Sachin Tendulkar has symbolised "the essence and aspirations" of India during his 24-year international career, says Anil Kumble.
Delivering the second Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi Memorial Lecture, former captain Kumble paid tribute to the tireless contribution of Tendulkar, who will bow out of Test cricket after playing his 200th Test in front of home fans at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
"Sachin and I played 122 Tests together," reflected Kumble, who claimed 619 wickets in 132 Tests for his country. "I never threatened his place in the team as a batsman but I can tell you, he sometimes threatened mine as a bowler! He was such a natural as a leg-spinner.
"That he has played for so long and with such great authority is testimony both to his passion for the game and his incredible capacity for hard work.
"Fans see only the final product - the exquisite straight drive or the smooth on-drive - but tend to forget the hours of sweat that went into producing such strokes.
"Perception leads many astray and they confuse the product with the process; the former is effortless only because of the effort that goes into the latter."
Since making his debut in 1989 against Pakistan in Karachi, Tendulkar has scored 15,847 Test runs at an average of 53.71, compiling 51 centuries. In addition he's notched up 18,426 one-day runs at 44.83 with 49 hundreds, helping India to win the 2011 World Cup final in Mumbai.
Kumble paid tribute to 'the Little Master's' longevity, saying: "Sachin is three generations of players within himself.
"He began when Kapil Dev was still the spearhead of our attack; he was a contemporary of the Dravids, Laxmans, Gangulys, Zaheers, Harbhajans, Dhonis and Sehwags; he has placed Indian cricket in the strong and capable arms of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara.
"The role of the game in India, as we bear witness to a handing over of the baton, cannot be exaggerated. Neither can the role that Sachin has played in it, being all things to all men. The game unites people like nothing else.
"When you consider that the median age of the country is roughly the number of years that Sachin has been playing first-class cricket, you can understand what I mean.
"For a great majority of our countrymen, Sachin Tendulkar has been a fixture all of their lives. Of no other sportsman in any other place or time can it be said that he symbolises both the essence and the aspirations of a whole people.
"Yet, even in the case of this genius, perceptions have shifted. When India dropped out of the World Cup in 2007 it was assumed that we had blown the last chance to crown the greatest one-day batsman with a deserving crown.
"Yet four years later, there he was being carried on the shoulders of the next generation, literally, as the elusive World Cup was finally won.
"When he turned 37 the previous year, many felt he had overstayed his welcome - a perception that was hammered home by the media. Yet it was then that he scored the first double century in one-day internationals.
"Few players have done as much as Sachin to alter the perception of the game in our country, either individually or as part of the best teams to take the field for India. But it was Sachin the Test batsman or Sachin the sharp-thinker of the game alone who made the difference."
Watch Sachin Tendulkar's 200th and last Test for India - on Sky Sports 1 this Thursday from 3.45am.