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When you think of Bradman, you think of 99.94. When you conjure Lara in your mind's eye, you connect him with 501* and 400*. But when you think of Sachin Tendulkar, what is the number that stands out to you? Tom Heenan from Back Page Lead wonders about this himself, and reminisces on a career that has extended back to the times of apartheid, the Soviet Union, and the Berlin Wall.
When Sachin's retirement was announced, Time commented on the difficulty of explaining to Americans that Tendulkar was to one-sixth of the planet "the greatest sportsman of all time." Barack Obama, however, knew his significance. In acknowledging Tendulkar's retirement, Obama confessed he didn't know much about cricket, or even care for Tendulkar's batting. But he did know that while Tendulkar was at the wicket US production dropped 5%.
Tendulkar's reign in the game coincided with India's growth as an economic power, making the country more visible globally. Ed Smith, writing in his column for BBC Sport, charts Tendulkar's progress, and the concurrent issues which rang at the time, and wonders how one can begin to classify the kind of influence and inspiration the Mumbai maestro had, not only on India, but international sport.
Last year, the historian Ram Guha sat on a committee to determine the 'Greatest Indian Since Gandhi'. There were two strands of the selection process, one an expert "jury", the second an online poll. The jury put Tendulkar in the top 10 greatest Indians; the popular vote went even further, placing him even higher than Nehru. In retrospect, success takes on an air of inevitability. With all that talent, how could Tendulkar have failed to achieve greatness? With so much cultural support, surely he was bound to stay committed to his country? After the fact, India's economic successes can also look deceptively predetermined. Given all its human and natural resources, surely it had to become an economic powerhouse?
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