Finally, Sachin Tendulkar gets the elusive hundred
Iconic Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar scripted history on Friday, becoming the first cricketer in the world to score 100 international centuries, a phenomenal feat which may remain unconquered for years to come.
Tendulkar, who already has a pile of runs and records to his credit, achieved the incredible milestone when he turned spinner Shakib-ul Hasan towards fine-leg in the Asia Cup match against Bangladesh in Mirpur.
The star batsman first looked to the heavens and then acknowledged the cheers of teammates and the crowd by waving his bat.
It was the end of a long wait for the 38-year-old veteran, who had gone 33 innings and a year without a century. The right-hander registered his 99th international ton in the World Cup match against South Africa in Nagpur on March 12.
Since then was an agonising wait for the maestro, whose every inning was watched with anticipation. He came close on quite a few occassions only to miss the milestone. So much so, it became a huge monkey on his back and an unwanted distraction in every series India played.
'Records are fairly routine for Tendulkar'
Tendulkar was woefully out of form during India's Test and ODI whitewash at the hands of England last year and though he recovered quite a bit in the later series, the hundred was still not coming.
He carried the weight of expectation to what turned out to be a horror tour of Australia, and seemed to be in good touch during the Tests, but his form waned after he missed the 100th hundred despite coming close a few times.
Following this, he made himself available for the ODI tri-series against Sri Lanka and Australia, but there, too, the milestone proved elusive.
But the wait finally ended in familiar sub-continental environs.
With an over two-decade long career, records are fairly routine for Tendulkar, but, for the cricketing fraternity, every run he scores just adds to the legend that the diminutive right-hander has become.
The champion batsman has perhaps every batting record that is there to be taken under his belt and adding to the countless tally is the historic hundred he scored against England in the post-lunch session.
Every batting record became Tendulkar's
Much before his debut on November 15, 1989, Tendulkar's precocious talent was there to be seen when he shared an unbeaten 664-run stand with buddy Vinod Kambli in the Lord Harris Shield Mumbai Inter-School game in 1988.
The 1989 international debut was far less spectacular, in fact forgettable. A Waqar Younis bouncer left him with a bleeding nose, but Tendulkar did not wince and the next two decades saw him punishing bowlers all over the world on all kind of surfaces.
His first Test century came in England next year at Old Trafford and the Mumbaikar rose in stature after the 1991-92 tour of Australia, hitting sublime centuries on a Sydney turner and a Perth minefield.
The rest is history. No existing batting record seemed safe. Other than Brian Lara's Test match highest of 400 not out and first class highest score of 501 not out, every batting record became Tendulkar's.
'The biggest compliment to his batting came from Sir Donald Bradman'
A staggering 15,470 runs scored in 188 Tests, at a robust average of 55.44, confirmed Tendulkar's greatness in the longer version of the game.
And in the 462 ODIs he played, a whopping 18,260 (before the Asia Cup match against Bangladesh) were added to his mountain of runs at an average of 44.64.
Tendulkar is also the first batsman in the world who has scored a double ton in ODIs, a feat he achieved in Gwalior against South Africa in February. It was included in Time magazine's top 10 sports moments of the year.
A perfect team man, Tendulkar has limited his Twenty20 ambitions to the Indian Premier League, where he leads Mumbai Indians, ruling himself out of national reckoning lest it upsets the existing equilibrium of the side.
The biggest compliment to his batting came from Sir Donald Bradman himself in 1999, when he said that Tendulkar's style of playing resembled his style. "That touch I used to feel when I batted," he had said.
Sachin's aura only grew in strength
Tendulkar's colossal batting exploits have completely overshadowed his utility as a part-time bowler who reveled in breakthroughs.
He was a complete enigma with the ball, sending down military medium pace, orthodox leg-break and off-spin with the guile that often caught batsmen off guard.
His 45 Test wickets and 154 scalps in ODIs underline the fact that Tendulkar could have also staked claim to be that elusive all-rounder that India has been desperately looking for since the legendary Kapil Dev. But shoulder problems have not allowed him to bowl as much as he and the team would have liked.
In the field, he is among the safest pair of hands in the slips and his flat throw releasing strong arm saw him manning the deep with equal aplomb. He has taken 113 catches in Test cricket and 140 in the ODIs.
The aura only grew in strength because of his impeccable demeanour, on and off the field.
His father's death had a deep impact on him and Tendulkar still looks heavenwards whenever he crosses a milestone to seek his blessing.