New Delhi - India's record-breaking batsman Sachin Tendulkar has announced on Thursday that he will retire after his 200th Test next month, calling time on an extraordinary career that lasted nearly a quarter of a century.
Tendulkar, the highest run-scorer in both Test and one-day cricket and the only batsman to make 100 international centuries, said he had been "living a dream" since his debut in 1989, but recognised it was now time to call it quits.
"It's been a huge honour to have represented my country and played all over the world," he said in a statement.
"I look forward to playing my 200th Test on home soil, as I call it a day."
India will play a two-Test series against the West Indies at home next month which would enable Tendulkar, who has already played 198 Test matches, to become the first cricketer to reach the 200 landmark.
Tendulkar, 40, said he found it hard to imagine life without cricket "because it's all I have ever done since I was 11 years old".
"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," he said.
The right-handed batsman, who has scored 15,837 Test runs since his debut against Pakistan in Karachi in November 1989, has struggled for form in recent times.
His 100 centuries in international cricket includes 51 Test tons, but his last century in the longer format came against South Africa in January 2011.
Tendulkar retired from one-day internationals late last year and played his last Twenty20 match earlier this month in an appearance for the Mumbai Indians.
Tendulkar captained India for several years but the high point of his career came in 2011 when, in his sixth World Cup, he helped India win the coveted one-day title at home in Mumbai.
Known as the "Little Master", he has been widely hailed by his contemporaries as second only to the Australian legend Sir Donald Bradman in the pantheon of batting greats.
Australia's Shane Warne, who was considered one of his generation's finest spinners along with Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan, said no one else came close to Tendulkar in his prime.
"Sachin Tendulkar is, in my time, the best player without a doubt -- daylight second, Brian Lara third," said Warne.
Tendulkar, who is now an honorary member of India's parliament, has sometimes struggled to cope with his iconic status, but he made a point of praising his fans in his retirement statement.
"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," he said.
Tendulkar first hit the headlines as a 14-year-old when he shared a then-world record partnership of 664 runs in a school match with Vinod Kambli, who would also go on to play for India.
Legendary Indian opener Sunil Gavaskar once said he was convinced Tendulkar would achieve greatness when he first saw him bat in the nets more than two decades ago.
"It is hard to imagine any player in the history of the game who combines classical technique with raw aggression like the little champion does. There is not a single shot he cannot play," said Gavaskar.
Former captain and team-mate Sourav Ganguly said on Thursday no praise was too high for Tendulkar.
"It's not just the talent he was born with, but what he did with it," Ganguly told NDTV news channel.
Kris Srikkanth, Tendulkar's first Test captain, said: "Sachin is still the same person I saw in 1989. That's his greatness not just as a cricketer but as a human being."
Anil Kumble, who shared a long association with Tendulkar in the Indian side, told the Wisden India website it was time to celebrate "an incredible career".
"It will be a sad moment for everyone who follows the game, but it is also a moment to celebrate an incredible career," he said.
"He is a great player, a great ambassador for cricket and he has inspired many in the younger generation to pick up the sport. Surely, he will be missed. I wish he finishes on a high. He deserves everything in life."
Tributes also poured in from rivals across the world, with England's Kevin Pietersen tweeting: "Sachin #10dulkar - Undisputed Champion of Cricket! #SachinTheGreat."
South African Test captain Graeme Smith said he was amazed at Tendulkar's ability to absorb the pressure of millions of fans in his cricket-mad country.
"It's always difficult to comprehend how someone like Sachin lives his life," Smith said. "He has always managed his career well, managed to perform under extreme amount of pressure and never had any scandals, which is a credit on him and his family."
Factfile on India's record-breaking batsman Sachin Tendulkar after he said on Thursday he will retire after playing his 200th Test.
Full name: Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar
Right-hand batsman, right-arm spinner
Major teams: India, Mumbai.
Height: 5 feet, 5 inches (165.1 centimetres)
Matches 198, Runs 15,837, Highest 248 not out, Average 53.86, Centuries 51, Half-centuries 67
Matches 463, Runs 18,426, Highest 200 not out, Average 44.83, Centuries 49, Half-centuries 96
Match 1, Runs 10, Average 10.00
- Most Test runs and centuries
- Most one-day runs and centuries
- Only batsman to score 100 international centuries
- Most World Cup runs (2 278)
- Most appearances in Tests and one-day internationals
- 1 000 or more Test runs in a calendar year six times: 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2008, 2010
- 1 000 or more one-day runs in a calendar year seven times: 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2007
April 24, 1973 : Born in Mumbai
December 11, 1988 : First class debut aged 15 with a century
November 15, 1989 : Test debut v Pakistan, Karachi
December 18, 1989 : One-day debut v Pakistan, Gujranwala
August 14, 1990 : Maiden Test century v England, Old Trafford aged 17
December 10, 2005 : Overtakes Sunil Gavaskar's world record of 34 Test tons
October 17, 2008 : Overtakes Brian Lara as highest run-getter in Tests
February 24, 2010 : First batsman to score 200 in one-day cricket.
April 2, 2011 : World Cup winner with India
March 16, 2012 : Becomes only batsman to score 100 international tons.
October 10, 2013: Says he will retire from Test cricket after playing his 200th match. He has already retired from one-day and Twenty20 cricket.