has no unifier in politics, film or religion. The South has their own movie industry. Punjab does its own thing. Mumbai feels like a different world compared to Delhi. Kolkata is a place those in Gujarat probably won’t visit. Are you Hindu? Great, what caste?

What did the teenager living hand to mouth in Bihar have in common with the well educated businessman in Bangalore?

Sachin Tendulkar’s debut in 1989 came during a defining decade for India. Religious rhetoric and class tension exacerbated by legislation aimed at curbing prejudice conspired to push India to its breaking point. “It was in this atmosphere of hate, suspicion, fear and violence that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first hundreds in international cricket,” said historian Ramachandra Guha.

If the beginning of Tendulkar’s career provided the country solace, his prime gave them what they so desperately needed: pride.

For a country that didn’t have much to be proud of when it came to sport Sachin gave India pride. He took on the best bowlers the world had to offer and made them look ordinary. South Africa’s Allan Donald, Pakistan’s Waqar Younis, West Indies’s Curtly Ambrose, Australia’s Glenn McGrath, all of them were left in awe. “Sachin Tendulkar was the best batsman of my generation,” said Australian legend Shane Warne.

India continued to battle through political and social turmoil in the 90s, but the other worldly performances from the man known as Little Master provided a much needed distraction. That’s what sport is for after all.

Here are only some of the records he set:

  • Highest run getter in test matches (15,921 as on 15 November 2013).
  • Highest run getter in ODIs (18,426).
  • Most number of centuries in Test matches – 51.
  • Most number of centuries in ODIs – 49.
  • Most number of man of the match awards (62) in the ODIs.
  • Most number of man of the series awards (17) in ODIs.
  • Best average for man of the matches in ODIs.
  • First cricketer to reach 10,000–11,000–12,000–13,000–14,000–15,000–16,000–17,000–18,000 runs in the ODIs.
  • Only player ever to cross the 14,000–15,000–16,000–17,000 and 18,000 run marks in ODIs.
  • He is the highest run scorer in World Cups (2,278 at an average of 56.95)
  • Most number of the man of the match awards in World cups.

Batsmen walk out into the middle alone. Not Tendulkar. Every time Tendulkar walks to the crease a whole nation, tatters and all, march with him to the battle arena.

- C.P. Surendran

As Tendulkar walked out for what would be his final innings I began to weep. It wasn’t one of those single tear, lip quivers and get on with your day moments of sadness. Kleenex was needed.

I’m becoming more detached from the day-to-day sniping that is consuming the sports world. I find myself clutching on to the athletes and teams that still make me feel something. I need them now more than ever.

I remembered watching test matches in the middle of the night with my cousins. I remembered watching India win the World Cup at a bar in Seoul, surrounded by a bunch of cricket loving ex-pats from around the world. I remembered my dad waxing poetically about what made Sachin Tendulkar so damn special.

He didn’t get his century. West Indies captain Darren Sammy caught Tendulkar out on 74 runs. Wankhede stadium fell silent before deafening applause accompanied the 40-year-old as he made the long walk back to the clubhouse.

“He has crossed boundaries, meant something to everyone, which is why you see such outpouring of emotion,” said former teammate and national team captain Rahul Dravid.

Thanks for 24 years of magic, Sachin. Even Gods need to retire.

The West Indies trail India by 270 runs with 7 wickets remaining after day two of their five day test match in Mumbai. It is possible Tendulkar will bat again before the weekend is over. Here’s hoping. 

Artwork courtesy of Paul Trevillion