Filling the little masterís shoes

Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane couldn't stop staring at Sachin Tendulkar like a million others when the little master gave his last speech during his farewell Test at the Wankhede Stadium. Then they reverentially walked up to him and requested for a parting photograph in the dressing room.

While emotions ran high, for many it was the end of cricket. Tendulkar not only inspired the Ajinkya-Rohit pair to choose cricket but had given them a reason to love the sport over everything else too. As Tendulkar took a final lap of the Wankhede Stadium, many wondered who would carry the mantle of Mumbai's legendary batsmanship forward. "Who next?" everyone thought on that November afternoon.

A month on ó though a tad early to say this ó two men in their mid-20s are taking giant strides to fill the boots of Tendulkar, donning Indian colours and going about cementing their places in the national team. It surely is a tough task for the youngsters to carry on with the legacy of Mumbai's batting great. However, if their outings in 2013 are any indication, the pair is ensuring that Mumbai doggedness and flair are qualities that get represented with team India. It is as if the maestro's most prized qualities ó stylish strokeplay and fighting determination - were split into two juniors, with Sharma carrying the gene of style and Rahane of substance.

One look at 2013 and Rohit certainly looks like he has been on a dream run. Of the 28 ODIs played this year, Rohit averages 52 with 1196 runs. He scored a double (206) in an ODI against Australia (only the third in the world to) and with two hundreds and eight fifties this season, Rohit established himself as an opener in the limited -overs format. A Test debut followed soon after the double and he scored 177 on debut followed by a 111 in Mumbai against West Indies. Under his captaincy, Mumbai Indians clinched their maiden title followed by the Champions League and it was his leadership quality too that came to the fore thereafter.

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