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    The epilogue: Sachin Tendulkar's walk into a golden sunset

    The warrior walks off the field for the last time.

    The warrior walks off the field for the last time. (BCCI)

    Not physically but 1.2 billion Indians virtually accompanied Sachin Tendulkar - with a tear in the eye and a lump in the throat - as he took the long walk off the Wankhede Stadium on Friday, perhaps for the last time in a career that started exactly 24 years ago on this day in 1989.

    It's difficult to keep emotions out on such a momentous occasion; the crowd couldn't, but Sachin had to - like he did for almost quarter of a century. And the icon, as always, controlled it superbly - not for a hundred though, but then it was never about that. It's Sachin's farewell.

    Those in possession of day-two ticket for the Wankhede Test were happy at stumps on day one. Sachin was 38 not out and looking determined to play a big one. But India spent a sleepless Thursday night, tossing around in bed thinking whether Sachin will get the 12 runs to get to his fifty and then 50 more to complete his 101st century.

    Not for the first time in his career, but there was a nostalgic tone to every shout that accompanied each run coming off his bat on Friday. As cliched as it may sound, but all good things had to come to an end. And those at the Wankhede enjoyed Sachin's grand exit to the T.

    Like those in the stadium and the millions in front of their TV sets, Sachin too must have been nervous. But it didn't show in the late cuts, flicks and signature straight drives, which many experts believe tells them Sachin's on song.

    And he surely was on song to celebrate the birthday of his cricket career. It seemed he could see just the 14 other men around him, as the 40,000-odd chanted the famous "Sachiiiin...Sachiiiin" chant.

    Tino Best was trying his best and to his credit even beat the master a couple of times. He even tried an odd sledge to add some spice to the occasion. But Tendulkar was enjoying that, and even nudged Best naughtily at the end of an over.

    Best was mixing it nicely, probably trying to set up a batsman who has 100 centuries to his name, 51 of those in Test cricket. The 68th Sachin Test fifty came in his signature style off 91 balls. A straight drive past Best got the crowd on its feet. The Master was entertaining them again, like he has always done.

    A Twitter post explained Best's emotions: "Ti-No Luck. Tendulkar at his Best," it read.

    A back foot cover drive off Best took Tendulkar into the 60s. Nothing seemed to be troubling Sachin now and Sammy chose to try something different. He brought part-timer Narsingh Deonarine to bowl, and the offie chose to write a story for his grandchildren.

    He broke the dream of millions, of seeing Tendulkar score a century in his farewell Test. An edge off Tendulkar's bat was safely collected by Sammy in the slips to put Sachin on his long walk off a cricket field - perhaps for the last time. Tendulkar ct Sammy b Deonarine 74 (118, 4sx12)

    Standing ovation followed as the master turned around to acknowledge the cheer. The Tendulkar clan was on its feet, while the wheelchair-bound mother and coach Ramakant Achrekar said a few prayers with moist eyes. Arjun was clapping too, not in the stands but as a ball boy at the boundary ropes - opting to do what his father did during the 1987 World Cup.

    How difficult must it have been to walk back and then up those stairs into the dressing room - only Sachin can tell, and will a few months later.

    Thank you Sachin.