London: Former England captain Michael Atherton said India great Sachin Tendulkar had achieved something "few can comprehend" in playing international cricket for more than two decades.
Widely regarded as one of cricket's greatest batsmen, the 40-year-old Tendulkar is currently playing his 200th and final Test, against the West Indies, in his home town of Mumbai.
He is ending an international career which began in 1989 and during which time he became the all-time leading Test and one-day batsman and the only man to score 100 international centuries.
It seemed as if he might reward his adoring fans with yet another century but instead 'The Little Master' fell for 74 on Friday in what could well be his last Test innings.
"Whatever the rest of this Test brings, he completes a feat -- almost 2½ decades in international sport - that few can comprehend, let alone contemplate," wrote Atherton, now cricket correspondent of The Times.
Atherton added Tendulkar's longevity was "remarkable when you think that it gets harder, not easier, the longer you play, especially in the craziest cricketing country on Earth".
Atherton was on the opposite side when Tendulkar scored the first of his record 51 Test hundreds at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England, in 1990.
"There was your correspondent sending down some filthy leg-spin; a svelte Angus Fraser gliding in to bowl; and Devon Malcolm, who hit the 17-year-old Tendulkar on the helmet in the first innings. David Gower and Graham Gooch looked on from slip," Atherton recalled.
"I remember how still he (Tendulkar) was at the crease, how composed he looked and how understated his hundred celebration was.
"Remarkably little changed with Tendulkar's game... fundamentally his technique has remained constant and pure.
"But what changes Tendulkar has witnessed, on the field and off it. Commercialisation; the dominance of television; the match-fixing crisis; the advent of Twenty20; the rise of franchised leagues to threaten the primacy of international cricket.
"Through it all, Tendulkar remained a constant, free of scandal, as fixing embedded itself all around him."
Atherton said Tendulkar's retirement was "a significant moment for the game".
"He is the last of his kind to be brought up in an age when Test cricket and international cricket was pre-eminent and without challenge. A remarkable journey, for man and country."