West Indies cricket legend Sir Viv Richards has walked out to bat for Sachin Tendulkar amidst calls for the little Indian to retire from international cricket.
Richards, who celebrates his 60th birthday today, told MiD DAY from Antigua: "You have to be patient with him. Sachin has been around for so long that when he goes, he is going to be sadly missed. So, while you have him now, why not enjoy him till the very end?"
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Tendulkar, who has spent over 22 years in international cricket, is one century shy of becoming the only batsman to score a hundred international centuries. His wait has been frustratingly long with Hundred No 99 coming nearly one year ago -- on March 12, 2011 (vs South Africa during the last World Cup).
"The milestone which has eluded him over a period of time will come. You have got to sympathise with Sachin. He needs to be given an opportunity to accomplish that. "He deserves it because of the contribution he has made to the game.
"It's a huge milestone and you will only get an opportunity to pass this way once. It would be a milestone for other Indian batsmen to try and emulate. I doubt whether they will get there, but it is something to aim for," Richards added.
Tendulkar idolised Richards in his younger days and though they didn't get the opportunity to play against each other, mutual respect has been a constant. "I have always felt Sachin epitomises what batsmanship is all about. I am a great fan of Sachin -- not only for his cricket, but also for his mannerisms, his politeness and humble nature.
"Sachin has given longevity a good name -- how, if you take care of yourself, barring a few injuries, you can go on. He is the perfect example of professionalism.
"Winning the World Cup in India was a perfect sort of team achievement. I am not sure if he has his sights on another World Cup, but all this is pretty hard to beat. He is special for the game."