New Delhi: Considered timeless by fans, experts and contemporaries alike, iconic Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar turns 38 on Sunday completing another year punctuated by milestones and unprecedented highs - the most memorable being the World Cup triumph.
The champion batsman, who sits on such a huge pile of runs and records which any contemporary batsman would find nearly impossible to exceed, is not known to be flamboyant in his celebrations.
If he is not busy on the field, an intensely private Tendulkar prefers to blow the candles just in the company of his two kids, wife Anjali and other family members.
But that would not be possible this year as he would be leading his franchise Mumbai Indians against Deccan Chargers in an Indian Premier League match in Hyderabad.
The glitz and glamour of IPL would ensure that high-profile celebrations with generous sprinkling of Bollywood stars and corporate bigwigs would greet Tendulkar, who got his biggest gift weeks before the big day.
The trophy might have been lifted first by Mahendra Singh Dhoni after the finals on April 2 but much before India won it, the members of the World Cup squad were falling over each other to dedicate it to Tendulkar, who was making his sixth and perhaps the final appearance in the mega-event.
The Mumbaikar had played five World Cups before this edition but never been a part of the winning squad.
His dream was finally fulfilled and even for a man who is known to be discreet in expressing emotions, the tears were all too visible when his teammates carried him on their shoulders for a lap of honour.
Just one short of completing his 100th century in international cricket, records are fairly routine for Tendulkar but for the cricketing fraternity every run he scores just adds to the legend that the right-hander has become.
Much before his debut on November 15, 1989, Tendulkar's precocious talent was there to be seen when he shared an unbeaten 664-run stand with buddy Vinod Kambli in the Lord Harris Shield Inter-School Game in 1988.
The 1989 international debut was far less spectacular, in fact forgettable. A Waqar Younis bouncer left him with a bleeding nose but Tendulkar did not wince and the next two decades saw him punishing bowlers all over the world on all kind of surfaces.
His first Test century came in England next year at Old Trafford and the diminutive Mumbaikar rose in stature after the 1991-92 tour of Australia, hitting sublime centuries on a Sydney turner and a Perth minefield.
The rest is history. No existing batting record seemed safe. Other than Brian Lara's Test match highest of 400 not out and first class highest score of 501 not out, every batting record became Tendulkar's.
A staggering 14,692 runs scored in 177 Tests before the ongoing one at a robust average of 56.94 confirmed Tendulkar's greatness in the longer version of the game.
And in the 453 ODIs he played, a whopping 18,111 were added to his mountain of runs at an average of 45.16.
Tendulkar is also the only batsman in the world who has scored a double ton in ODIs, a feat he achieved in Gwalior against South Africa in February. This feat was included in Times' magazine's top 10 sports moments of the year.
A perfect team-man, Tendulkar has limited his Twenty20 ambition to the Indian Premier League where he leads Mumbai Indians, ruling himself out of national reckoning lest it upsets the existing equilibrium of the side.
The biggest compliment to his batting came from Sir Donald Bradman himself in 1999 when he said that Tendulkar's style of playing resembled his style. "That touch I used to feel when I batted," he had said.
Tendulkar's colossal batting exploits have completely overshadowed his utility as a part-time bowler who reveled in breakthroughs.
He was a complete enigma with the ball, sending down military medium pace, orthodox leg-break and off-spin with the guiles that often caught batsmen off their guard.
His 45 Test wickets and 154 scalps in ODIs underline the fact that Tendulkar could have also staked claim to be that elusive all-rounder that India has been desperately looking for since the legendary Kapil Dev. But shoulder problems have not allowed him to bowl as much as he and the team would have liked.
In the field, he is among the safest pair of hands in the slip and his flat throw releasing strong arm saw him manning the deep with equal aplomb.
The aura has only grew because of his impeccable demeanour, on and off the field.
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