New Delhi: Without Sachin Tendulkar, cricket would have been an altogether different sport. Ever since making his India debut as a 16-year-old in 1989 against Pakistan, the Master Blaster has made himself the gold-standard of batting.
But he needed a start, and it came 26 years ago, against England at Manchester. That's when he scored first of his 51 Test centuries. The importance of that unbeaten ton is so epic in the context of sport that a failure then would have compromised the talent.
After losing the first of the three-Tests series at Lord's by a huge margin of 247 runs, India needed to produce result in their favour at Manchester. But there, the star-studded team under Mohammad Azharruddin found themselves chasing a total of 407 runs for an improbable win.
In the fourth innings, India's top order collapsed, at 127/5 and it became apparent that the task was to salvaged a draw.
There arrived 17-year-old Tendulkar, playing in his second series outside the cub-continent, with his first ever Test hundred. A brilliant unbeaten 119 laced with 17 hits to the fence.
That innings laid the foundation for Tendulkar, to become arguably the greatest batsman ever, and also gave the sport a reliable face, no less than any other legends.
He had scores of 93 against Pakistan and 88 against New Zealand in the run up to the England series, but he still needed a start.
And without that ton, he would have had a lot tougher case convincing the Indian selectors of his capabilities. More so for a a teenage prodigy.