Exactly 24 years ago, a 16-year-old cricketer made headlines for being the third youngest Test debutant. On Friday, the same prodigal genius called Sachin TendulkarÂ aka God of cricket, slapped his 68th half-century in what may well be the concluding innings of a long and sensational cricketing journey.
The young Tendulkar had scored 15 against Pakistan's army of menacing pacers back in 1989. He was tested by pace, bullied by bouncers and probed by swing. Tendulkar held on for 24 deliveries. He was finally bowled by Waqar Younis but not before he had dispatched two deliveries to the fence. Over 2000 more were to follow!
The veteran cricketer on Friday hit nine fours en route to a half-century - an innings which was a superb synthesis of youthful exuberance, heavenly skill and matchless class crafted through two decades of international cricket. Each of his nine shots against West Indies at Wankhede were testament to his cricketing genius - vintage straight shots, sublime cover drives and heavenly pulls all the way to the boundary rope. Such was the cricketing radiance of the man with the 'golden bat' that even West Indies bowlers appeared wanting to cheer or take notes rather than put an end to the excellence on display. The brilliance though did end when a Sachin edge to first-slip off Deonarine's bowling.
For a man who has shouldered the weight of fans' expectations for years, Tendulkar would have been perfectly ready to do it all one last time again. And he indeed did. Even he however, couldn't have predicted the sheer scale of revelry at Wankhede on the second day of the second Test. A day earlier, fans had stood in long queues to enter the stadium and celebrate but on Friday, the party had already begun on the streets outside. Fans came dressed in India colours, masks of Sachin in tow. Several even sported Sachin wigs as sounds of 'Sachiin, Sachiin' reverberated in the wee hours of Mumbai morning. And their hero, their leader and indeed their god didn't disappoint.
Tendulkar - the cricketer - may have called it time on his career but Sachin - the legacy - will surely stand the test of time for generations to come.