Cricket fans across the globe revered him. Teammates in India’s Test and World Cup-winning squads were in awe of him.
Sachin Tendulkar compiled more runs and posted more centuries in international cricket than anyone, and was the greatest batsman of his generation.
He has been compared with the previously incomparable Sir Donald Bradman, who averaged almost 100 per innings in a long career punctuated by World War II.
But only for a few seconds.
Really, they just wanted to see more. He walked off, with raised bat, to thunderous applause and chants of “Sa-chin, Sa-chin.”
However, it was all over.
He did not get a second chance to claim a 101st international century, as the one-sided Test against the West Indies wrapped up on Saturday with the hosts winning by an innings and 126 runs.
Tendulkar’s last day of Test cricket did feature a cameo appearance as a bowler, with the icon sending down two overs prior to receiving a guard of honour from teammates as he walked from the field for the last time with tears in his eyes.
The insatiable appetite for runs was only part of Tendulkar’s aura.
He’ll be remembered around the cricket world for the numerous batting records he set during a glittering 24-year international career, but he has also set a high benchmark of work ethics for others to follow.
“He has guided youngsters very well, showed them how to lead life after you become successful, and at the same time how you’re supposed to prepare,” India captain MS Dhoni said.
“He’s been fantastic and we’ve learnt a lot from him.”
By the time of his retirement he had played a significant role in developing a dynamic, unified Indian squad.
“The standards he has set have been benchmarks for us,” Yuvraj Singh said.
“Everybody talks about his records, but the standard he set off the field was incredible.”
Global cricketing greats Brian Lara and Shane Warne flew in to join Indian politicians, corporate leaders and Bollywood stars at Wankhede for Tendulkar’s emotional swansong.
With 15,921 runs in 200 Tests and 18,426 in 463 one-dayers, Tendulkar has ended all comparisons with batsmen other than Bradman.
Among his other prominent milestones include becoming the first man to score a double-century in limited-overs internationals (200 not out vs South Africa at Gwalior in 2010) and the first to reach 100 international centuries.
His 51 centuries in Tests and 49 in ODIs are also records, and winning the 2011 World Cup was the proverbial icing on the cake.
“Winning the World Cup was a lifelong ambition and it was a matter of great honour that my teammates wanted to do it for me,” Tendulkar said after the victory on his home ground of Wankhede Stadium, which was also the venue of his 200th and last Test.
The “Little Master” learnt early how to carry the weight of expectations as he became the youngest Indian to debut in international cricket, playing both Tests and limited-overs internationals at the age of 16 during a tour of Pakistan in 1989.
Tendulkar also had a penchant for performing well against Australia.
Among the standouts: his 114 on a fiery pitch at Perth in 1991-92 when he was still in his teens; a 241 not out at Sydney in a rare series drawn in Australia in 2003-04; and 155 not out in the Chennai Test of 1997-98.
Consequently, some of his best rivalries also came against Australian bowling greats Glenn McGrath and Warne, both of whom have been liberal in their praise of Tendulkar after their retirement.