Thursday marks the start of Sachin Tendulkar’s milestone 200th Test, and brings to a crescendo the unprecedented ceremony to bid farewell to the most iconic cricketer of the modern era.
A day later, the diminutive batsman will complete 24 years as an international cricketer, the longevity a tribute to another aspect of his enduring qualities. It was on November 15, 1989, that the batting genius of a 16-year-old was unveiled before a global audience, in a Test debut in Karachi.
It ended the anticipation over the immensely talented boy, a product of Mumbai’s iconic Shivaji Park, but kick-started a buzz that has endured the highs and lows of the individual and the team he embellished; it has kept a country swaying to the cricketing tunes of this Kishore Kumar fan.
If no grand predictions are being made whether Tendulkar will produce one vintage knock before walking into the western Indian sunset, that is because of the ravages wrought by injuries down the years, and slowing reflexes, ebbing stamina and poor form of a 40-year-old, who last scored a Test century in January, 2011.
These are not times to spew up statistics but rather a wonderful opportunity to hail the way in which Tendulkar spread good cheer in a cricket-mad nation, season after season, match after match, having already become the most influential personality in the game as well as the lynchpin of its commercial explosion.
There is already speculation whether the batting legend could feel a sense of loss once he puts away his bat.
The game will be the loser if it does not tap into the wealth of knowledge Tendulkar can provide the game. He can enrich the technical side of the game, which does need sage advice to sort out complications over how to use technology (read DRS) and revitalise Test cricket.
Beyond that, his sheer personality can give direction to Indian sport, crying for a strong leader at the helm who understands the requirements of the athlete as the country looks to shake off official apathy and march towards becoming a global sporting power.