What We Remember

Tendulkar's farewell

A colossus departs the game

Sharda Ugra
Sharda Ugra
It was an event that needed to be marked on a geological time scale: the end of an eon, not a mere era. Sachin Tendulkar's 24-year career and his footprint on the game is enormous. His bat and his persona were central characters in the transformation of Indian cricket, in laying down the grammar of Indian batsmanship, and in influencing the finances of the world game by virtue of his hold on the mind of the Indian cricket fan.
With the World Cup won and the 100th international hundred out of the way, it would have been absurd in retrospect had Tendulkar's farewell not been held in India. Australia in Delhi, March 2013, was Test No. 198 for Tendulkar, with a tour of South Africa to follow. By the time the retirement announcement came, a two-Test series against West Indies, with a final Test in his home town, Mumbai, was shoehorned in in between.
The month leading to the actual goodbye was drowned in multimedia tributes and much sentimental caterwauling. Yet when the day came, the memory and resonance of the event submerged the schmaltz. A final Test innings, 74 in two and a half hours, with signature straight drives, carves past point and creamy cover drives was the delectable opening. The heavy silence the instant after his dismissal was palpable, followed by gun-salute applause. At the end of the match, his team-mates gave him a guard of honour that escorted him off the ground for the last time.
The extempore goodbye speech, more than 25 years summed up in 20 minutes, made even the most hard-boiled teary. A lap of honour on the shoulders of MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli; the familiar chant of Sa-chin-Sa-chin, which he said would "reverberate" till he stopped breathing; the runs, the records, the flag-waving. Tendulkar walked away from the hubbub, over to the cricket pitch that had given him his identity, his joys, his success, touched it in private salutation and walked away.
It was only then we realised - the game will not look upon his like again.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo