Unlike his Test career, which saw him draw curtains in front of the entire nation as every Indian got a chance to bid goodbye to the most iconic cricketer ever, Sachin Tendulkar's ODI career had comparatively ended in a whimper. On March 18, 2012, the Master Blaster last donned India's blue jersey.
Tendulkar didn't know he was playing his last ODI ever, a format that had made him a household name across the globe. While his Test match records were mostly for the pundits to cherish, Tendulkar's heroics in white-ball cricket made him India's favourite son.
Whether it be his unbeaten 200 in Gwalior, where the crowd witnessed one of the finest ODI knocks ever, or the famous 143-run innings in Sharjah in 1998, where Tendulkar had whacked Shane Warne and Michael Kasprowicz all over the park to raise a Desert Storm, the legendary batsman's record of 49 ODI centuries is filled with highlights that entertained cricket fans for 23 long years.
Regardless of the oblivion, Tendulkar's last ODI remained memorable as he helped India beat arch-rivals Pakistan in a high-scoring game of the 2012 Asia Cup in Bangladesh.
Having won the toss, Misbah-ul-Haq opted to bat first on a batting-friendly Mirpur pitch. And Pakistan openers Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed made optimum use of the conditions by forging a mammoth 224-stand for the first wicket.
Both would go on to score centuries to give Pakistan a strong start before a quick-fire 50 by Younis Khan further helped Pakistan to post a target of 330 runs in 50 overs. Indian bowlers Praveen Kumar and Irfan Pathan were taken to the stands at regular intervals throughout the first innings, and India never got a grip in the first innings.
Having opened with 19 different batters throughout his career since 1989, which included the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and more, Tendulkar was now opening with Gautam Gambhir for Team India.
However, the southpaw was dismissed on the second ball of the first over as Hafeez caught plumb in front of the wicket, leaving India to build a crucial partnership early on. In came Virat Kohli and, along with Tendulkar, forged a partnership of 132 runs to steady the ship.
Tendulkar scored his much-awaited 100th century during the 2012 Asia Cup against Bangladesh. His shot selections, now, reflected the nonchalance of a man who had already climbed Mt. Everest, which was evident from the stylish slice to hit a boundary off Aizaz Cheema in the second over.
Tendulkar's 52-run knock had five boundaries and a maximum, playing mostly an anchor role as Kohli went after the bowlers. Tendulkar would end his ODI career with 2016 boundaries to his name. The last one would come against Wahab Riaz as the Master Blaster arched backwards to direct the short delivery towards the third man.
It was Saeed Ajmal who dismissed Tendulkar by getting an outside edge. A young Rohit Sharma would follow him at number four and forge a further 172-run stand with Kohli to take the game away from Pakistan, helping India chase 331 with 13 balls to spare.
Tendulkar never played another ODI for India thereafter and announced his retirement from the 50-over format almost nine months later. He has 18,426 runs and a whopping 49 centuries in ODI cricket as he hung his boots with an average of 44.83.
While the announcement was sudden and shocked many cricket fans worldwide, the rise of Kohli, Sharma and MS Dhoni had seemingly convinced Tendulkar that he was no longer needed to carry the weight of the entire nation.
After Tendulkar retired from Tests in 2013, former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe stated, “Sachin, you graced those 22 yards in a way that no other man or woman has ever done. You graced the game of cricket on a level that has never been matched. From WG Grace to now, you stand above them all.”