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Indian star Sachin Tendulkar to retire from Test cricket

NEW DELHI -- India’s record-setting cricket batsman Sachin Tendulkar announced Thursday he will retire next month after playing his 200th Test cricket match, a development that topped virtually every news program in this nation crazed about the sport.

Tendulkar, 40, the highest run-scorer in the history of Test cricket, the longest form of the game, said he would make his exit after the second of two Test series against the West Indies to be played from Nov. 14-18 in India. "It's been a huge honor to have represented my country and played all over the world," he said in a statement.

As word spread, legions of fans mourned and gushed. "'The God' has called it quits,” said the state-run Press Trust of India news agency. “Cricket won't find another one to fill the vacuum for a long, long time to come.”

The president of India’s cricket board, Narayanaswami Srinivasan, called Tendulkar one of the greatest sportsmen in history in a statement and the best cricketer India has produced.

The 5-foot-4-inch “Little Master,” as he is affectionately known, has scored an unprecedented 100 centuries in international competition.

Postings erupted on the Twitter micro-blogging site under the heading #SachinRetires. “This must be what Death feels like,” wrote user @jhunjhunwala. “It's not a breaking news; It's "Heart - Breaking News," echoed @rai_nishant.

An apocryphal story on a website called Faking News from 2012 went viral saying that India’s ruling Congress party pushed for his retirement in order to clear all other news involving corruption and official crimes off the front page so “people will only discuss and debate Tendulkar’s career.”

As word of Tendulkar's actual retirement spread Thursday, praise poured in from around the world for a man who holds nearly every batting record in Test cricket. "One of the greatest ever,” tweeted former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan. “One of my heroes and an absolute joy to play against."

Tendulkar started in 1989 as a 16-year old against Pakistan, going on to score 15,837 runs in 198 Test matches and 18,426 runs in one-day international matches, a shorter version of the game he retired from in December 2012.

But his form has been inconsistent over the last three years. “This is a good time for him to go,” said Kishore Bhimani, a sports commentator. “He’s at the top of his game.”

Tendulkar’s career has mirrored huge changes in cricket as a once demure game was transformed by television exposure, lucrative broadcast rights contracts, big-money marketing and major match-fixing scandals.

“He lived through all the changes, but he remained a gentleman,” said Bhimani, who first interviewed the star when Tendulkar was 15. “He remained the same modest guy. He’s a role model for upcoming players and the entire country.”

Others said Tendulkar’s timing was exquisite as he rode India’s transformation from a second-tier team into a cricketing powerhouse and from a struggling economy into a wannabe superpower.

“As Sachin’s career grew, so did cricket,” said Pradeep Magazine, a sports journalist. “The growth of the game, the growth of Indian economy, it all coincided, falling into place at the same time.”

Tendulkar said he wasn’t sure what he would do next, but many Indians believe it’s likely to be something related to the game. "It's hard for me to imagine a life without playing cricket,” Tendulkar said in a statement. “It's all I have ever done since I was 11 years old.”

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Twitter: @markmagnier

mark.magnier@latimes.com

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