India's most decorated and successful cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar, turns 35 on Thursday. Age has not diminished his hunger for runs. But a spate of injuries and now Twenty20 are testing his body.
Having scored thousands of runs and won many awards in his illustrious 19-year international career, Tendulkar does not need to prove anything to anyone any more. But a major concern for him now is the body's wear and tear. That has forced him to miss several matches in recent years.
Tendulkar, still one of most sought after cricketers in the world, also missed the Mumbai Indians' opening Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 match in his home city Sunday due to a groin injury. He also missed the last two home Tests against South Africa recently.
But before the groin strain, Tendulkar had scored heavily. His last 10 scores in Test matches were 62, 15, 154 not out, 12, 71, 13, 153, 13, 0 and DNB (did not bat). And his last 15 scores in ODIs were 4, 99, 29, 97, 30, 10, 35, 44, 32, 5, 0, 2, 63, 117 not out and 91. These figures indicate the kind of form he is in these days.
But Tendulkar is yet to make a mark in Twenty20 format. He has played six matches so far, including one international, and it is only in this version of the game that he has not set the stands on fire.
The diminutive Tendulkar was born April 24, 1973 in Mumbai and made international debut against Pakistan in November 1989. In these two decades he has hypnotised the connoisseur and confounded the critic with his batting, charming smile and down-to-earth disposition -- above all, his commitment to Indian cricket.
He has established many world records and has scored more centuries in Tests (39) and One-Day Internationals (42) than anyone in the history of the game. Run tallies of 11,782 in 147 Tests and 16,361 in 417 ODIs together would not be easy to catch up for any batsman.
He also led India in 25 Tests and 73 one-dayers, but captaincy was not a very successful stint for him. He does not seem to enjoy the job and no wonder he has declined the offer to lead more than once.
An intensely private man, Tendulkar is father of a son and a daughter, born to a doctor wife. He should be a content man as he has possibly attained most of the goals that he would have set for himself.
Just four days before becoming the first Indian cricketer to be conferred the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civil award, in January, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had stated that the maestro should be considered for an honorary knighthood.
He is the recipient of India's highest sports awards Rajiv Khel Ratna and the Arjuna Award. His ardent fans treasure his autograph - and his flashing smile.
He does charity work quietly and, on top of it all, he has seldom got into news for wrong reasons. Even when he breaks records - and bowlers' backs - he remains as humble as ever.
Tendulkar is arguably the most popular Indian sportsperson of his generation. When he bats, India comes to a standstill; and stadiums go silent when he is dismissed quickly. Millions of his fans globally follow his game passionately.
After becoming the youngest to make his international debut, at the tender age of 16, this former student of Sharadashram Vidyamandir School in Mumbai has left an indelible imprint on the minds and hearts of fans with his masterful strokes.
Arguably one of the world's all-time great batsman - even the legendary Don Bradman was impressed by his batting and once invited him to his home in Australia on his birthday -- Tendulkar also plays the game in true sporting spirit. A reserved person, he is not one to be ruffled easily by criticism.
And when he is not driving bowlers to despair, he drives his red Ferrari-360 Modeno at breakneck speed on Mumbai's roads. Former captain Sunil Gavaskar, who once hitched a ride with him, said Tendulkar's driving scared him.