As the cricket legend, Sachin Tendulkar walked into the golden sunset, the nation bid him an emotional farewell. Here is how Hindustan Times tracked the end of his career.
I remember the World Cup in 1999 like it was yesterday. It was the night before our game against Zimbabwe when I got a call from Ajit Tendulkar that their father had passed away. Anjali was also travelling with us but she had gone out with friends, and Ajit told me to be with Sachin till Anjali broke the news to him.
Sachin broke down, but he didn't go into depression. I did whatever I could to console him, but then how can you console someone who had lost not just his father, but his guide, mentor?
Sachin left for home the following morning, and even at that stage, I felt he would return to rejoin the team's campaign, so it came as no great surprise when I heard that he would come back. I wanted him to return at the earliest so that he could take his mind off the tragedy, if that was possible, and use cricket as a distraction.
Sachin arrived in time for the match against Kenya. He was deeply disturbed, you could make out from his demeanour. He was very quiet. Everyone around him gave him the space he needed, but Sachin also knew that his cricketing family was with him in his hour of distress.
Once it was time to start playing, Sachin was a transformed man. When he walked out to bat, it was as if he was on a mission, that he wanted to do something for someone so special to him. His innings that day was one of the finest I have seen ever, even in isolation, but made even more spectacular given the circumstances under which it was composed.
Kenya had a reasonably decent attack but Sachin made them look like a club side. Sachin has produced several masterpieces, of course, but in my book, his unbeaten 140 off 101 was as sensational an innings as I have seen.
Hiding the pain
It was during that game that I saw Sachin wearing sunglasses on the field for the first time. Sachin was never a fan of sunglasses but that day he obviously wanted to hide his pain.
Watching him that day brought a lump to my throat. Sachin hasn't just been a champion cricketer, he has remained a champion human being and a champion team man. That is a very rare combination, and that's why Sachin is what Sachin is.
The writer is a former India coach