Sachin Tendulkar retired from one-day cricket on Sunday, bringing down the curtains on the greatest career in this format of the game.
The decision, though not entirely unexpected, was still a surprise for fans who felt he might want to have one last go at Pakistan, against whom he made his international debut as a 16-year-old in 1989.
Indian cricket’s talisman touched the zenith of his record-breaking one-day career last year when he signed off his sixth and final World Cup at the Wankhede stadium with teammates carrying him on their shoulders in a victory lap.
Since then, however, it has been an agonising time for the man who leaves few things to chance in the game. First, the pressure of constantly being reminded he was one short of his 100th international century reached unbearable proportions.
He eventually achieved that milestone in March, in a lost match against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup. The next match, a win over Pakistan, was his farewell game, even though nobody – not even he – could have predicted that at the time.
If Tendulkar has not been missed in the limited overs format in the last two years, it is because he has played only to fine tune his game for Tests. The Mumbai master knows his one-day records are unlikely to be bettered.
He lorded it over the format when it was still fashionable. With Twenty20 taking centre stage, many feel the 50-over format is on the wane.
With his Test form, too, deserting him since early 2011, he faced the unthinkable – experts and fans asking whether he had stayed on a touch too long.
Thus, his statement, released by the Indian cricket board minutes before announcing the ODI and T20 teams to play against Pakistan from Tuesday, seemed to suggest he had resolved the selectors’ dilemma as they look to field younger talent with the 2015 World Cup in mind.
The partial retirement – Tendulkar has already given up T20 internationals – will help extend his record-breaking Test career that stands six short of a record 200 matches.
“This will help him extend his Test career and he can also become the first man to play 200 Tests,” former skipper and chief selector K Srikkanth said.
Tendulkar, who is holidaying in Mussorie, in a statement said: “I feel blessed to have fulfilled the dream of being part of a World Cup winning Indian team. I would like to wish the team all the very best for the future. I am eternally grateful to all my well-wishers for their unconditional support and love over the years.”