FROM THE EDITOR- IN- CHIEF
Our deep love for cricket has thrown up several national icons right from the 1930s. The first Test captain, C. K. Nayudu, was a hard- nosed Colonel respected for his defiant batting. A series of other players went on to become household names— Lala Amarnath, Polly Umrigar, Vijay Hazare, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, the spin quartet of Bishan Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, S. Venkataraghavan and B. S. Chandrasekhar, and two stalwarts who transformed the Indian game, Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev.
But the advent of Sachin Tendulkar in 1989— a time when the Berlin Wall was still up and the Indian economy was about to open its doors to the world — proved to be a game- changer as far as national icons go. He was at the right place at the right time, a young sellable face for India’s booming new advertising industry. He was also very quickly recognised as a champion who could stand shoulder to shoulder with the finest in the sport. What was most exciting about the young Sachin was the promise that one day he would break every batting record. Potential doesn’t always translate into action but he has fulfilled the promise many times over— often single- handedly lifting the national sentiment with a match- winning innings.
It’s true that he had slowed down over the last few months. He wasn’t inspiring the kind of confidence he once did, and he wasn’t dominating bowlers the way he once could. But Sachin’s decline was clear only in comparison with his own former glory. It was troubling because we weren’t used to seeing him struggle but he wasn’t exactly blocking the chances of another talented young player by pigheadedly staying on.
Now he’s decided to hang up his gloves, calling time on 24 glorious years after the forthcoming two Test matches against West Indies. The farewell series will be emotional. The crowds who usually stay away from Test cricket are bound to fill the stands to get one last look at their hero, who leaves the team in fairly good stead with Virat Kohli ready to step into Tendulkar’s coveted No. 4 slot.
Our cover story, written by Deputy Editor Kunal Pradhan, who has followed Sachin’s career first as a cricket fan, and then as a journalist for 16 years, explains what sets him apart from other sportsmen— as a player, as a brand, and as a true Indian idol. “The ‘ Sach- in, Sach- in’ chant has become so synonymous with cricket in our country that a stadium will seem like a different place without it,” says Pradhan.
INDIA TODAY has featured Sachin on the cover seven times in the past, which is just another reflection of his impact on the country over the last two- and- a- half decades. He may not be around on the cricket field for much longer, but he will be spoken of whenever fans of different nationalities sit down to argue who the world’s greatest cricketer was. So farewell, Master Blaster, and all the best for your next innings.
OUR COVERS ON SACHIN, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: FEBRUARY 1992, DECEMBER 1998, OCTOBER 2009 AND DECEMBER 2001