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After 200 Test Matches over nearly 24 years, the ‘Little Master’, Sachin Tendulkar, has retired from cricket. This message was met with both a sense of sadness and a sense of awe across the cricketing world – never again, it is claimed, will we see another batsmen like him. His impact on cricket and on the nation of India as a whole should not be underestimated; indeed, it has left many asking the simple question of ‘what will life after Sachin be like?’ Although he can never be replaced, the future of Indian cricket is bright, and has come a long way from when Tendulkar first entered the fray over 20 years ago.
With Tendulkar now retired, it is possible to try and comprehend the incredible statistics that define his 20 years at the top. In 200 Test Matches, he amassed 15,921 runs at an average of 53.79. Put plainly, these are statistics that will surely never be beaten in world cricket. His nearest competitor, the also-retired Ricky Ponting sits over 2000 runs behind with an average of just under 52. In Test Cricket, an average of 50 is always the hallmark of a great player, but to sustain an average of 50 for 18 years, as Tendulkar has done, is something extraordinary. It is also worth remembering that when Tendulkar first came onto the international scene in 1989, India was not the cricketing superpower that it is today. He, along with other notable Indian batsmen such as VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, have had to build India’s status to where it is now, and to be able to sustain such an impressive record during a time of occasionally difficult progression is further testament to the incredible batting talent that Tendulkar obtained.
All what has been said; without even mentioning his most monumental achievement of 100 hundreds in international cricket. To have the drive and mental capacity to score that volume of runs is nearly impossible; to do it with the weight of Indian expectation pressing down on you is quite another matter. Tendulkar, put simply, was the master of his profession.
To truly appreciate Tendulkar, we have to look beyond statistics. As previously alluded to, Tendulkar achieved his greatness with the weight of over 1 billion Indian cricket fans watching on with huge anticipation. The fact that he thrived, let alone survived with this pressure, surely demonstrates a batsman eclipsing legendary status.
With the Little Master now gone for good, the irreplaceable must now become replaceable. Over the past 3 years, the old guard have gradually begun to retire– Tendulkar representing the last of the aforementioned greats. Although initially this may appear to be saddening to many Indian fans, I believe that the future for Indian cricket is exceptionally bright. The current captain, MS Dhoni, has, almost like Tendulkar, captured the hearts and minds of the Indian people. Not only that, but he makes vital runs at crucial times. Dhoni has set about building his own team, with a new age of young and exciting players coming through the ranks, none more so than Virat Kohli. At the age of just 25, he has already accumulated 21 international centuries – on a par with Tendulkar at that age. He is surrounded by other young batting talents such as Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan creating the consensus in India that, with such a wealth of talent coming through, the past needn’t be dwelled upon.
While the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman brought India to the position they are in today, the new guard is believed to be capable of taking India to new heights in world cricket. It can be said that Tendulkar will never truly be replaced; however, the new order of Indian batsmen will allow the transition period to be as smooth as possible, and allow Indian cricket to build on the immense progress initiated by Tendulkar.
Clearly though, never again will there be a batsman like Tendulkar, who was adored by not only his fans, but also his fellow players. If his status as a true cricketing giant was ever in doubt, then the outpouring of emotion from the cricketing world over the last few weeks surely confirms this status. His former team-mate Sourav Ganguly described him simply as ‘fantastic, fantastic…the greatest player’. Michael Vaughan, the former England cricket captain, stated that Tendulkar had ‘been Indian cricket for the last 20 years’. Even the chief executive of the International Cricket Council, Dave Richardson, gave his view, suggesting that ‘sporting geniuses like Sachin are rare phenomenons and we are privileged to have seen him in action’. These messages are only a small snapshot of the immense wave of congratulations and admiration that has been directed at Tendulkar – they only serve to demonstrate further that he really was a one of a kind.
And so, after over 20 years at the top of world cricket, Sachin Tendulkar has moved on. Never again will we see stadiums fill to see him bat, before emptying rapidly after he is dismissed. His impact on world cricket will never be forgotten, and for such an entertaining, mesmerising and at times statistics defying career I must echo all other cricket fans around the when I simply state: thank you Sachin.