Sachin Tendulkar is famous outside of India

Rose petals by the kilo

In India, cricket is a religion. The »cricket god«, Sachin Tendulkar, ends his career this week. He is a sporting exception and a national figure of integration at the same time.

Although the Indian world chess champion Viswanathan Anand is currently defending his title against the Norwegian challenger Magnus Carlsen in his native Chennai, another athlete dominates the headlines in the media: Sachin Tendulkar, the 40-year-old cricket star. He ends his illustrious 24-year career with his 200th Test match against the Caribbean selection of the West Indies this week.

They adore him as the »god of cricket« because, in the opinion of many Indians, cricket is not a sport, but a way of life, even a religion. For months the media have been beating the drums for the "best batsman of his generation". Series of "Farewell Sachin" articles fill the newspapers. Everything that has rank and name in Indian cricket describes personal experiences and impressions of the famous colleague. On the sports channels on television there is only one topic, »Sachiiin Sachin«, from morning to night. The comparisons never end. His name is mentioned in the same breath as Pelé, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Michael Jordan and many other sports greats. Giant posters in kitschy Bollywood colors flood his hometown Mumbai, where his last international test match begins on Thursday. In Kolkata, where he played his penultimate game, it rained 199 kilos of rose petals on him. Wax statues, postage stamps, gold coins - Sachin is everywhere. India is at his feet.

The "Master Blaster" - the nickname he was given because of his feared explosive and aggressive tees - is actually an exception in Indian and international cricket. He started swinging the bat at the age of 11 and played nationally at the age of 15. On his debut against Gujarat, he delivered a "Century" straight away. That's 100 runs. The performance could be compared to a hat trick in football. A year later, at the age of 16, he was already in the national team and was allowed to play against Pakistan. From then on, the development of the highly talented and hard-working boy went even steeper uphill. He rushed from success to success - the biggest of course was winning the 2011 World Cup at his home in Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. "That was the proudest moment in my life," he said.

His statistics are incredible for those who know the game: first player in the world to reach 100 Centuries in international test matches, games of the highest category over several days; first player to score a double century, i.e. 200 runs, in an ODI (international match that is played in just one day) against South Africa in 2010. He achieved the highest double century in a test match in 2004 in Dhaka against Bangladesh with 248 runs.

Experts as well as former and current teammates rave about Tendulkar's ability to read a game: To guess what the bowler is up to, what spin he will give the ball, whether he will play directly or with a touchdown. They praise his sophisticated technique and overview, not only hitting the ball powerfully, but also directing it into the gaps in the opposing formation, playing to the boards (which is worth four runs) or even high into the audience (equivalent to six Runs). They appreciate his speed between the wickets (times consisting of three sticks), the tireless diligence in training, his morale and discipline as well as his detailed preparations for particularly tricky opponents.

Millions of children and young people on the South Asian subcontinent are emulating the idol, who is one of the richest Indians with a fortune of around 160 million dollars. The dream is to become like him. To be like him also means not to lose the ground, to remain humble, to have team spirit and not to be stingy with advice. All of this made Sachin Tendulkar a personable, respected and beloved athlete. His greatest merit, however, lies outside of the sporting considerations. Like no other Indian, he has become a figure of national integration in the last few decades - across all religious, caste, language, cultural and ethnic barriers.

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