Out of the 215 Tests that India have played since Sachin Tendulkar made his debut in Pakistan in 1989-90, he has missed only 17 of them. To think of someone playing in 198 out of 215 Tests his country has played over 24 years – make it 200 out of 217 in the next few weeks – forces one to stand up and laud the feat. Doesn’t that give you goosebumps?
The last time India were involved in a Test series before Tendulkar broke on to the stage was in the West Indies when Dilip Vengsarkar’s side were swept aside 0-3 by the mighty West Indies in the Caribbean islands. Now, against the same opponents, not that world dominating anymore, and in his own country, the great batsman will play the last of his 200th Test – keeping aside all the hypothetical questions of what if he gets hurt on the eve of any of the two Tests and if he would miss any of them, then would he go to South Africa.
Tendulkar has provided joy to more than just his generation of people. Fans stayed assured as long as Tendulkar was in the playing XI. Never once was his place in doubt – be it the Tests or ODIs – over those two-and-a-half decades. Two Tests later, without Tendulkar in the Indian dressing room is incomprehensible. Even those who wanted him to retire will find it difficult to digest the fact that he will not turn out in India flannels after two more Tests.
Vengsarkar said: “It is very difficult to comprehend that he won’t be there. He has played for 25 years and has dominated the bowling everywhere. We have been fortunate to watch a great player. Without him, the game will go on. Many greats have retired – Don Bradman, Gary Sobers, Viv Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, etc. It is not easy to fill his shoes. He’ll leave a big void.”
Tendulkar’s first captain in international cricket, K Srikkanth, said that the onus was on the youngsters to take up the responsibility and take Indian cricket forward. “Sachin will leave a huge void. To be playing in 200 Tests and score 100 international centuries is an amazing feat. He’s one of the greatest human beings I have come across. Definitely, the No. 4 slot is irreplaceable.
His motivating factor will be missed in the dressing room. The youngsters have to bear the responsibility and keep doing well for India. That’s the only way to overcome his absence.”
Former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga said. “They have got used to the fact that he has been part of the Indian cricket for so long. It will be a little difficult not to see him in the dressing room. But that is how life goes. What they need to do is concentrate on their cricket rather than think of someone who is not there. He has been great. I don’t think anyone can fill his shoes. The only ways is to go out and play their normal cricket. It is a hard think for most of the cricketers who have been playing with him for 10-12 years.”
Ranatunga, like Vengsarkar and Srikkanth, saluted the genius for staying grounded despite achieving all that he has in cricket. Ranatunga said: “He has been a humble person for so many years. He has not changed at all. His commitment has been really good, an example for youngsters to learn from. The way he respects the game, the way he respects the seniors, youngsters have to learn from him. Everyone knows that cricketers are money minting machines but what I saw in Sachin is that he has always kept cricket ahead of all the other aspects including money. That has been the secret of his success for so many years.”