India salute "Little Master"

2013-11-16 16:19
Sachin Tendulkar (AFP)

Mumbai - Cricket fans across the globe revered him. Teammates in India's Test and World Cup-winning squads were in awe of him.

Sachin Tendulkar compiled more runs and posted more centuries in international cricket than anyone, and was the greatest batsman of his generation.

He has been compared with the previously incomparable Sir Donald Bradman, the Australian batsman who averaged almost 100 per innings in a long career punctuated by World War II.

Tendulkar's near celestial status meant that his dismissal for 74 in his last innings — at the age of 40 and in his 200th Test match — silenced a packed and boisterous crowd at Wankhede Stadium.

But only for a few seconds.

Really, they just wanted to see more.

He walked off, with raised bat, to thunderous applause and chants of "Sa-chin, Sa-chin."

He did not get a second chance to claim a 101st international century, as the Test against the West Indies was wrapped up on Saturday, with India winning without the need to bat a second time.

In another sign of how highly he is revered in India, the batsman's career had hardly ended before he was awarded India's highest civilian honour.

Tendulkar was bestowed with the "Bharat Ratna" within four hours of the end of the match, becoming the youngest person and the first sportsman to get the award.

"Sachin Tendulkar is undoubtedly an outstanding cricketer - a living legend who has inspired millions across the globe," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office said in a statement.

"During the last 24 years, since the young age of 16 years, Tendulkar has played cricket across the world and won laurels for our country.

"He has been a true ambassador of India in the world of sports.

"His achievements in cricket are unparalleled, the records set by him unmatched, and the spirit of sportsmanship displayed by him exemplary.

"That he has been honoured with several awards is testimony to his extraordinary brilliance as a sportsman."

Tendulkar's last day featured a cameo appearance bowling for a couple of overs, and a guard of honour from teammates as he walked from the field for the last time.

The insatiable appetite for runs was only part of Tendulkar's aura.

He'll be remembered around the cricket world for the numerous batting records he set during a glittering 24-year international career, but he has also set a high benchmark of work ethics for others to follow.

"He has guided youngsters very well, showed them how to lead life after you become successful, and at the same time how you're supposed to prepare," India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said.

"He's been fantastic and we've learnt a lot from him."

By the time of his retirement he had played a significant role in developing a dynamic, unified Indian squad.

"The standards he has set have been benchmarks for us," Yuvraj Singh said.

"Whether he gets a 100 or no runs, he will hit the same number of balls (in the nets), remain humble.

"Everybody talks about his records, but the standard he set off the field was incredible - how to carry yourself off the field."

With 15 921 runs in 200 Tests and 18 426 in 463 one-dayers, Tendulkar has ended all comparisons with batsmen other than Bradman.

Among his other prominent milestones include becoming the first man to score a double-century in limited-overs internationals (200 not out vs South Africa at Gwalior in 2010) and the first to reach 100 international centuries.

Tendulkar was always known for his compact defense, immaculate drives and cunning cuts but he later added the uppercut and paddle-sweep to his repertoire and reaped plenty of runs from those.

His 51 centuries in Tests and 49 in ODIs are also records and winning the 2011 World Cup was the proverbial icing on the cake.

"Winning the World Cup was a lifelong ambition and it was a matter of great honour that my teammates wanted to do it for me," Tendulkar said after the victory on his home ground of Wankhede Stadium, which was also the venue of his 200th and last Test.

Memories of an emotional Tendulkar being carried around the ground during the victory lap in 2011 will linger long in the minds of Indian fans.

The "Little Master" learnt early how to carry the weight of expectations as he became the youngest Indian to debut in international cricket, playing both tests and limited-overs internationals at the age of 16 during a tour of Pakistan in 1989.

Tendulkar had a penchant for performing well against Australia as an intense cricket rivalry between the two nations developed over his career. Among the standouts: his 114 on a fiery test pitch at Perth in 1991-92 when he was still in his teens; a 241 not out at Sydney in a rare series drawn in Australia in 2003-04; and 155 not out in the Chennai test of 1997-98.

Consequently, some of his best rivalries also came against Australian bowling greats Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, both of whom have been liberal in their praise of Tendulkar after their retirement.

Ever since his retirement from limited-overs cricket, the questions about when he'd bring his international cricket career to an end have abounded.

At 40, he decided the two-Test series against the West Indies would be his last international games, setting the stage for a festival and general celebration across India.

Tendulkar had his share of injuries, mainly to the back and elbow, but he was never a liability to the team and could outplay teammates and rivals half his age with his fast running between the wickets and agile fielding.

He was also a useful bowler who could either bowl "seam-up" or legspin.

A low period was during 2004-2005 when he once went for 17 innings without a single test half-century, but that was the exception rather than the rule in a glorious career in which he was often heralded as a "God of cricket."

"He has had an absolutely delightful career and changed the outlook of parents and how they encourage their children to play the game," Dev said about the impact Tendulkar has had on Indian society.

"People started saying 'You don't need to become an engineer or doctor, that you could (now) become a cricketer."

Read more on:    sachin tendulkar  |  cricket

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