After a great playing career, he still has some dues to pay to cricket.
So it will come to pass that Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th Test match will be his last, and that double century is a nice summation of his mind-boggling longevity in cricket and a neat sweep of a career of records. For those of us who have tracked his dominance of cricket — and that would include almost every person who follows the game — numbers are key. For the longest time, we have not been able to work out the exact centrality of records to Sachin’s primacy. And by extension, of Sachin’s place in Indian cricket.
He announced his appetite for the big records early, a little schoolboy who would not stop batting when he got a record 664-run partnership with his mate, Vinod Kambli. He established his staying power less than two years later in his debut Test series in Pakistan, in the winter of 1989. Not yet 17, he stared down Javed Miandad’s sledging — perhaps just the kind of welcome worthy of the little boy’s promise — and later refused to retire hurt in the last Test at Sialkot after Waqar Younis bloodied his nose. After the event, he would recall: “It didn’t feel nice, what with blood flowing from my nose, but I couldn’t leave, for the side was not doing well.”
His big hundreds, the rapid flurry of big innings, would come later, but in that recollection of a tough day in Sialkot lay the dynamic that would dominate his career: the brilliance of his individual feats and the contrasting backdrop of a team almost always in trouble, often far too embarrassingly. I recall the fourth day of the Jamaica Test in 2002, when India were chasing 408 for victory. He was in the 80s, Sabina Park had fallen uncharacteristically quiet, intimating the home crowd’s sense that Sachin could carry India through, and it seemed he could even hold off the rain clouds on the horizon. Then Pedro Collins, gentlest in the West Indian attack, had him bowled at 86 — the Kingston gathering instantly recovered its spirit, India changed the travel plans (even before its last batsman was out) of some of the playing XI, so that they would be off to the airport before the scheduled close of play. And them rain clouds? They came early on the fifth day, almost