In faded black and white photos we first saw you, a little boy in shorts and curls, blissfully unaware of your own genius.
And then eighteen years ago, older but with the same unruly mop, looking like a slightly skinnier Maradona, you walked onto the ground and into our imagination and we embraced you as one.
We winced when you were hit on the head in that first match against Pakistan, our hearts soared higher with each six in Sharjah, we wept with you at the World Cup when you raised your bat to the memory of your late father.
We put up posters of you on our walls; we built shrines in your name. We prayed in turn for your shoulder, elbow, and back.
And above all, we watched.
We watched as a boy became a man and a man became a legend. We watched like it was a dream that we hoped would never end. But of course we knew it would have to, eventually.
And last week it did, as we watched you walk away while a group of Bangladeshi players danced in your wake. They were just boys, those players who danced. Like you were, eighteen years ago.
You began on zero and ended on zero. What happened in between changed our lives and made us believe we could be so much greater than ourselves. But it’s time to let it go.
Those old pictures of you with a bat in your hand and a smile on your face seem like a distant memory for us, as they must do for you.
The posters have come off the walls now, and in time the shrines will have new resident deities. But before that, perhaps one last prayer will be offered up:
Walk on, Sachin. Walk On.