An inescapable product of life in the public eye is the division of popular opinion. One cannot please everybody all the time, and only a few famous people command the universal admiration of an audience whose primary characteristic is its fickle nature.

Even fewer personalities permeate into the collective consciousness of a country as effortlessly as Sachin Tendulkar has India’s. Living out more than half his years on earth under the scrutiny of an obsessive audience, Tendulkar has been a sign of hope and a shoulder of strength under the brunt of expectation.

The little master’s appeal has transcended demarcations of class, caste, gender and geography. And any discussion, at least in this country, on the great man is likely to take one and one course alone — of affection, admiration, deification and deference.

Here’s what cricket fans have to say:

Dr. R. Ramanujam (45), Ophthalmic surgeon: Tendulkar is a rare combination of a supremely gifted player and a down-to-earth human being. The way he has carried himself is an example to others. He has survived for so long due to his passion for the game and his single-minded dedication. He’s easily the all-time superstar of Indian cricket.

Favourite knock: 136 against Pakistan, Chennai Test, 1999.

Naman Sharma (25), Operations Manager in a Multi-National Company: Tendulkar is the only reason I watch cricket. There was a time when I changed channels the moment he got out. Twenty years on he’s still going strong… it has been an unbelievable career. It is difficult to imagine an Indian cricket team without him.

Favourite knock: 98 against Pakistan, Centurion, 2003 World Cup.

Renjith Jose (40), Businessman: Even though I prefer football to cricket, I take the time to tune in as long as Tendulkar is at the crease. Cricket is slow-paced, but watching the master blaster is something special. There is a sense of personal involvement in whatever he does, and very few sportspersons can lay claim on that kind of following. A career of such integrity and consistency under such pressure deserves double the credit.

Favourite knock: 241 not out against Australia, Sydney Test, 2004.

Akshay Ramaseshan (24), Management Professional: I was lucky to be part of the generation that grew up on Tendulkar’s exploits. My first memory of watching a televised match is Sharjah, 1996, where he scored a hundred against Pakistan and India posted its first total in excess of 300. What he has come to signify for India goes beyond the purview of mere sport.

Favourite knock: 103 not out against England, Chennai Test, 2008.

Lakshmi (33), Homemaker: I began to like cricket more after I started watching Tendulkar. He’s undaunted by any bowler and never allows anybody to get under his skin. I also admire his ability to perform under pressure. I hope he continues till the 2011 World Cup and wins it for us.

Favourite knock: 143 versus Australia, Sharjah, 1998 (to help India qualify for the final).

C. Murugan (21), Parking attendant: I first watched Tendulkar when he made a century against Kenya in the 1999 World Cup. He had lost his father just a few days earlier, but came back for the sake of the country. He’s a true patriot. Tendulkar doesn’t bother even if a bowler sledges him and that’s what I like most about him.

Favourite knock: 186 not out against New Zealand, Hyderabad, 1999.

Sai Shashank (11), Student: I admire Tendulkar’s character. Though he’s aggressive as a batsman, he looks very friendly as a person. Despite achieving so much as a player, he’s very humble. He has played for 20 years because he likes the game a lot and dreams about it all the time.

Favourite knock: 175 versus Australia, Hyderabad, 2009.

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