When a small curly haired boy from Mumbai took guard against the swing kings of Pakistan at the tender age of sixteen, little did anyone realize that he was going to redefine Indian cricket.
Over the next 24 years, Sachin went on to establish himself as the most celebrated player in the history of cricket. But that is not what set him apart. He meant more to India than just a sportsperson.
34,357 runs. 664 matches. 100 centuries. The staggering numbers of his international career is enough to do justice to this great legend. But there is more.
India has seen Tendulkar grow from a tender sapling to a huge banyan tree. He has been involved with the game for more than 2 decades watching one generation of players change over to another. He was the only constant in the constantly changing Indian line up.
Over the course of his career, the game of cricket changed drastically with the advent of T20 style. But he was a constant learner, not only adapting to every form of the game, but also setting benchmarks.
He has fallen many times. But he has picked himself him up each and every time and became better. Even when critics clamored for his retirement , he responded with the first double century in ODI.
A man of little words, he always let the bat do the talking.
He grew to become the epicenter of Indian cricket. When Sachin got out, team India got out. When Sachin got out, India switched off the game.
In a country that celebrates its diversity in various walks of life, Sachin was the unifying factor. A billion expectations rested on his shoulders and he carried them aplomb. The entire nation cheered for his every run and lamented his dismissals. His farewell speech made everyone shed tears.
Women fasted for him. Men worshipped him. He was their God.
Even after so many landmarks, records and achievements, he remained the epitome of simplicity, dedication and hard work. The fact that he practiced before every single game speaks volumes about him.
The sheer amount of expectations and pressure that he had to handle put him above his contemporaries.
He may have retired from the game, but the chants of Sachin..Sachin...shall continue his legacy.
Over the course of time, his records will be broken. History will be rewritten.
But there won't be another cricketer who unites the entire nation. There won't be another cricketer who will carry a billion expectations. There will be only one Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.