Cricket aficionados' love, even passion, for their "god" Sachin Tendulkar is unlikely to recede even after his playing days.
Besides his divine gifts for batting, as well as extraordinary exploits and tours de force during a phenomenal 24-year international career, his legions of fans across the globe have also played a part in immortalizing him. He is one of those rare cricketers whose name is not unknown to many even in non-cricketing nations. It is at once a tribute to his genius.
Just like Don Bradman, he is right up there with some of the world’s most famous, immortal sportspersons like Dhyan Chand, Jesse Owens, Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Pele, Diego Maradona, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Rod Lever, Roger Federer, Steffi Graf, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand, who are well-known, and much respected, outside their respective fields as well.
Though there was no possibility of Tendulkar batting again in his farewell Test after he scored a vintage 74 in the first innings and helped India post a huge total, many of his fans wanted to see him in action for the last time, hoping against hopes.
An over-enthusiastic admirer, Sharad Dalvi (22), had a wild imagination and hoped for a fairy tale-like scenario. "I pray that Chris Gayle scores a belligerent triple century or more and helps the West Indies set a challenging target for India to win the Test," he told this correspondent at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday morning when asked how he had been feeling about his idol’s retirement. "This should provide Tendulkar another opportunity to bat in his final Test and I’m sure he’ll score a century."
Another fan, Smita Joglekar (19), said she was so upset when Tendulkar missed out on what would have been a "historic century" that she "couldn’t sleep" on Friday night. "For me, centuries have become synonymous with Tendulkar. I was hoping for a big hundred, maybe 200 even, from him after he completed his fifty and was going great guns," she said. "Suddenly both Narsingh Deonarine and Darren Sammy, who combined to spoil his swansong, became my enemies and I couldn’t help uttering some swear words about them."
Interestingly, one Pratik Nimbalkar (24), who described himself as a Tendulkar "devotee", said the maestro "should revoke his decision" to retire. "Where’s the need for him to retire from the game?" he asked. "He looks as fit and enthusiastic as ever. He was playing so well that never once did I feel that a 41-year-old was batting."
Not many sportspersons can boast of having the kind of fanatic fans that Tendulkar has made on the strength of his class batsmanship and an array of achievements and records. And his conduct on and off the field all these years has been quite exemplary. Even those who are not his diehard fans have seldom or never spoken ill about him even when he has not performed.
"I like Tendulkar’s batting just as I like the bowling of Shoaib Akhtar, though I'm not his big fan," said one Javed Ansari (31). "But he is such a great cricketer and human being that I don’t believe anyone can think of speaking negatively about him even in private."
That’s Tendulkar for you. All of us should bless our stars that he was born to play cricket (and how!) in our times. It is not in the Nature that there should be another Tendulkar. There should not really be. He was simply a one-off.