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India great Tendulkar set to retire
Sachin Tendulkar has announced he will retire from international cricket after playing his 200th Test against West Indies next month.
Tendulkar made his international debut for India in 1989 aged just 16 and has gone on to become the all-time leading run-scorer in Tests and one-day internationals, although his form has stagnated in the last couple of years.
"It's been a huge honour to have represented my country and played all over the world. I look forward to playing my 200th Test match on home soil, as I call it a day," said the 40-year-old in a statement on the Board of Control for Cricket in India website.
"All my life, I have had a dream of playing cricket for India. I have been living this dream every day for the last 24 years. It's hard for me to imagine a life without playing cricket because it's all I have ever done since I was 11 years old.
"I thank the BCCI for everything over the years and for permitting me to move on when my heart feels it's time! I thank my family for their patience and understanding.
"Most of all, I thank my fans and well-wishers who through their prayers and wishes have given me the strength to go out and perform at my best."
The 'Little Master', regarded as the greatest living batsman, retired from ODIs last year as part of an effort to usher in a new era for Indian cricket as well as to focus on Tests.
However, Tendulkar has not registered a century in 21 matches in the longest format and a decision over his future had been mooted for quite some time.
Nevertheless, that should not detract from an illustrious international career that began when he was just a teenager against Pakistan in Karachi in November 1989.
He made the first of an unprecedented 51 Test centuries in his ninth match the following year, against England at Old Trafford, although his now infamous failure to reach three figures at Lord's will remain a rare blot on his copybook.
Tendulkar became the first batsman to reach 50 international hundreds in 2000 and went on to surpass former West Indies batsman Brian Lara as the leading Test run-scorer eight years later.
Tendulkar will be hoping to end his international career on a high note when India take on the Windies in a two-match series next month and can still reach the 16,000-run mark with a decent showing, a record that will surely never be surpassed.
He currently has 15,837 runs in 198 Tests at an average of 53.86, which is over 2,000 runs more than nearest rival, fellow great Ricky Ponting.
BCCI president N. Srinivasan led the tributes to Tendulkar, hailing him as the "greatest cricketer India has produced".
"I have been an ardent follower and admirer of Sachin Tendulkar from the days he came to play Buchi Babu in Chennai," he said in a statement.
"He is without doubt the greatest cricketer India has produced. In fact one should really say he ranks among the top of all-time great sports persons in the world. No one has served Indian cricket as Sachin has.
"He has truly been an ambassador for India and Indian cricket. He has been an inspiration for generations of sportsmen, not just cricketers. We respect his decision to retire, although many of us can't imagine an Indian team without Sachin."
Tendulkar's mastery with the bat has ensured legendary status in a country that is obsessed with cricket.
While he largely thrived under pressure to deliver match-winning performances for India, there have been instances when it appeared the pressure may have taken its toll - perhaps most noticeably in his struggle to reach the landmark of 100 international centuries.
An innings of 111 on March 12, 2011 in an ODI against South Africa was his 99th ton in all international competitions, although it took him just over a year to register another hundred for India, in a low-key encounter against Bangladesh in Dhaka, his penultimate 50-over match.
There will be much clamour for his final Test match to be played in Mumbai, the domestic team Tendulkar has represented since 1988, although the BCCI has yet to make an announcement on either venue for the Windies series.
England batsmen Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan were quick to hail Tendulkar following the news.
"Sachin #10dulkar - Undisputed Champion of Cricket! #SachinTheGreat," wrote Pietersen on Twitter.
Morgan added: "Sad to hear the greatest ever batsman is calling it a day. One man who inspired a nation #Sachin."