My introduction to Sachin Tendulkar came in 2002 when I was living in Trinidad, studying at the University of the West Indies.
India was scheduled to play the West Indies in cricket. And that’s all anyone seemed to talk about.
Really, it was less about the match than it was about the arrival of a batsman: Sachin Tendulkar. It was like the arrival of the Babe Ruth of Cricket. The Caribbean is crazy about the sport and newspapers covered his every swing. The guy seemed bigger than the game itself.
“This guy is almost like the God of cricket in India," says The World’s Manya Gupta. She grew up in Lucknow watching cricket. "He started playing at the age of 16, professionally, for the country, and then for the past 25 years he’s been creating all sorts of records on the field."
She says the surprising part about Tendulkar is that he doesn’t act like a prima donna. That’s something when you consider his star power is like Tom Brady and Brad Pitt rolled into one.
“He has been a sort of brand ambassador, not only for the sport, but for the country, because of his record on the field and his character off the filed," she says. "And he is sort of a non-controversial figure in a country like India, where everything is controversial.”
The freelance writer Aseem Chhabra says Tendulkar comes across as a down to earth, unassuming guy. That personality allowed him to reach audiences beyond the cricket world. People who don’t know a wicket from a crease.
“Sachin took Indian Cricket to a different level. And he started getting all these brand endorsements. Brands like Coca-Cola, Adidas and Toshiba,” Chhabra says.
Chhabra, like most cricket fans, has a “Tendulkar Moment.” It came last year when the batsman became the first player to score 100 runs for the 100th time in international play. It’s OK if you don’t understand the significance — just know the feat is incredible.
“It was really very moving and the crowd just stands up and everybody cheered and you know, he raised his bat," recalls Chhabra. "And you could see he was very emotional. I mean at the end of the day, he’s a sportsman, a terrific sportsman. And so he raised his bat, acknowledging the cheering and it was very terrific.”
Now, such moments will come to an end. Tendulkar is 40. Chhabra says it’s time for the great athlete to finally put down his bat.
“It was time for him to retire, really. But people are still really shocked," he said. "It’s the end of an era as such. It’s a very dramatic end of an era.”
Tendulkar’s final appearance will be in India and tickets will be at a premium. It will be his 200th international test match. After that, he’ll call it a day.
Deepak Singh, a contributor to The World, grew-up idolizing Tendulkar. He says the great batsman of Mumbai will walk away a legend.
“He’s the god of cricket. He will always be. And he’s retiring soon and this makes me sad. Cricket will never be the same for me.”