An emotional Sachin Tendulkar gave a heart-warming speech thanking his family, coaches, teammates, friends and fans as he brought the curtains down on his phenomenal career on Saturday, saying it was hard to believe that his life between "22 yards in the last 24 years" had come to end.
Trying hard to control his emotions, Tendulkar had the Wankhede crowd spell-bound as his words drew thunderous applause from his fans after the hosts crushed a hapless West Indies by an innings and 126 runs in the master batsman's farewell match to complete a 2-0 series whitewash.
"It's hard to believe that my life on the cricket field is coming to an end," said Tendulkar in his farewell speech asking cheering fans at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai to settle down.
As he thanked his family, Tendulkar said that it was his father who gave him the freedom to play and the power to chase his dreams.
"The most important person in my life is my father and every time I do something special I dedicate it to my father," he said.
Next in the list was his mother Rajni, who came to watch him for the first time in his farewell match, and the other immediate family members.
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"I don't know how she managed a naughty child like me. She just prayed and prayed since the day I started playing the game. For four years I stayed with my uncle and aunt when in school, they treated me like their own son," he said.
"My eldest brother Nitin doesn't like to talk much but he said, 'whatever you do, I know you will give 100%'. My first cricket bat was presented to me by my sister Savita. It was a Kashmir willow. She still continues to fast while I bat," he said.
"Ajit my brother, we have lived this dream together. He sacrificed his career for me, he took me to (Ramakant) Achrekar sir first. Even last night he called me to discuss my dismissal. Even when I'm not playing we will still be discussing technique. If that hadn't happened, I would have been a lesser cricketer," he added.
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He acknowledged his wife Anjali for "bearing with all my dreams, frustrations and all the rubbish I spoke".
"You are the best partnership I've had in my life," Tendulkar told Anjali.
Tendulkar's two children, son Arjun (14) and daughter Sara (16), were also present at the ceremony and Tendulkar promised them a lion's share of his time now as reward for being patient when he missed their special days for cricket.
"The two precious diamonds of my life Sara and Arjun. I've missed out on several birthdays, holidays, annual days. I know for 14-16 years I've not spent enough time with you. But I promise you that the next 16 and the many more after that are yours," he said.
Tendulkar also thanked his in-laws for, most importantly for letting him marry Anjali.
Sachin Tendulkar with his wife Anjali during his farewell ceremony at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai. (PTI Photo)
He also did not forget to thank his friends but didn't name anyone in particular.
"In the last 24 years my friends have made terrific contributions. They have been with me while I was stressed. They have been with me even at 3am when I was injured. Thanks for being there for me."
He said that the turning point of his career came when his brother took him to cricket coach Achrekar.
"Sir took me to all over Mumbai on his scooter to make sure I got enough match practice," said Tendulkar as he talked about 82-year-old Achrekar who groomed him.
"I was extremely delighted to see Achrekar sir in the stands. I used to ride on his scooter and play two matches a day. Sir took me along to make sure I played. On a lighter note, Sir never said 'well played' because he didn't want me to be complacent. You can push your luck now, Sir, since I'm not playing cricket anymore," he said.
He also thanked the Mumbai Cricket Association and the BCCI for their support "during all times, good or bad".
His teammates, Tendulkar said, were his family away from home.
"Thanks to all the senior cricketers who have played with me. All the coaches."
"It is going to be difficult to not be a part of the dressing room."
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In the end, Tendulkar thanked the media and his fans.
"I know my speech has become long. I want to thank people who have flown in from different parts of the world here. I want to thank my fans from the bottom of my heart. 'Sachin, Sachin' will reverberate in my ears till I stop breathing," he said, drawing a deafening applause from the crowd.
Tendulkar played the game he loved the most with dignity and left the 22-yard strip as dignified as ever.
Sachin carries a stump as he walks out of the ground at Wankhede. (PTI)
On his retirement bash, specially-minted coins, embossed with Tendulkar's image on one side, were presented to match officials.
Tendulkar himself received a momento from Maharashtra Cricket Association president Sharad Pawar on behalf of the the Sri Lankan government, a special trophy from Star CEO Uday Shankar. He was also felicitated by Mumbai commissioner of police Satyapal Singh and the MCA.
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Dhoni salutes 'role model'
India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni saluted "role model" Tendulkar for inspiring an entire generation of cricketers.
"I think it's the biggest match in the cricketing history. It's something we won't witness again. Thank you Sachin for being such a role model for all of us. Not only as a cricketer, but the way he has led his life, he is a role model for all," said Dhoni at the post-match presentation ceremony.
