Sachin Tendulkar's decision to retire from cricket may have dismayed millions of fans but for Vinod Kambli, it is a decision which has come two seasons too late.
Having grown and played with Tendulkar, Kambli has had the privilege of seeing his school friend gradually transform into a legendary figure over two decades of international cricket. While he doesn't deny the obvious and unparalleled passion, says Tendulkar should have chosen winning the ODI World Cup as the perfect time to say his goodbye.
"The Tendulkar we've seen in the last couple of years is way different from the one I grew up with. He wasn't scoring the kind of runs expected from him. It was sad. He should have ideally retired after the 2011 World Cup. It would have been a fitting farewell for a legend after fulfilling his childhood dream," he was quoted as saying by DNA.
Kambli and Tendulkar made headlines as teenagers when they struck an unbeaten partnership of 664 runs. The two were playing the Harris Shield match for their school. Harbouring dreams of playing for the national team, the two youngsters broke into the international scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
"My association with Tendlya goes back to our childhood days when we dreamt of playing for the country while practicing under the watchful eyes of (coach) Ramakant Achrekar Sir at Shivaji Park," said the former player who was once considered prolific for scoring two double tons and becoming the fastest Indian to reach 1000 runs in Tests.
"We bonded instantly and had many memorable partnerships in schools cricket and then at the international level."
The bond however has not been without cracks. In 2009, Kambli reportedly said he was disappointed with Tendulkar for not supporting him during his days without form. Of course, the left-handed cricketer had also dwelved into off-field activities like appearing in reality TV shows and dabbling in politics - he joined the Lok Bharti Party.
His revelations on his relationship with Tendulkar however hardly affected Kambli's 'child-hood ability' to be aware of how his friend thought and felt about the sport.
"Though his decision to retire may have led to an outburst of emotions in the cricketing fraternity, it is the right one. The last two Tests will be an emotional journey for him. I hope he enjoys his stint in the middle and scores big," he said in the above mentioned report.
Tendulkar will face West Indies in his final two Tests. And while he will have the prayers of fans and family backing him, there will also be a very special friend who will surely be wishing for a grand finale to a career which took birth in his presence.