I was one of the many millions who hung a cricket ball from a sock and practiced my straight drives the way I saw him do it. Was glued to the television set for endless hours and patiently watched that flawless cover drive and once in a while a cheeky lofted shot where the ball sped past the bowler to the boundary, even that slight movement of the back-foot just before the other one fiercely chased the pitch of the ball and thrashed it out of the stadium.
I have put harmlessly stupid statuses on facebook (and orkut?) when he missed out in a big game and questioned if he should have retired long ago, only to come back and cry tears of joy a few matches later when I saw him improvising a paddle sweep and making it look classy!
I have seen my frail frame swell up with pride when who's who of cricket from across the world called him the 'master'. I have seen the fear of anticipated decimation in the eyes of bowlers from Pakistan, Australia, England
and seen that glimmer of hope in the eyes of the millions watching the game when India is in a terrible situation and the spectators whisper in each other's ears - "Abhi Sachin hai!"
I'm glad I've seen the days when the younger generation of cricketers have restored the faith of their fans in the Indian cricket team even when we all know all too well that no one is ever filling those shoes! I've shared and liked those youtube videos of Sachin's son displaying some cricketing shots during a net practice in a controlled indoor stadium environment and hoped that he's the chip of the old block.
I've tried to imitate his voice on drunken nights and realized that the falseto of my timber has only the quality of an old, drunk Lata doing an alaap from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
I've fought with random people on the streets when they questioned his shot selection, people who know nothing about cricket but yet watch it ball by ball only because Sachin is playing! I've dampened my cheeks when I read stories of small school kids imagining a great future for themselves because their hero has inspired them enough to at least have that dream.
I've cursed him for collaborating with lousy brands and for getting into those controversies about the export duty on sports cars only because I've thought of him as an infallible human being.
I've pointed fingers at the likes of Virat Kohli when they've shown absolutely no consideration for their fans and asked them to learn more than just aggressive batting from the seniors like Sachin.
I've had that old poster of his that came along with 'Sportstar' on my wall (next to that Kapil Dev's poster that has him levitated in air, a shining red ball in his hand held by the seam) when I was a kid and still have cricketers posters.
I've always known that this day would come when he would gracefully carry that heavy bat of his out of the ground and we would see it in action again only in recorded highlights in DVDs stacked on that old shelf by the computer table. But, somehow this does not feel too bright. He's just a cricketer for God's sake as some would say but I don't quite know why my eyes have swelled up, my brains is refusing to think more and my hands fail to punch more letters on this keyboard.