Dhoni also had words of appreciation for his batsmen and bowlers for putting up an impressive show.
"I think it's a complete performance from the side. It was fantastic. The batsmen batted really well and when the opportunity came the bowlers got wickets. I think there was much for spinners in Kolkata but the way (Mohammed) Shami bowled, he gave us the edge that we needed. You want that kind of individual performances to boost the morale," he said.
A dejected West Indies skipper Darren Sammy conceded that India taught them a lesson on how to play Test cricket.
"We have to pull together and come out even stronger. It's a reality check (for us). We came here on the back of winning six Tests but India taught us how to play Test cricket," he said.
After his side completed the formalities of a victory over West Indies, Tendulkar collected a stump as a memento and wiped tears from his eyes as he slowly made his way off the field through a mobile guard of honour formed by his team mates.
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As television coverage broadcast images of a huge banner in the stands proclaiming "Legends Never Retire", the 40-year-old Tendulkar shook hands with opposing players and staff before climbing the stairs leading to the dressing room.
Earlier, responding to chants of "We want Sachin, We want Sachin" from a packed Wankhede Stadium crowd, Dhoni allowed Tendulkar to bowl two final overs in his 200th Test match, fittingly at his home ground.
A wicket was not forthcoming for the world's most prolific run-scorer but he did show off a full repertoire of deliveries in his cameo, offering leg-spin, off-spin and an immaculate googly which tail-ender Shane Shillingford somehow defended.
The regular bowlers returned to finish off a match that will be largely forgotten as a contest but remembered as a fitting farewell for a man who may be small in stature but cast a giant shadow of greatness over cricket in India and beyond.
His son Arjun, who was doing the duty of a ball-boy, stood applauding at the boundary line.
Starting the day at 43 for three, the West Indies were skittled out for a paltry 187 in their second innings as Pragyan Ojha completed a match-haul of 10 wickets taking his second five-for.
Sachin Tendulkar acknowledges the affection and support of the spectators as he walks off the field at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Friday. (PTI Photo)
Starting with a 8-1 off-side field, Ashwin bowled on Gayle's pads as he was clipped for three boundaries in a single over by the big-bodied Jamaican.
Marlon Samuels (11) stepped out to a flighted delivery from Pragyan Ojha, only to find that Dhoni had effected the easiest of stumpings.
Gayle also followed suit as he edged a straighter one from Ojha for Dhoni to take a sharp catch. At 87 for five, there was a fear that the match may well get over even before lunch session as Narsingh Deonarine (0) offered a simple return catch to become Ojha's fourth victim of the innings and ninth of the match.
However Chanderpaul, playing his 150th Test match offered some resistance in company of Denesh Ramdin (53) as they added 68 runs for the seventh wicket before the veteran padded up one from Ashwin that went straight after pitching. Chanderpaul scored 41 with four boundaries.
Skipper Darren Sammy (1) who had demoted himself in the batting order didn't fare any better.
Ramdin, however, continued hitting the odd boundaries in between as he reached half-century as wickets fell at the other end.
It was Mohammed Shami, who brought an end with a typical inswinging delivery that brought curtains down on a wonderful career.
Cricket without Tendulkar
As Team India begins a life without Tendulkar, one question that will haunt everyone is that who will fill the void left by him.
Cricket lovers now look up to the likes of Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma to keep the flag of Test matches high for India.
The man who dominated the cricket scene in India and the world over has played his knock and will be missed sorely.
(With inputs from Reuters and PTI)
Highlights from the award ceremony
• Pragyan Ojha is the Man of the Match for his ten-wicket haul.
• I enjoy bowling here at the Wankhede Stadium. Ashwin and others supported me well: Ojha
• This is a special test match, I'll definitely remember this all my life and this is for Sachin paaji. The crowd likes that one: Ojha
• Rohit Sharma is the Man of the Series, in his debut Test series.
• The crowd at Wankhede was amazing, I don't have words to express my feelings: Rohit
• This is just the start of my Test career, there is a long way to go: Rohit
• Rohit Sharma thanks Shami for his batting performance. 'Wouldn't have got to 100 without him'.
• Tendulkar gets the Star Sports Believe Trophy
• India really showed us how to play test cricket: Darren Sammy
• Wish Sachin all the best. We are honoured to share field with him: Sammy
• Darren Sammy says he is very disappointed. 'When we came, we were expecting to play better cricket'.
• Sachin Tendulkar called up to receive another memento from the Sri Lankan government.
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