Sachin Tendulkar made a tearful but self-effacing farewell as his glittering 24-year cricket career came to an end on Saturday at his home ground of Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
Tendulkar embraced teammates as the Test against the West Indies ended, but as they tried to give him a guard of honour on his way off the ground, the most prolific batsman in international cricket history rushed past them, quickly making his way into the pavilion wiping away tears.
But he could not avoid the outpouring of emotions as he came back to the field for an awards ceremony and went on to give a passionate speech in which he thanked everyone who helped him over his long career, holding a list of names to ensure he did not miss anyone.
“All my friends, settle down and we’ll talk or else I’ll get more and more emotional,” he said to calm the enthusiastic crowd.
“My life’s been between 22 yards for 24 years and it’s hard to believe that such a wonderful journey is coming to an end.”
Tendulkar then went on to thank his parents, relatives and friends who had helped him grow over the years but made special mention of wife Anjali, elder brother Ajit and coach Ramakant Achrekar for their support.
He called his marriage to Anjali the “best partnership of his life”, thanked Ajit for “living the dream together with him” and coach Achrekar for “taking him around town on his two-wheeler” to play matches in his early years.
Tendulkar, whose entire adult life has been spent in an intense spotlight as an icon to India’s fanatical fans, said he would now spend more private time with his 16-year-old daughter Sara and 14-year-old son Arjun, who was also a ball boy for this match and plays for the Mumbai junior team.
He also thanked his senior cricketers, doctors, sports officials and the media before moving his attention to the crowd.
“Time has flown by very quickly, but the memories will remain with me forever, especially the ‘Sachin, Sachin’,” he said, prompting the crowd let out the chant once more.
Tendulkar, waving the Indian flag, was then taken around the ground by teammates on their shoulders in similar fashion to the victory lap after the 2011 World Cup victory at the same venue.
After a lap of the ground, he went out to the pitch alone, bent down to touch it with his right hand and then touched his eyes and forehead in a traditional Indian sign of reverence before moving back to the pavilion.
Earlier, Tendulkar bowled two overs of legspin on the final day of his career amid roaring applause on the third day of the second Test against the West Indies, which he declared last month would be his last game.
Tendulkar, who has already retired from limited overs internationals, had earlier in the game struck a neat 74 with 12 fours which comprised several of his trademark shots like the straight drive, cover drive and paddle-sweep.
That proved to be his last innings, as India wrapped up a comfortable win by an innings and 126 runs.
Tendulkar’s wife Anjali was among those watching the “Little Master” in action.
“It’s been an emotional one month for us starting from the day he announced his retirement,” Anjali told the channel beaming the match live.
“Sachin is very good at hiding his emotions so we don’t really know what’s going on in his mind.”
Anjali said the retirement had not been planned for long.
Global cricketing greats Brian Lara and Shane Warne flew in to join Indian politicians, corporate leaders and Bollywood stars at Wankhede for the final chapter of a career that has featured 15,921 runs in 200 Tests and 18,426 runs in 463 one-day internationals.