Sachin Tendulkar has called time on his one-day international career to allow the India team to build towards the defence of their World Cup crown in 2015. The announcement of his retirement comes after 463 international caps, from which he amassed 18,426 runs – a world record – at an average of 44.83. He is to continue in Test cricket, despite speculation over his future in the long form of the game following indifferent form in the recent series against England.
The 39-year-old batsman said: "I have decided to retire from the one-day format of the game. I feel blessed to have fulfilled the dream of being part of a World Cup-winning Indian team. The preparatory process to defend the World Cup in 2015 should begin early and in right earnest. I would like to wish the team all the very best for the future. I am eternally grateful to all my well-wishers for their unconditional support and love over the years."
The announcement brings to a close a 23-year one-day international career that began with ducks in his first two appearances and ended with innings of 114 against Bangladesh and 52 in a six-wicket win over Pakistan in March.
Tendulkar holds the record for one-day international caps and centuries (49). His highest score was 200 not out against South Africa in 2010. He also took 154 one-day wickets, his best return being 5 for 32 against Australia in 1998.
The Little Master made his announcement as the national selectors were naming the team for the limited- overs home series against Pakistan, starting tomorrow, the first series between the neighbours in five years. While some commentators admitted their relief that he retires at what many consider to be the beginning of a decline in his powers, some expressed surprise at the timing of the announcement.
Former chief selector Krishnamachari Srikkanth, who was captain when Tendulkar made his debut, said his retirement comes as a "big surprise", but hinted that the batsman could finish in Tests after the series against Australia, which begins in February.
"I thought he would play in the one-day series against Pakistan. I am sure he will want to leave on a high in Test cricket also. He will be looking forward to a good Test series against Australia," Srikkanth said.
Another former India captain, Sourav Ganguly, was pleased that Tendulkar had made the decision himself, as he was all but undroppable, given his aura and supposed talismanic qualities.
"I'm not surprised by his decision," Ganguly said. "He has done what he thought was right. I don't think there was any pressure of selectors on him. It is his decision. No one can drop him."
Kirti Azad, the former India all-rounder, added: "I think he has obliged Indian cricket by retiring. The god has ultimately decided. Everybody was talking about his retirement. The selectors didn't take a call. I think he was also tired of the selectors not taking a call. I'm very happy that he has ultimately taken a decision at the right time."
Tributes poured in from around the world, Kevin Pietersen taking to Twitter to express his admiration for Tendulkar. The England batsman tweeted: "Statistics NEVER lie! They tell a very true story.. Well done Sachin! What an incredible ODI career.. #thebest"
Ramiz Raja, the former Pakistan captain added: "When you've played 23 years of international cricket, a time comes when ODIs don't excite you any more as you have achieved everything that you possibly could have. Sachin has also won the World Cup, therefore his decision is understandable."
Masterful: Tendulkar's record
Number of One-day Internationals 463
* Debut v Pakistan, 18 December 1989 in Gujranwala.
* Last match v Pakistan, 18 March 2012, in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Runs scored 18,426.
Balls faced 21,267
Strike rate 86.23
Highest score 200 not out v South Africa in Gwalior, 2010 (below)
Centuries 49 Half-centuries 96
* BOWLING AND FIELDING
Best figures 5 for 32 against Australia in Kochi, 1998