For a generation,he was the last link to childhood
When I was three or four,and cricket was still only a nebulous concept,my neighbour asked me who my favourite cricketer was.
Kapil Dev, I said. Was he really my favourite cricketer? I dont know. I hadnt really watched him play. Even as I said it,I felt a vague sense of unease. I didnt really like his moustache,and therefore with that being the extent of my knowledge about him I probably didnt like Kapil Dev that much. But Kapil Dev was the only cricketers name I knew.
No, said my neighbour. Sachin Tendulkar.
I grew to disappoint my neighbour. Tendulkar never came to be my favourite cricketer. That place,over the years,came to be occupied by Ajay Jadeja,Shiv Sundar Das (yes,him) and VVS Laxman.
Gradually,the physical symptoms of hero-worship (that lurch of the stomach accompanying every play-and-miss during the heros first ten minutes at the crease) disappeared,and the question of having a favourite cricketer ceased to matter. But all that while,as Jadeja and Das and Laxman came and went,Tendulkar endured. I watched him on TV,I watched him from the stands,I watched him from the press box. All that while,each time he played a straight drive,I reacted the same way I had when I first saw it.
When he announced that his 200th Test next month would be his last,Tendulkar said that he would find it hard to imagine a life without playing cricket. All around India,cricket fans of a certain age will find it hard to imagine cricket without Tendulkar. It isnt something they have ever known.
Theyve prepared themselves for this moment,of course. Some of them feared for his career as far back as 1999,when a back injury gave them the first,nasty intimation of his sporting mortality. After the 2007 World Cup,some of them agreed with Ian Chappell when he urged Tendulkar to look into that mirror.
Since then,Tendulkar has scored 16 hundreds in Tests and eight in ODIs. For most other cricketers,thats an entire careers output. But over the last couple of years,fans have seen the end loom closer than ever. Tendulkar has grown older than most cricketers who continue to play the game,and his powers have waned. Even some of his biggest fans we all know a few of them have been urging him to quit.
Ive been bitching about Sachin for a few years,not understanding why he wont retire, one such fan wrote in the comments section of Vic Marks tribute to Tendulkar in the Guardian. Now that he has,I feel overwhelming sadness.
All of us who grew up with Tendulkar know this sadness,the sadness of losing the last link to your childhood. And sports fans feel that loss more keenly than most. A couple of months ago,three of my colleagues and I discovered over rum and Coke that we had shared a childhood,living thousands of miles apart. We had watched the same matches,experienced the same thrills and,more vividly,the same heartbreaks.
Late at night in 2002,as May 21 became May 22,Tendulkar had caused all four of us to harbour the hope that India would successfully chase 408 against the West Indies in Kingston. And then,as Pedro Collins got one to keep low and bowl him for 86 (India 170/4),all four of us watching in Chennai,Madurai,Mumbai and Muzaffarnagar cursed the left-armer.
Eleven years on,we were still cursing Collins.
Ten + Dulkar
Ten others (but of course) played for Mumbai (Bombay then) when Tendulkar made his first-class debut on December 12,1988. On the day when he announced that he would retire from the game after his 200th Test,
The Indian Express takes a look at what his first ever teammates went on to do
Played his last first-class match on January 2,1992,the same day Tendulkar hit his first Test hundred in Australia,148* in Sydney. Runs a management company in Mumbai and is often seen as a cricket expert on news channels.
Stitched a 155-run stand with debutant Tendulkar,while also scoring a century (127). Played his last first-class match in 1991. Went on to become the executive director of Samira Habitats,a property chain in Alibaug.
finished his career with Assam,in 1999. Works in a dispensary in Yorkshire,England,as a manager. Used to host Tendulkar before every Headingley Test that India played.
Made his debut in the same match as Tendulkar. Played his last match in 1993. Is now a businessman in New Zealand and often plays for the Auckland Marathi Association (now known as Bombay Boyz) in the local league.
Played two Tests for India in 1982,before Tendulkar had faced a real cricket ball. A constant on the veterans circuit. Is BCCIs manager of cricket operations.
Played his last first-class match nine months before Tendulkar made his Test debut. Is now director of MCAs indoor cricket academy,where he analyses,among others,Arjun Tendulkars performances.
Retired in 1990. Is the CEO of a steel engineering plant in Pune. Is still on Tendulkars invite list for get-togethers.
another Mumbai cricketer who finished his career with Assam,in 1994. Is an employee with TATA and is also a junior selector for the MCA.
Hung up his wicketkeeping gloves in November 2001 as a Madhya Pradesh stumper. Currently coaches Mumbai,under whom Tendulkar played his last Ranji Trophy match last season.
Lalchand Rajput (C),51
Tendulkars first captain in first-class cricket. His dismissal,run out on 99,witnessed Tendulkars entry to the batting crease. Waited for the boy to score his hundred before declaring the innings. Has served Indian cricket in various coaching and managerial roles (currently India A coach). Interestingly,he retired on November13,1998 the same day Tendulkar scored his record ninth ODI hundred of that year.