Bangladesh must be a very proud country. And I am not talking about their triumph over the Indian team. Apart from comprehensively defeating the World Champions on their own soil, the crowd in Mirpur witnessed something which is unlikely to be repeated in the history of world cricket.
The master could have done it the other way round - pump his fist in the air, express himself and point a gesture to each and everyone who thought he was through. Rather than doing that he chose to do it in his own way. He played Shakib Al Hasan’s delivery towards square leg, took off his helmet, and thanked the almighty as the crowd went gaga. Tendulkar looked at his bat, which had scored 99 of those special centuries as if he was having a short conversation with it that said, ‘We have again proved them wrong, yes all of them.” Like always, he didn’t show his emotions, but we all knew, there it was - the batting maestro had overcome the pressure cooker scenario. One could feel the fresh air around Tendulkar the moment he had achieved the milestone.
Sachin’s journey has been tremendous and it wasn’t for the first time that Sachin had come into such a situation. His buddy Vinod Kambli revealed before the media that the God of cricket was rejected at his school trials at Shivaji Park, Mumbai, in the academic year 1985-86. Adding to his woes, coach Ramakant Achrekar asked Tendulkar to go back and focus on his studies. Tendulkar’s brother, Ajit, however requested the coach to give him one more chance. The ‘little master in the making’ was thus asked to come back the next day. The rest is history, and the man who has been recreating it every now and then is Tendulkar himself.
It is not for the first time that Tendulkar has proven his critics wrong. But this was not a normal occasion. The human in the God of cricket made sure to subtly bash the media and the people who had been questioning his ability for the past 368 days, 24x7. 'I was not thinking about the milestone, the media started all this, wherever I went, the restaurant, room service, everyone was talking about the 100th hundred,” Sachin said. Something which cannot be ignored here is the pain and the suffocation in his word. While all of us will say we do, it is actually impossible to imagine the period he went though. Tendulkar has never mentioned his achievements before the media. But on Friday, he did. The Little Master said, rather complained that nobody spoke about his 99 hundreds and everybody focused on just the 100th one. Can we imagine what an asphyxiated life he must have been living all this while?
The 100th ton would have come as a fresh breather for Tendulkar. The media, the fans, former Indian cricketers, former cricketers from others teams, everybody questioned his ability to score a hundred? He had scored 99 of them! It was just a matter of time for the elusive 100th ton. All these people pitched in for Tendulkar’s retirement from the ODIs as he went through a difficult phase of asphyxiation. Tendulkar was over for them till the time he was stuck on 99 centuries and the moment he added one more to his list, he once again became the ‘God of cricket’ The same experts who had suggested that he retire a few days ago, said that he was the greatest ever to have played the game.
I am not sure how many of you have noticed but this pressure was definitely something which had started to bother Sachin of late. Here are two such incidents - The first incident took place after the final delivery of the seventh over bowled by Lee in India's run chase against Australia at Sydney in the recently concluded CB series. Tendulkar was run-out while Brett Lee tried to collect the ball at his end. Tendulkar was baffled at Lee and he gestured to the umpire complaining that he was blocked by the fast bowler because of which he got out. I reckon on some other occasion, Tendulkar would have not reacted like he did. It was the immense pressure mounted by everybody for that hundred, which may have unintentionally made him react like this out of frustration.
Another incident took place in the first ODI match played between India and Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup. Tendulkar was caught at short extra cover by Mahela Jayawardene off a full toss from Lakmal and Tendulkar did not move. He instead asked Mahela if he had picked it cleanly. Now this was again something very un-Tendulkar type. It amazed me to see him getting so arrogant towards his dismissal. He has barely questioned anybody in the past - forget a man of Jayawardene’s integrity. When he is out, he blames no one but himself. A leading cricket portal rightly mentioned Tendulkar’s dismissal then as “Sachin has to walk back after the third umpire rules out all possibilities that could have extended his stay.”
The burden of not scoring that one century overshadowed the 99 centuries that he had scored over the past few years. All this happened at a time when the batting genius was never out of form. He did take a break from the ODIs for a while, coming back for the series Down Under. While the former cricketers have been consistent in their remarks against Tendulkar, he was determined to show that his love and commitment towards the game had not lessened and it was only a matter of few innings before he was back in form.
Now the critics would say that the elusive ton came against a team like Bangladesh and he took 147 balls to score 114 runs. I have some points on this issue:
It was Sachin’s maiden ODI ton against Bangladesh. In case he had retired without a century against the minnows, the critics would have said that the legend could not even score an ODI century against Bangaldesh. If Tendulkar had got out at a paltry score against Bangladesh on Friday, critics would have also said that he had a chance against Bangladesh and he failed while others amassed plenty of runs. I read reports which said that India was some 20-30 runs short of their total (blaming Tendulkar). Let’s have a look at what the bowlers contributed. Pathan (09-0-56-0), Dinda (5.2-1-38-0) while Ashwin and Praveen Kumar gave 56 runs in their quota of 10 overs though they didn’t go without wickets. With the kind of juicy full tosses the pacers were bowling, Bangladesh would have chased anything within 320 runs in Mirpur.
Now for all those people who would argue saying that India loses a match in which Tendulkar scores a century, I have some stats to share. India has won 69 % of the ODI matches in which Sachin has scored a century. Thirty three of Sachin's 49 ODI centuries have come in matches won – that means almost 69 % of his centuries have come in matches in which India have been victorious. For a man who has played 650 international matches, has batted in 762 innings, has scored 15,470 runs in Test matches and 18,374 in ODIs, the percentage is not bad at all. And if you still think that’s not enough, let’s make it simple. Tendulkar has scored 100 international centuries! It is equal to Bradman’s 99.94 if not ahead of it.
In spite of the statistics, I would request them who are still against Tendulkar, to continue throwing stones at the 38-year-old and unperturbed as always, he will continue to convert them into milestones. And to all the Sachin fans - Cheers! Let’s bask in the glory of the master’s historical achievement as such a feat shall never be emulated again. It’s a perfect 100 after all.