NEW DELHI -- Indian cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar retired Saturday, drawing to a close a stellar 24-year career with tears, a final wave and the enduring love of millions.
Spectators in the packed stands of Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, his hometown, chanted, “We want Sachin, We want Sachin,” as television networks broadcast a huge banner in the stands proclaiming “Legends Never Retire.” With millions watching across the country, he shook hands with players on the opposing West Indies side and climbed the stairs to the dressing room.
The game was a record 200th Test match for Tendulkar, the highest run-scorer in history with 34,357 international runs. “Cricket will go on and records will be broken, but there will never be a player like Sachin again,” said Kapil Dev, captain of the first Indian team to win the World Cup. “He was truly one in a billion. We should celebrate his retirement, not regret it.”
India beat the uninspired West Indian team by an innings and 126 runs inside three days to take the series 2-0.
Tendulkar managed his career brilliantly over two decades, grabbing headlines and winning the love of a nation with his humility, soft-spoken nature and consistent superior performance in the face of searing media pressure and huge expectations.
He was born into a middle-class family in Mumbai, the son of a novelist, and mentored by his elder brother Ajit, who was also an enthusiastic cricketer. “Sachin’s quick growth as a cricketer surprised us all,” the reclusive Ajit said recently in a rare television interview. “He is finishing on a happy note. Most of his dreams have come true. I believe he has also fulfilled the dreams of Indian fans.”
Tendulkar, dubbed the “little master,” jumped onto the national stage in 1989 at age 16 and for the next quarter century barely let up, setting almost all batting records on his way to becoming the only player to record 100 international centuries, or 100 runs scored in a game. Hopes that he would score one more century in his final game Friday for a fairy-tale ending were dashed when he was out for 74 .
Age started to catch up with him in recent years -- he failed to score a Test century in the last 40 innings of his career -- fueling his decision to leave the game. Some critics suggested he should have left earlier, but that failed to blunt his popularity in South Asia.
Even as cricket become a multibillion-dollar game, with corruption scandals, match fixing and controversy, Tendulkar stood out as the exception. The one slight shadow on his career was an accusation of ball tampering on a tour of South Africa in 2001.
Along the way, he made a fortune and become a nominated member of parliament and philanthropist, helping raise money for the fight against cancer and the creation of basic facilities, particularly toilets for girls, in 140 government schools across the country.
Tanvi Sharma in the New Delhi bureau contributed to this report.