At exactly 11.47 a.m. on a balmy Saturday morning, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar bid a tearful adieu to international cricket after an illustrious career lasting exactly 24 years and a day in which he played 200 Test matches, 463 ODIs and a lone T20 scoring 34,357 international runs.
It wasn’t a jam-packed Wankhede Stadium like Thursday but at least 25,000 were still in attendance to witness one of the most poignant moments in the history of Indian cricket as the last West Indian wicket fell.
The 40-year-old maestro, who had rarely let emotions show on his cherubic face, began to break down after being presented a souvenir stump by his teammates. Wiping tears, he trudged back to the dressing room but not before acknowledging the fans and shaking hands with the West Indian cricketers at the boundary line.
The West Indies players personally congratulated Tendulkar as he accepted each and every emerging hand with the same grace and humility that has been his hallmark for almost two and half decades.
The crowd was on its feet, so were each and everyone in the press-box. He was back on the ground for the presentation accompanied by his wife Anjali and children, Arjun and Sara.
After being presented a couple of mementos, Tendulkar gave a speech to thank every contributor to his 24-year-career before taking a lap of honour.
The TV crew tried to catch each and every contour of Tendulkar’s facial expression before the likes of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli hoisted him on their shoulders.
The master was seen waving the tri-colour as he acknowledged his emotionally-overwhelmed fans.
He came back to the ground one last time and touched the 22-yard strip with his hands as a mark of respect.
His family was with him throughout and they were also vociferously cheered by the crowd. It was one moment where emotions were difficult to control.
Some had moist eyes, those who know how to conceal their emotions probably hid it under their shades.
Everyone knew that the moment would arrive today but will vouch for their lives that they didn’t want it ever to arrive.
For once, fans wanted Marlon Samuels not to hit that ugly stroke, they wanted Chris Gayle not to edge that cut shot so that Tendulkar could stay on there for a little bit longer.
For a generation that grew up during 80’s and 90’s, it was difficult to live a life and not love Sachin Tendulkar.
For those of the earlier generation, it was difficult not to compare with him their hero Sunil Gavaskar.
There were some great players like VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble but they were all supporting actors in the great saga called Indian cricket as there was only one hero — that five 5’5 man from Bandra.
He touched hearts when he dedicated his century against England in the Chennai Test in 2008 to the victims of the Mumbai terror attack.
Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar retired from international cricket quietly, so did Dravid and Laxman holding their customary press conferences.
Ganguly and Kumble got a farewell but it was much muted by those standards. But when it came to Tendulkar, who has truly transcended all boundaries, it was only fitting that a billion people would be swayed by emotions.
The adjectives will get exhausted but the legend of Tendulkar will continue to stay on with us.
Simply put, there won’t be another Sachin Tendulkar. They don’t make cricketers like him anymore.