Sachin retires: One-day cricket’s finest batsman declares with nothing left to prove
When Sachin Tendulkar first stepped onto a cricket field to play a one-day international the Berlin Wall was still standing, Doordarshan ruled the airwaves and getting a phone connection - a fixed line naturally - took months if not years. That, perhaps, puts into perspective the sheer length of his journey and the tumultuous changes in India it has reflected and encompassed. It has come to an end after 23 years of batsmanship of a quality perhaps never consistently equalled in the annals of one-day cricket. Sachin's timing has been astute, as he walks off the field with nothing left to prove.
The statistics give some idea of the magnitude of his achievements in 50 overs cricket - 463 matches, 18,426 runs at an average of 44.83 and 49 centuries. Given that he beats his closest competitor - just-retired Australian legend Ricky Ponting - by about 35% when it comes to runs scored and more than 60% in number of centuries, those numbers are as likely to stand the test of time as Don Bradman's famed Test average.
But statistics barely scratch the surface of the story. It is the individual moments of glittering brilliance that best encapsulate the pleasure he has afforded cricket fans the world over - his Auckland blitzkrieg in 1994, his twin desert storm centuries at Sharjah in 1998, that six off Shoaib Akhtar in the 2003 World Cup, the culmination of his long quest for a World Cup in 2011 when a grizzled veteran conjured one more burst of sustained brilliance to take India to the finals.
For the Indian fan in particular, the meaning of Sachin Tendulkar runs even deeper. He is the story of India's growth from a land of what-might-have-been to a confident actor on the world stage, writ small. Sunil Gavaskar had been the distillation of national pride on foreign fields before, but his was a different manner of batting for a different India - forced by necessity to stave off defeat because victory was so often not an option. Tendulkar was different. When he hooked Allan Donald off his nose for six or drove and cut Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne to distraction, he embodied the aggressive hustle of a nation on the move - one for which victory, not safety, was the goal. For that and for the memories, he will stand alone at the summit of Indian cricket's one-day history.