"It's hard for me to imagine a life without playing cricket," said Sachin Tendulkar as he announced his decision to leave the cricket field on Thursday (October 10).
Many fell in love with the sport just for one man - Tendulkar. The same supporters called it "not breaking news" but "heartbreaking news" of Tendulkar's move to stop wielding the willow.
Tendulkar was not just a cricketer, he was a phenomenon. He was more than just a batsman. He was a role model for the young and the old. He never put a step wrong on the cricket field and off it.
When he walked out to bat, millions followed his batting on TV and thousands queued outside the stadium. The chants of "Sachin...Sachin...Sachin" reverberated. They wanted the Little Master to keep on batting. There was immense pressure on the 5.5 feet man. Every Indian wanted him to get a hundred each time!
"I have seen God, he bats at number four for India," such were the posters seen at Test match venues where Tendulkar batted. Not only did he have fan following here but the rest of the world.
In the early and late nineties, Indian team was just a one-man show. If Tendulkar got out, it was the end of the road for Team India. Many switched off their TV sets once Tendlya left the ground.
Then came many cricketers of repute but Tendulkar always had that aura. Even to this day, the biggest cheers are reserved for the 40-year-old. Nothing seems to have changed since 1989.
Recently, Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) celebrated its Platinum Jubilee. Among the guests invited for the gala awards night was Tendulkar. Many stars (Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble and others) were present at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium but when Tendulkar walked in, there was chaos. Everyone wanted to get his autograph, click pictures and get closer to the icon. That is Tendulkar.
Early next month, Tendulkar will be batting against West Indies in a Test match. People will turn up to cheer their hero for the final few times. As one of them remarked "we want West Indies to bat well so that we can watch him play four times (2 innings each in 2 Tests)". Everybody is hoping so.
From the maidans of Mumbai, Tendulkar grew to become a big brand. He was the first million-dollar cricketer. His exploits on the field made him a big name for corporates.
Throughout his career, Tendulkar remained a private man. It was not easy to get him to talk to the media often. It is same even now.
On Thursday afternoon he chose to release his retirement statement through the Indian cricket board. Media men waited outside his house in anticipation of getting a sound byte from the Master. But it was not to be.
Tendulkar owns every possible cricket record. Those are likely to stand the test of time. His feat of 100 international centuries might remain untouched.
The opposition players had high respect for Tendulkar. There were not many bowlers who dared to look the man in the eye. Shoaib Akhtar, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne tried to sledge but Tendulkar answered them with his bat.
Last year, Ravi Shastri said, "nobody is good enough even to tie Sachin Tendulkar's shoelaces". Such is Tendulkar's greatness as no cricketer has come close to emulating him.
There has been, is and will forever be only one Tendulkar. He is irreplaceable. His international journey ends after 200 Tests but his memories remain.
Thank You Tendulkar.