August 14, 1990. I was 17 years and 95 days old. A levels were on the horizon, cricket on the telly. Among the twinkling pixellated forms, a cherubic little boy with insect reflexes had me transfixed. While I was half-forgetting what I'd half-learned that summer - Hamlet, for instance: "To sweep or not to sweep, that is the question" - Sachin, 18 days my senior, was scoring a maiden Test hundred with not a trace of the Dane's fabled vacillation. Showing no little percipience as a talent-spotter, I told the lads at the cricket club that there were the makings of a half-decent player there, a view I feel has probably been vindicated.
He has been, quite simply, a saintly presence over not only Indian but global cricket: ageless as Peter Pan, although occasionally moved to wear a fake beard - and not, presumably, to facilitate access to nightclubs - he has maintained an undiminished joy for the game, and beatific serenity and irreproachable scruples amidst unapproachable pressure.
He has made some runs, of course, cementing his bond with the tiny smattering of cricket lovers on the subcontinent. Then he made some more runs. And after that, some more, on and on into a fourth decade playing international cricket, his every entrance into an India cricket arena like an Alka-Seltzer in a glass of water. (Heaven knows Mumbai will have a hangover come November 19).
He didn't so much reinvent himself as evolve in step with the waxing and waning of his powers. Beneath the regular flourishes of genius he was dogged rather than dogmatic (he made a double-hundred without once cover-driving), embodying that old Darwinian truth that survival is less about strength or intelligence than adaptability. So, he never did make it to the Lord's honours board, but there is not a cricket-playing land that has not, at one time or another, had their collective jaw lowered by an innings from the Little Master.
I'm no cricketing omnivore, no Tendulkaholic; I haven't, therefore, an encyclopaedic knowledge of his oeuvre (and, at some 780 international innings, that ship has sailed). My far-flung memories from England are an impressionistic showreel of smiles, scurrying, and sun-kissed strokes.
There was the punched straight drive, unfurled as quick and precise as a lizard's tongue; the tuck off the hips, titanium wrists ensuring that none of the pace on the ball was deadened into an overcautious thunk; a lap at times so ludicrous that the ball went for four on the off side! And always scampering and scrapping was saintly Sachin, cruising at 34,000 runs above our earthbound baseness, bestriding an era when the game has been dragged through the mud.
His is a career that smells of roses (at least through these rose-tinted spectacles). Simple fairplay. Okay, and the occasional gesture to the umpire - impudent rather than petulant - to indicate runs rather than leg-byes (after all, the ball flew off those distinctive rubber-moulded pads just as firmly…).
So what now, now that this Tantric career has reached its endlessly deferred climax, now that the prolonged adolescence of a life given over to sport has entered irreversible adulthood?
Well, given that he's revered, adored, loved like no other Indian, this is what I'd like Sachin to do after the curtain falls.
I want him to build a revolution out of love, to become a Guevara without the guerrilla, a prophet against profit, a spiritual figurehead.
See, the Sachin in my head rises above all. He forgives the pariahs of history, the cheats and tyrants, finds the redeeming qualities in traffic jams and toothache, smog and spam email, blaring burglar alarms and Brussels sprouts.
Rather than some scorch-earthed Jacobin bloodletting, Sachin's revolution of love and clemency will pardon the near-sighted nabobs of the BCCI, showing them the error of their high-handed, self-serving ways in abducting the Goddess Cricket. He will persuade the millionaires to help the slumdogs, to put down their instruments of power and walk the noble path.
He has the ear of a nation, an impeccable, Teflon reputation, and an unbreakable bond with the multitudes. Sure, he is not without knockers, but the hagiography outweighs the iconoclasm, much as it did with modern India's other great beacon of virtue, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She had her skeletons, but the enduring image is one of selfless dedication to society's most vulnerable.
So, Sachin, bring us your velvet revolution. Whether it's the caste system and privilege by blood, or the nouveaux riches and privilege by money, a hierarchy is a hierarchy. Make it a level playing field, Sachin. Be a heavy roller, not a high-roller. In short, become Mother Tendulkar: a beneficent, barrier-breaking bosom for the millions for whom you have been both intoxication and palliative (hence the Alka-Seltzer).
But before that, there's a Test and a half.
I will find some flickering screen and cross my fingers for him. At 40 years and 205 days young, or thereabouts, when he is swept out to the middle on who knows what emotional tide, I'll have to admit, finally, that I'm probably now unlikely to score as many international runs as Sachin.