Tendulkar's retirement marks end of an Indian experience

Tendulkar's retirement marks end of an Indian experience

Will he make a speech, this retiring Sachin Tendulkar, in his home city of Mumbai next month during his last Test and is it the closest we'll come to a nation crying?

Will grown men snivel, maybe me, too, for his 24-year journey since 1989 was made alongside ours. He, 40, is part of our history, our dialogue, our reading, our growing up. Sport always goes on, but there is a sense of something ending - his career and every vestige of our youth.

Will another player ever find his entry to an Indian field an event in itself? He had India's attention before it could see him, a frozen nation waiting for him to emerge from the pavilion and adjust his crotch and take his stance, the only sane man in the stadium Tendulkar himself, unmoved as the crowd sang out his name like a single-word anthem. Perhaps Napoleon arrived on the battlefield with such similar pomp.

Will people elsewhere ever understand what he meant and the absurdity of his life, wherein a vast, ancient land found something substantial, reassuring and unifying in a 16-year-old with a bat? Genius who didn't swear, smoke, drink. Genius so venerated he never got to taste the beauty of the ordinary life.

And genius he was, evident in his technique, his composure, his consistency, his longevity, at his best a perfectly-designed, perpetually-polished machine of batsmanship. He could never be the greatest batsman ever for Donald Bradman had that seat, but he was there next in line.

Will he awake in December happy not to be this secular god any more? Or will he ache for the applause that was his daily music? Tendulkar could not tuck his shirt in or burp without India clapping. All worship has a tinge of madness and a taste of addiction.

Will he potter through 2014, no team meetings, no nets, and will he pick up a bat and put his nose to it, searching for the intoxicating smell of wood, sweat, tension? Will he switch on an old DVD of himself and watch alone, lonely forever without this game?

Will he regret his last years, his stumbling towards his final century, his testing of public faith, his riding for a brief time on his name when for his entire career he had so wonderfully done the opposite?

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