More than a billion television sets have been switched off.
In the 1990s, if you were an Indian cricket fan worth your salt and Sachin Tendulkar had just been given out in a one-day international, the unwritten rule was simple: “Switch the TV off.”
For a nation that back then had only recently opened up its financial borders to the world, cricket was the fulcrum that either boosted or lowered the sensex ratings.
The glamour of ODI cricket pulled in the audiences and Tendulkar’s performances ensured they would never leave.
His retirement from 50-over cricket has signalled the end of an era but, in addition, a part of India has receded into the background. Things will never be the same again for a billion cricket fans.
Face of cricket
Tendulkar was the face of cricket for India — many would argue he still is. In his heyday, his presence guaranteed a full house. No mere feat considering the ‘Little Master’ was played in the same ranks as Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. He was WG Grace, and Don Bradman combined for India — you came to watch him, the cricket itself was incidental.
Winning the 1983 World Cup had transformed ODI cricket from something India were relatively good at to a national passion where defeat was unthinkable and victory an expectation. And once again, Tendulkar’s presence all but made that outcome certain in our minds.
Tendulkar himself credits watching the 1983 victory on television as an inspiration. When held aloft by his team-mates on a lap of honour around the Wankhede in April 2011, how much of that early memory crossed his mind, only he knows.
His popularity made him almost a godsend for advertisers, and there is perhaps no city in India without a super-sized billboard with some household product being endorsed. But Tendulkar off the field was much more than advertising space. He was the face of an emerging nation who saw their hopes and dreams reflected in this little man from Mumbai.
His distinctive action of adjusting the “box” was imitated in neighbourhood parks across India.
Street cricket was never devoid of that one kid who had apparently hit it “exactly like Sachin”. As Tendulkar-mania swept the country, the number of cricket-crazy fathers who christened their sons “Sachin” was on the rise.
If Tendulkar played well and India won, businesses thrived and people went home happy.
Heaven help if the opposite happened, as was the case in 1996 when playing Sri Lanka in the World Cup semi-final in Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.
In 1999, while on World Cup duty in England, Tendulkar’s father passed away. He promptly flew home for the funeral, but returned just days later to score a century against Kenya. Any other person would perhaps not even have left the house, let alone carry the hopes of a nation. His brother Nitin described the knock as “unbelievable”, not for the manner of scoring but for Sachin’s “frame of mind”.
In recent times, his form may have taken a dip, but in two sublime innings the man who holds almost every record imaginable proved yet again why the title of ‘Little Master’ was rightfully handed to him from Sunil Gavaskar. Becoming the first to score a double century in ODIs against South Africa was only trumped by reaching his 100th career century, fittingly perhaps in a 50-over game against Bangladesh.
Sachin’s ODI records
As Sachin Tendulkar says goodbye to ODIs, here is a complete list of his fabulous records in this format of the game...
Number of runs scored facing 21,367 deliveries in 463 matches
Number of runs scored during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. It remains the highest aggregate by any player in a World Cup competition
Number of times he has been either dismissed or remained unbeaten in the nineties
Number of boundaries scored in 463 matches
Number of ODI centuries scored against Australia. It is the highest for any player against a single opposition
Number of times he has scored more than thousand runs in a calendar year - 1994, 1996-98, 2000, 2003 and 2007
Number of 50-plus scored — 49 hundreds and 96 fifties
Became the first player to score a double century in one-dayers.
He reached that coveted mark against South Africa in Gwalior in February 2010