The question many of us have been asking ever since Sachin Tendulkar decided to bring the curtains down on his glittering career is who would replace the maestro - the one who has ruled our hearts and minds for over 24 years.
Being bereft of sporting heroes in the past, we got one in Tendulkar, the curly-haired, soft-spoken Maharashtrian, whom we clang onto ever since he burst onto the scene. And he did the same. He entertained us, gave us innumerable moments to rejoice. When he scored runs, we clapped and danced. When he got out cheaply, we switched off television sets in disgust. He became our identity to the world.
But that association has ended now - at least on the field. And no matter how painful we feel about it, it has to sink in. And it's time to celebrate and not to mourn. Like every good thing in life, this too had to end. So, it's time to remember what Tendulkar has meant to each one of us and what joy he has given us over the years.
As Indians, we have a habit of idolising people. And now we're looking for our next hero - the one who we can look up to. But things are different now. We have grown as a nation and have heroes in every field, not just cricket. Our cricket too has made rapid strides - we are the reigning ODI world champions, have achieved the same feat in T20s and have also seen the world from top of the Test rankings. And doing so, we have unearthed some talents that we revered in the last few years.
Virat Kohli is one such player. But is he 'The One' for us? After India's memorable triumph at the 2011 World Cup, Virat Kohli had famously said, "Tendulkar has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. It is time we carried him on our shoulders". Kohli not only carried Tendulkar on his shoulders that night, but he also took the burden from the master, of hopes of over a billion people. And not many will doubt the way he has responded to that challenge so far.
Kohli is someone who wears his heart on his sleeve and has made it obvious from time to time. He represents the fearless brand of cricket that we have witnessed since Ganguly sowed those seeds in the early 2000s. He thrives in adverse conditions - the quality which was in abundance in Tendulkar - and has emerged as a true match-winner for India - for some only next to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the talismanic India skipper.
Kohli is just 25 now but has already outscored his peers in achievements. He has already touched dizzy heights in ODIs - 4919 runs in just 119 matches at 51.77, which is only second to Dhoni's 52.43 - and his record in Tests is getting better with each innings.
Just like the hundred scored in Perth in 1992 took Tendulkar a few notches up as a batsman, Kohli's maiden Test century in Adelaide too transformed him.
It might be impossible for any player to match Tendulkar's feat - both in numbers and spirit, but with Kohli's emergence, we at least have someone who has shown enough promise to provide many more moments to cherish in the future.