Centurion: Milestones have become so routine in Sachin Tendulkar’s career that it hardly came as a surprise when he touched another one by becoming the first batsman in cricket’s history to notch up an astonishing 50 Test hundreds.
The 37-year-old right-hander, who has spent a remarkable over 20 years in international cricket, has perhaps every batting record that is there to be taken under his belt and adding to the countless tally is the historic hundred that he struck against South Africa in the ongoing opening Test here.
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 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 diminutive 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.
A staggering 14,366 runs scored in 174 Tests before the ongoing one at a robust average of 56.55 confirmed Tendulkar’s greatness in the longer version of the game.
And in the 442 ODIs he starred in, a whopping 17,598 were added to his mountain of runs at a healthy average of 45.12. He is steadily inching towards the 50 ODI tons mark as well having scored 46 already.
Tendulkar is also the only batsman in the world who has scored a double ton in ODIs, a feat he achieved in Gwalior against South Africa in February. This feat was included in ‘Times’ magazine’s top 10 sports moments of the year.
A perfect teamman, Tendulkar has limited his Twenty20 ambition confined 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.
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 guiles that often caught batsmen off their guard.
His 44 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 slip and his flat throw releasing strong arm saw him manning the deep with equal aplomb.
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.