New Delhi:The air of invincibility that gave nightmares to bowlers is all but gone but Sachin Tendulkar's greatness can never be doubted and the least that the batting maestro deserves is a retirement day of his choice.
Australian pace legend Glenn McGrath, West Indian great Sir Vivian Richards and the man who has been called a 'Tendulkar clone' - Virender Sehwag - are unanimous in their opinion that Tendulkar does not need anybody other than himself to decide when the time is right to call it a day.
For all his vulnerabilities that have been exposed over the years, McGrath says Tendulkar remains as enchanting as he was when he first burst into the international scene as a 16-year-old.
In fact, he says it hurts when critics scrutinise a career as glorious as Tendulkar's through statistics.
"It's sad to note that people try to find faults in Sachin's mental strength by pointing to a poorer second innings average and a below-par record in the finals. I find such readings of Sachin's career to be a bit harsh," McGrath wrote in a column published in the latest issue of 'The Week' magazine.
"I know he is coming towards the end of his career but I think he has earned the right to decide when he runs out of the urge to play. He has enough financially and now it's up to him to seek motivation and if he finds it, he must continue to play," he added.
Richards goes a step further and says that Tendulkar's refusal to leave the international stage even after playing for 19 years is based on his love for the game and instead of being critical of his continuation, critics and fans should enjoy whatever is left of his career.
"He is at a stage in his career where financial gain and the need to prove himself are no longer motivators. He is playing because he loves the game and feels that he can continue for a couple of seasons more.
"Instead of waiting for the announcement, let's enjoy the remaining innings of this great player and immensely likeable individual," he said.
Sehwag puts it rather bluntly and says Tendulkar is "god of cricket" and should continue as long as he wants.
"I once asked him 'You have made so many runs and played for so many years, don't you get bored?'. He said 'No I am enjoying my cricket. The day I feel I am not enjoying playing, I am , I will quit'," the Indian opener said recalling a conversation with the milestone-man, who is just 77 runs shy of becoming the highest accumulator of runs in Test cricket.
The trio feels Tendulkar's greatness lies not just in his batting prowess, but in the way he has influenced the sport, setting an example for one and all with his conduct both on and off the field.
"The joy he brings to the millions of his countrymen, the grace with which he handles all the adulation and the expectations and his innate humility -- all make for a one-in-a-billion individual," said McGrath.
"It's often said that Sachin does well when his teammates do well. But, to turn that around a little, perhaps his teammates do well because he instills confidence in them by his own performance. He has had a long career spanning two decades, yet he has the ability to raise his game to a different level and inspire his teammates by example," added Richards.
"He insists that one must enjoy the journey and not think of the result. I think he is born for cricket. Nobody talks about cricket while waiting at airports or during a flight, but he always talks about the game," observed Sehwag of his inspiration.
"I want his consistency, his technique, his focus -- I want all that from him. He always tells me enjoy my batting and to keep taking on new challenges," he added.