Indian cricket legend blazes a path most will struggle to contemplate.
Sachin Tendulkar’s international career spanned 24 years, set new standards for batting and elevated him to demi-god status in India, meaning his retirement leaves a void that may never be filled.
The ‘Little Master’ will finally depart the scene after playing a record 200th Test match in front of home fans at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai from Thursday.
The most influential contemporary cricketer, and the highest run-maker in history, will be remembered as an icon who was consistently brilliant, universally admired and modest to a fault.
Tendulkar grabbed the headlines for more than two decades with his record-breaking batting, leaving millions of adoring fans in India and abroad in awe.
Despite years of high-pressure national expectations and fierce media attention, the 40-year-old barely put a foot wrong, remaining the smiling, boyish figure he was when he burst onto the world stage in 1989, aged 16.
An unprecedented 100th international century last year was another landmark for Tendulkar, who holds almost all coveted batting records except Don Bradman’s career average of 99.94, or Brian Lara’s individual scores of 400 not out in Tests and an unbeaten 501 in first-class cricket.
Tendulkar has played more Tests and one-dayers (463) than any player in history and compiled more runs and centuries in both forms of the game than anyone else.
He has scored 15,847 Test runs at an average of 53.71, with 51 centuries, and 18,426 one-day runs at 44.83 with 49 hundreds, including the first double century in 50-over internationals.
But Tendulkar, ever the team man, said the crowning glory of his career was India’s triumphant campaign in the 50-over World Cup in 2011 when they beat Sri Lanka in the final in Mumbai.
Tendulkar remained as passionate about the game as he was on his debut against Pakistan in November, 1989 and worked tirelessly to become one of cricket’s greats.
His first Test century, a match-saving effort against England at Old Trafford in 1990, came when he was just 17, and he went on to compile 15 more Test hundreds before he turned 25.
Tendulkar began his one-day career with two successive ducks, and he took 79 matches to record the first of his 49 hundreds in the shorter version when he made 110 against Australia in Colombo in 1994.
He was nearing his 37th birthday when he scored an unbeaten 200 against South Africa in Gwalior in 2010, the only double-century in one-day internationals until team-mates Virender Sehwag and Rohit Sharma followed suit.
In 2012, when just one month short of his 39th birthday, he became the first player to score 100 international centuries — which, like Bradman’s Test average, could be a mark that lasts forever.
Tendulkar still regards that maiden century against England as one of his best, but what followed in Australia in 1991-1992 set the standard for a career as a modern great.
Having scored an unbeaten 148 in the Sydney Test, Tendulkar mastered the spiteful Perth wicket to hit a brilliant 114 against an all-out Aussie pace attack.
The innings prompted veteran English writer John Woodcock to stand up in the press box and declare: “This has to be the best batsman I have ever seen… and unlike most of you, I watched Bradman bat!”
Since then, Tendulkar’s longevity and a string of lucrative commercial endorsements for everything from watches to cement has brought him huge wealth.
He has an insatiable love of fast cars and once owned a Ferrari, but his otherwise humble, family-based approach to life has meant fans still feel a close bond with him.
When he moved into a new luxury house in Mumbai with his wife Anjali, a medical doctor, and two children, in 2011, the news was greeted nationwide with the interest of delighted relatives.
Tendulkar is a nominated member of parliament and has also helped raise funds for numerous causes like the crusade against cancer and the creation of basic facilities, particularly toilets for girls, in 140 government schools across the country.