For the past two years, each time Sachin Tendulkar stepped out to bat, the response of spectators in Mumbai, Melbourne or Manchester has been the same: the entire stadium would rise and clap as the Master made his way to the middle, looking at the sun, swinging his MRF bat, adjusting the abdomen guard in his trademark manner.
Tendulkar's countless fans have given him a warm, emotional send off, bidding him goodbye, privileged to have a final opportunity to see the genius play. Through his 25 year career, Sachin has gained the respect and admiration of millions.
Sachin reigns over his devoted subjects, his aura and charisma is unmatched.
To teammates, Sachin is the affable paaji, though he'd be chachu if one went strictly by the age gap between them. In the dressing room, Sachin is the family elder, someone to approach for guidance, advice and direction. He is the fountainhead of filtered wisdom who, whatever the stress, has all the answers.
To Virender Sehwag, a man of few (but forceful) words who is direct at the wicket and away from it, Sachin is God. Simple. His admiration for Sachin is so total, complete, it can't be reduced to words. Yuvraj mentions Sachin only in superlatives because the Master is exceptional, far from ordinary. Other teammates, not as gushing, are deeply respectful, and this shows in many small, subtle ways.
In the team context, Sachin is first among equals, he comes first in protocol. In the team bus his designated seat is first seat on the left, next to the window, the equivalent to 1A in an aircraft. In the dressing room, the team settles in only after Sachin has chosen his favourite corner, unpacked his kitbag and leaned his various bats neatly along the wall.
Sachin receives respect bordering in reverence from opposition players. There are numerous instances of rival team players approaching him for souvenirs, wanting his cap and gloves, shyly asking for signed shirts. At a World Cup match at Paarl, South Africa, after Holland lost to India the team dragged Sachin to pose for pictures with them. At cricket grounds, as Sachin walks out of the pavilion, it is not unusual to see others step aside, making room for him.
As part of this aura surrounding him, Sachin is relieved of duties that lesser players are burdened with. For instance, he is never assigned the unpopular task of attending the media conference after a day's play. Sachin talks to the press on his terms - that is, only when he is required to, after receiving a Man of the Match award!
Note: The author's views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of NDTV.