GOOD­BYE, BHARAT’S RATNA

Sachin Ten­dulkar’s farewell speech left a bil­lion in tears; govt con­ferred on him the coun­try’s high­est civil­ian award

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - HT Cor­re­spon­dent [email protected]­dus­tan­times.com

Sachin Ten­dulkar strug­gled to hold back tears as he said good­bye to a glit­ter­ing 24-year ca­reer here on Satur­day, send­ing his fans — sev­eral thou­sands of them also teary- eyed — into a wild frenzy of ‘Sa-chin, Sa-chin’.

Hours later, In­dia chose to be­stow its high­est civil­ian award, the Bharat Ratna, on the Mas­ter Blaster — mak­ing him the first sportsper­son, and the youngest per­son, to re­ceive the hon­our. The 40- year- old later ded­i­cated the award to his mother Ra­jni. Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh led the coun­try in con­grat­u­lat­ing the re­tir­ing bat­ting leg­end, call­ing him on the phone to wish him suc­cess.

As soon as the last ball was bowled at the Wankhede, Ten­dulkar col­lected a stump and made his way through a guard of hon­our, head bowed un­der his white floppy hat. He climbed the stairs to the dress­ing room and was gone. The crowd stayed put.

He was back soon af­ter, for a mov­ing farewell speech and a lap of hon­our on the shoul­ders of his team mates. “All my friends set­tle down, let me talk. I will get more and more emo­tional. It’s get­ting a lit­tle dif­fi­cult to talk but I’ll man­age,” he be­gan.

“My life’s been 22 yards for 24 years. It’s hard to be­lieve that won­der­ful jour­ney is com­ing to an end,” he said in the 20-minute speech. The first trib­ute was to his late fa­ther: “With­out his guid­ance, I don’t think I would be stand­ing here… He told me, ‘Chase your dreams but make sure you don’t take short­cuts’. Above all he told me to be a nice hu­man be­ing.”

There were tributes to his fam­ily, the best per­haps for his wife An­jali: “You are the best part­ner­ship I’ve had in my life.”

To his coach Ra­makant Achrekar, who came in a wheel­chair to watch him play, Ten­dulkar said, “In 29 years, sir has never said ‘well played’ to me be­cause he thought I would get com­pla­cent. Maybe now you can, sir, be­cause there are no more matches.”

Later, af­ter the speeches, tributes and chants, Ten­dulkar walked alone to the mid­dle, where he bent down and touched the pitch rev­er­ently. By then, there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen.

The Test and the 2-0 se­ries win against the West Indies will be largely for­got­ten as a con­test but re­mem­bered as a fit­ting farewell for a man who cast a gi­ant shadow of great­ness over cricket in In­dia and be­yond.

PTI PHOTO

LAST BOW Af­ter all the speeches, tributes and the lap of hon­our, Sachin Ten­dulkar walked alone to the Wankhede pitch and touched it with his right hand in a sign of rev­er­ence.

PTI PHOTO

An­jali Ten­dulkar breaks down as she and chil­dren — Sara and Ar­jun — lis­ten to Sachin Ten­dulkar’s farewell speech on Satur­day.

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