Sachin Tendulkar`s phenomenal feat of scoring 100 international centuries is unlikely to be ever broken as no other contemporary player has the calibre and the amazing fitness to play the game for more than two decades.
Ever since I saw Sachin make his debut against us, some 23 years back, I knew that he was someone destined for greater things. I have never seen anyone so devoted to the game and so hungry to score runs. So this incredible feat could have only been achieved by Sachin.
I don`t think anyone needs to sing praises for Sachin, his performance speaks volumes. The way he has been performing all these years is simply amazing and is a feat of devotion, patience and super fitness.
Friday was a big day for me as a cricketer. The moment Sachin reached the milestone of scoring his 100th international century it appeared to me as if someone very dear to me had achieved this feat.
He is one of the most humble and gentleman personalities I have met in my life. My father always used to say "You give respect you get respect". To me Sachin has followed this saying to the hilt. And that is the major reason today he is at the pinnacle of his career.
But this man has not reached these dizzy heights of fame by just showing or giving respect. To me, technically he is one of the best timers in the game with a solid temperament.
Myself, Vivian Richards, Ian Chappell and many others were always keen to improvise our batting. Sachin is one of the most orthodox batsmen I have come across. His temperament is the same whether he is batting on 0, 50 or on 100 and that is what sets him apart from other great batsmen.
In 1989 India was due to tour Pakistan and we kept on hearing about this boy who had scored a triple century in India. He came and played against the likes of Wasim, Imran and Qadir and even got hit in Karachi but as far as I was concerned he was someone destined for great things.
So it doesn`t surprise me that today he is the only player to have scored 100 international centuries.
Since his debut there were numerous occasions in Pakistan, India, Sharjah, Australia and England when I came across him and what impressed me the most was that every time he showed the same respect and displayed the same hunger to learn and improve that he had on his first day in test cricket.
Over the years whenever we came across each other either in whatever role Sachin was always keen to learn and talk about cricket. This is a trait I have found in many of the great Indian cricketers I have played against. They all want to learn from you and they give a lot of respect.
Once it was in England myself, Viv Richards an Indian friend of mine Sunil went to Lords to watch the Indian team practice and as soon as we entered the nets area, Sachin, Dravid and others wasted no time in coming to us and acknowledging our presence or discussing cricket with us. To me Sachin has been one of the most devoted cricketers I have come across. I have never seen anyone devote so much time to cricket than Sachin.
People like to talk about him and compare him with other greats but my reasoning is simple every era has been different because cricket has changed in every decade.
What makes Sachin great is that he has just not scored runs in the sub-continent but all over the world. I watched his double hundred at Sydney and it was one of the best innings I have seen from a batsman from the sub-continent on Australian pitches. His devotion and hunger for the game is something others can learn a lot from.
Main reason I think today he has played for so long and reached this milestone is because he has always preferred to bat in the top order and when India started playing lot of One-day internationals he immediately promoted himself to open the innings.
That is what makes a player great. The eagerness to play as many over as possible when one gets the chance. I don`t think it would have been possible for Sachin to score 100 international hundreds if he had not decided he would open in ODIs. This has given him the chance to play long innings and maximum overs.
More importantly his humble nature and the fact that his long career has largely been free of controversies have made him an idol in India.
Just how dear he is to the Indian people became clear to us in 1999 in that Kolkata Test when in a freak accident he got run out and the reaction that followed made it clear to us just how revered he is in India.
But even after that incident Sachin remained Sachin and that is why he remains my favorite cricketer. I don`t see his record being broken in the near future and if anyone is going to do it he has to play continuously for 15 to 20 years and keep on batting up the order and that is a tall order despite so much cricket being played these days.
Well done Sachin, you deserve all this respect and praise.