It doesn’t need much flight of imagination to foresee Sachin Tendulkar’s last day in Tests. The packed stadium would rise up to collective applause as he, bat aloft in gentle acknowledgement, walks back to the depths of the dressing room. As the locker room swallows him, it would descend into a bereavement that marks the passing over of a legend, or perhaps an era.
The latter is more appropriate in Tendulkar’s case, for the 24-year-span of his career is a lifetime in itself. For those of you who have religiously followed Indian cricket, it was the doomsday most of you imagined would probably never happen.
Even a legendary cricketer like Sunil confides he can’t get used to a batting line-up without Tendulkar.
“It is the end of an era. Sachin leaves behind a legacy that not just Indian cricket but world cricket will cherish and hold dear,” he reflected.
For Indian cricket, he was the redemptive force after the match-fixing scandal at the stroke of noughties shook the very foundation of the sport. “India earned the respect after 2000 because of the way he played overseas against Australia, England, Pakistan and other places around the world. For me that is the biggest contribution,” his former skipper Sourav Ganguly has been quoted as saying.
With Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, he formed the axis of India’s most decorated middle-order ever. Together, they won Tests in all Test-playing shores.
“You take each of India’s great moments in the last two decades, there was Sachin. He was such a team man that even if he failed with the bat, he assured that he contributed with his fielding, bowling and strategising,” reckoned former cricketer Mohinder Amarnath.
Ganguly reckons his unbeaten 241 in Sydney as his best. But there would sure be debates when it comes to picking his best.
“It’s a really tough job to pick one out of 51. There have been so many memorable knocks. Whoever does that will only spark more debates,” remarked Amarnath.
For cricketers, his is the ideal template to simulate. “I have never seen cricketer who took the game so seriously. On his first tour itself, he would not leave the practice field till the time the grounds man used to tell us that it was to wrap up,” recollected Chardu Borde, his first manager.
And this holds true even after 198 Tests with two more to go.