Sachin Tendulkar has decided to call it quits. In a media statement released through the Board of Control for Cricket in India on Thursday afternoon, the 40-year-old Tendulkar said his 200th Test will be the last time he will be seen in India colours. This milestone match, against the West Indies, will most probably be held in Mumbai next month. (In pics: Sachin Tendulkar's Test tons)
Tendulkar thus ended weeks of speculation on his Test retirement. He had already quit limited overs cricket in December 2012 and the pressure to give up the longer format mounted in recent times after he failed to come good with the bat. For a man who scored a record 51 Test centuries, Tendulkar's last hundred came against South Africa in Cape Town in January 2011. In 198 Test matches, Tendulkar, regarded the greatest batsman of his generation, scored 15837 runs at an average of 53.86. He slammed 67 fifties and an unbeaten 248 against Bangladesh in Dhaka in December 2004 was his best ever. (All facts to know about Master Blaster)
In an emotional statement, Tendulkar said: "All my life, I have had a dream of playing cricket for India. I have been living this dream every day for the last 24 years. It's hard for me to imagine a life without playing cricket because it's all I have ever done since I was 11 years old. It's been a huge honour to have represented my country and played all over the world. I look forward to playing my 200th Test Match on home soil, as I call it a day.
"I thank the BCCI for everything over the years and for permitting me to move on when my heart feels it's time! I thank my family for their patience and understanding. Most of all, I thank my fans and well-wishers who through their prayers and wishes have given me the strength to go out and perform at my best." (Related read: Sachin has served Indian cricket like no other, says N Srinivasan)
For someone who was considered as the "God of Cricket", former Test captain and opening batsman Sunil Gavaskar said on NDTV: "It will not be easy to fill the gap left by Sachin. The No. 4 position will be a slot that will invite a huge amount of pressure. It will be a litmus test for anyone batting there. All big Test sides have had the best of batsmen batting at No. 4. For India, the position has been occupied by Tendulkar for almost two decades and it will be impossible to replace him overnight." Tendulkar made his Test debut against Pakistan at Karachi in November 1989. His ODI debut also came during the same tour. (Watch here)
Even though his form came under much introspection in recent times, Tendulkar has broken almost every record a batsman can think of. While playing a Champions League T20 match against Trinidad and Tobago in Delhi on Saturday, Tendulkar crossed 50,000 runs across all format of competitive cricket. This includes a record 18426 ODI runs in 463 matches laced with 49 centuries!
Tendulkar's role in the Indian team was more than just scoring runs. He was part of the holy trinity of Dravid, Sachin and Ganguly and his presence in the dressing room was a 'comfort' factor that helped Team India handle the ups and lows with equal composure. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni admitted that Tendulkar was the elder statesman and at a time when Team India was full of aggressive but talented individuals like a Virat Kohli and a Ravindra Jadeja, the Little Master knew how to handle the young guns.
In an exclusive chat with NDTV, Ganguly said: "Sachin has made the right decision and at the right time. He deserves to play his last Test at home and whether Test cricket will be poorer without him we will have to wait and see."
Ganguly said more than Tendulkar's talent, it was hunger for runs that kept him going. "His commitment to the game and his temperament stood out. He is India's biggest cricket asset and I am sure he will be involved with the game in future," said Ganguly.