Sachin Tendulkar retirement: How will India cope without its Little Master?

As the batsman prepares for his 200th and final Test match against the West Indies, a nation salutes a legend

mumbai

A quarter past eight in the morning at Mumbai's Shivaji Park and 500 new Sachins – boys and girls alike – are doing their best to take the place of the Little Master.

In the liquid morning sunshine, they bat and bowl, hurl themselves at the dense red soil to stop a shot, and jog around the perimeter of the park where Tendulkar himself sweated blood and tears.

"I have been here since 1973. The first time I saw him play, I could tell," says 65-year-old Sanjiv Bhandare, a coach who comes every morning to help the schoolchildren who turn up. "It was his technique."

Could there ever be another one like him? Bhandare smiles, pauses. As a youngster, he says, Tendulkar would arrive at 5.30am, go through the training exercises, pull a roller over a wicket, do whatever he was told. He would do anything for cricket.

"It depends on patience. It took so much patience to get where he is," adds Bhandare. "Nowadays, boys are only interested in T20. That's not cricket."

As India bids farewell to its greatest ever batsman, there are many who share that view. "You will get players who break his records. But you will never get the calibre of player, or the calibre of person," said Sanjay Desai, manager of the Maratha Darbar restaurant opposite the Middle Income Group cricket club in the Bandra East neighbourhood, where Tendulkar played.

The batsman grew up and lived just around the corner from the ground, in the Sahitya Sahawas apartment block established for Marathi writers such as his father. Tendulkar's brother still lives there, though he has barely spoken to the media in decades. Today, no one answered the door.

The cricketer's childhood friend Sunil Harse also still lives in the flats and recalls playing with Tendulkar and breaking windows. Since making his international debut at the age of 16, said Harse, he had effectively given himself to the country. It was no surprise that some were finding it hard to say goodbye.

"He became like a religion in this country," claimed Harse, making tea in his third-floor apartment. "You go anywhere in this country and there may not be a clinic or a school, but there will be a bat and ball. He was so humble."

India may be an ancient civilisation but it is a young nation. Sometimes it seems its disparate mix of tribes and tongues, castes and clans have little in common. Many have suggested that the nation's cricket team is a source of unity and strength. And the 40-year-old Tendulkar has been its greatest asset.

A few years back, a Mumbai-based political party with extreme views about people not originally from the state tried to claim Tendulkar's success as its own. But the player was having none of it. In a rare act of defiance against an outfit that has seen leading Bollywood actors bow and scrape in order to avoid a shutdown of cinemas where their films are playing, Tendulkar stood firm. He was from Mumbai, he said, but when he played for the national team he represented all of India.

But that does not mean the people of Mumbai don't feel a special bond with the Little Master. And many in this hot, frenetic city, most perhaps, have a favourite Tendulkar story. His old coach Bhandare has this one: "We'd put the coins on top [of his stumps] – one rupee, two rupees – and we'd tell the bowlers 'if you can bowl him you can have the coins, but if you can't then Sachin has them'. Sachin still has those coins."

Sachin Tendulkar celebrating his 50th Test century, December 2010 (Getty) Sachin Tendulkar celebrating his 50th Test century, December 2010 (Getty)
At the Wankhede Stadium, where Tendulkar will start his 200th and final Test match against the West Indies, two groundsmen remember the many years they have worked on the wickets and watched his mastery.

Vijay Tambe, 58, and Lalsuram Jaiswal, 59, were present when Tendulkar made his debut in a Ranji Trophy game, scoring a century. For all his success, they said, he remained polite and respectful.

As to whether someone could fill Tendulkar's shoes, Jaiswal had a thoughtful answer. "There are players coming up. When Sunil Gavaskar went, we said there'd never be another Gavaskar," he said. "But Sachin came and he was even better. So a new person might come up."

If Indian cricket has done well out of Tendulkar, then Tendulkar has also done well out of Indian cricket. A couple of years back, the father of two moved out of the family home and into a custom-built, three-storey house in Bandra.

In order to build the home of his dreams – the granite house is tasteful and subdued – he had to demolish the property that was already on the site. In what people said was a typical Tendulkar move, he wrote to his neighbours apologising in advance for any inconvenience.

Tendulkar is already a member of the upper house of the Indian parliament, one of several appointed members from the worlds of sport, the arts and culture. Some have suggested that Tendulkar could now easily move into politics if he so wished.

Indian artist Ranjit Dahiya braves the heights as Mumbai prepares for the start of Tendulkar’s final Test match (Getty) Indian artist Ranjit Dahiya braves the heights as Mumbai prepares for the start of Tendulkar’s final Test match (Getty)
But most of his fans would be horrified were he to venture in such a direction. In a country where, to say the least, not all politicians are universally respected, many would feel let down. "He always did his thing – no factions," said Abdul Rehman, a teacher and one of Tendulkar's neighours in Bandra. "That is what I respect in him the most."

The national team will no doubt try to rope him in as an adviser or mentor. For so many young Indians he is already fulfilling such a role. "He has served his country so well, but everything comes to an end," said 18-year-old Shruti Jakkul, one of dozens of young women who were practising at Shivaji Park, who said she would watch Tendulkar's final game on television with her family.

Her friend Jainisha Bharti, 16, said she admired Tendulkar's attitude, his sense of calmness and cool. She has been playing for two years and has the support of her family, in particular her mother.

"My mother wants me to be the Indian captain," she said. And as for Tendulkar? "We won't get anyone like Sachin," she mused. "We will get somebody but not someone who can serve their country for 25 years."

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?