Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar wept as he left the pitch for the final time after his 200th Test match, ending a glittering career spanning nearly a quarter of a century.
The batsman, who has mass popularity across India and beyond, waved to thousands of cheering fans and wiped tears from his eyes as he left the field through a guard of honour formed by his teammates at Mumbai's Wankhede stadium on Saturday morning.
"All my friends, settle down and we'll talk or else I'll get more and more emotional," he said to calm the enthusiastic crowd. "My life's been between 22 yards for 24 years and it's hard to believe that such a wonderful journey is coming to an end."
"Time has flown by very quickly, but the memories will remain with me forever, especially the 'Sachin, Sachin'," he said, prompting the crowd let out the chant once more.
Century of centuries
|Sachin Tendulkar is venerated the world over as one of the greats of the cricketing world [Reuters]
At the age of 40, Tendulkar is retiring from the game as the world's leading scorer in both Test and one-day cricket and the only batsman to score 100 international centuries.
To the disappointment of his ardent followers, the "Little Master" only batted for one innings during the match in his hometown against the West Indies, failing to clinch a fairytale final century when he was out for 74 on Friday.
His dismissal was met by a stunned silence followed by a standing ovation from the stands, where the crowds had cheered his every run with deafening roars.
Spectators nevertheless praised his final performance, which included 12 well-timed boundaries to remind them of the best that Tendulkar has produced since his international debut in 1989.
"His 74 runs captured all we have come to love and celebrate about him," said a piece in the Hindustan Times newspaper, with the headline: "Thank you, thank you, thank you".
"A billion dreams end," said the Times of India.
The star's wheelchair-bound mother, Rajni, watched her son bat in person for the first time after a special ramp was built for her at the stadium for his final match. She had previously worried her presence may bring her son bad luck.
Tendulkar did not score a Test century in the last 40 innings of his career, with the final of his 51 Test tons coming nearly three years ago in January 2011 against South Africa.