The terms "legend" and "world class" are too liberally handed out today. Even the most hardened of libertarians would struggle to swallow the thought of the likes of Frank Lampard, David Beckham, the Andy Murray of 2008 and any other Brit who has managed to achieve anything in any sport being labelled "world class" or "a legend" by the British press.
But certainly, one man whom anyone can describe as a legend without a scintilla of guilt is Sachin Tendulkar; and after what could prove to be his final test innings ended with Darren Sammy taking a sharp slip catch of Narsingh Deonarine's bowling to dismiss Tendulkar for 74, the cricket world will mourn the retirement of one of its greatest ever patrons.
Even Sachin has witnessed things getting a little bit out of hand when people describe his talent; people saying that he is better than Don Bradman is just a little bit too far fetched, but very few sportsmen of the fitness-obsessed world we live in have been able to dominate a sport for twenty-four years like Tendulkar has. From having his batting described as "just like me" by Sir Donald Bradman when he was in his early teens to scoring 326 not out aged just fifteen, Tendulkar's success has been an inevitability; always a good start to achieving legendary status.
There is no question that a legend has to win things; although some legends drag poor teams to unbelievable heights, in general a legend will be the core of an unbeatable team who win too many trophies to mention. Although it took Sachin six attempts to win a Cricket World Cup (he
was the driving force behind India's win at thirty-eight, not a bad piece of continuity), he has at times single-handedly driven India towards historic test-series wins (probably why he's won the man of the match award on no fewer than fourteen occasions).
In the shortest form of the game he's won a World Cup and picked up an IPL title. Many legends of sport win things over a long period of time: Ryan Giggs has been winning trophies at Manchester United for twenty-two years; Phil "The Power" Taylor has been nigh on untouchable for nearly three decades; Eddy Merckx's wins came over a period of twelve years (an eternity in cycling); Jahangir Khan won 555 consecutive matches and Tendulkar's own idol Sir Don Bradman dominated cricket for three decades.
Most legends are revolutionary. Tendulkar's style of play is totally unique. No player will be able to match the blend of style and power with which Tendulkar so effortlessly scores runs. It's just the fact that he's scored such an unbelievable number of runs and centuries, it's how he's done it. He's invented new shots along the way, such as the "Helicopter". Don Bradman may have been struck by the similarity between the two's playing styles but Tendulkar's scoops, paddle sweeps and slashes over the slips are beyond compare. His style is so great that often when watching him bat it seems like Tendulkar has stopped the ball in mid-air, adjusted himself in the position to strike it and then played the ball as if he's striking the offstage bells in the 5th movement of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique.
There is the small matter of his statistics. Many legends of sports will be documented as greats in years to come simply by the sheer stature of their statistics - Sachin has scored 100 international centuries. He has scored more runs than any other player at an average of 53.86. Had he retired at the end of 2010 he would have averaged 56.54, but Tendulkar is such a legend that he sacrificed even higher legendary status to serve his team and country in all three aspects of the game. In all forms of the game, international and domestic he has scored a grand total of 84,475 runs. That is quite simply an impossible achievement.
Whilst many other top sportsmen are making fools of themselves in the limelight and having allegations made against them in the tabloids on an almost daily basis, Tendulkar remains a perfect role model. This man has the greatest natural talent of any cricketer in a very long time and yet he practises as if he has none at all. His unselfishness has added to his and many others' success. His desire to keep on playing regardless of it hurting his statistics coupled with his putting the team before himself has led India to become one of the most successful cricket teams of the last twenty-five years.
Tendulkar is one of the greatest cricketers (if not sportsmen) of all time. In a time where so many legends of sport are either not good enough to be considered legends or embroiled in shocking scandals which damage their reputation, Sachin Tendulkar will surely be sorely missed.
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