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When Sachin Tendulkar announced his plan to retire, there wasn't a lot of other news on Indian TV, says Andrew Buncombe.
Delhi - There were no black armbands, no funereal music. But when Sachin Tendulkar announced his plan finally to retire from all forms of cricket on Thursday, there wasn't a lot of other news on Indian television. For several hours there was no space, apparently, even for an update about a powerful cyclone that was threatening the south of the country.
“He had all the shots in the book,” reminisced the former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, speaking on the NDTV channel. He said he had always been struck by Tendulkar's commitment and temperament. He said he hoped Indian cricket would find a future role for him. “He is a great human being,” he added.
On Headlines Today, anchors were taking calls from viewers who wanted to share their memories of the 40-year-old's remarkable career, which will come to an end next month after two final games that will take him to 200 Tests. What had been his greatest innings? What had been his greatest contribution to the sport? What was his greatest shot?
One man, Siddardh, from the city of Jaipur, sounded beside himself with misery. “There will never be another player like him,” he declared. “Every heart in India is crying today. Cricket is over.”
On social media, cricket fan and government minister Shashi Tharoor declared that Tendulkar had been the “greatest Indian to wield a bat”. “He has given us all so much,” he added of the man with a Test record of 51 centuries and nearly 16 000 runs.
On the CNN-IBN news channel an anchor who normally spends his time quizzing politicians such as Tharoor was instead talking to cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle. A moment earlier he had spoken to retired umpire Dickie Bird, who had claimed Tendulkar was the closest thing there had been to a second Donald Bradman.
Bhogle, who comes from the Indian city of Hyderabad, was gleefully recalling the number of matches in which he'd seen Tendulkar play, the different pitches, the different types of surface. He'd seen him across India and around the world.
Bhogle was reluctant to name a “greatest” Tendulkar innings. There had been so many. The anchor kept pressing him. Perhaps it was Sydney, said Bhogle. Or Sharjah. Or Edgbaston, in 1996.
While Indian television news channels do have separate, specific slots for sports news, stories about cricket invariably make it into the general news programme. Very often it is the main story. When Tendulkar bought a new apartment in Mumbai, the cameras were outside the house for days.
“We should try not to call him 'Saint Sachin',” declared Bhogle. “He bleeds like everyone else. But he plays cricket like nobody else.”