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Tendulkar set for emotional finale

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An artist works on a mural of cricketer Sachin Tendulkar on the wall of a sports club building in Mumbai.Photo: AFP
An artist works on a mural of cricketer Sachin Tendulkar on the wall of a sports club building in Mumbai.Photo: AFP

Sachin Tendulkar is set for an emotional farewell when he plays his 200th and final Test at home in Mumbai from Thursday, exactly 24 years after he began his record-breaking career.

Former team-mates, one-time opponents and even his mother will join fans at the Wankhede stadium to acclaim the world's leading Test and one-day batsman, and the only one to score 100 international centuries.

Speaking at a function on Monday to celebrate his career, Tendulkar gave some insight into the famous work ethic that has enabled him to play on to the age of 40, long beyond his contemporaries.

"I think every step was different, every tournament required different type of preparations," he said in Mumbai. "Without preparations, things wouldn't have been the same."

Since making his debut as a 16-year-old in Karachi in 1989, Tendulkar has become almost a deity for the billion-plus population of India, helping the country win the 2011 World Cup and reach the top of the world rankings.

After racking up a staggering 15,847 runs in his 199 Tests, even his rivals acknowledge that Tendulkar is second only to Sir Donald Bradman in the pantheon of batting greats.

In his final interview before he died in 2001, the Australian said that Tendulkar was the one modern player who came closest to his own legendary batting style. "It was just his compactness, his stroke production, his technique, it all seemed to gel as far as I was concerned," Bradman said in the 1996 interview.

Brian Lara, one of Tendulkar's few rivals in the modern game, has flown into India to watch the Indian's final farewell against the West Indies.

"When I speak about cricket, I will speak about Tendulkar," the former West Indian batsman said. "Just like you mention Mohammad Ali when you mention boxing and Michael Jordan when it comes to basketball."

Some TV channels have been showing wall-to-wall highlights of Tendulkar's greatest moments since the weekend, and the build-up to his last match has dominated the front as well as the back pages. Billboards and murals of Tendulkar have been sprouting across India as the country prepares to bid goodbye to the cricketing legend.

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