The magical moment finally arrived, though the wait lasted more than a year. The moment for which 1.2 billion Indians had been waiting for. The 100th run in his century of centuries by Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar came against Bangladesh after scoring his 99th on March 12th, 2011 against South Africa in the 2011 World Cup.
This hundred may have been special but Sachin is no stranger to achieving milestones. He has a plethora of records against his name – a feat which other cricketers can only dream of.
On ODI debut, Sachin was the second youngest debutant. On his Test debut against Pakistan he was the third youngest debutant at 16 years and 205 days. He was the first Indian to surpass 11,000 runs in Tests - a feat achieved in 223 ties. Aussie Allan Border and West Indian Brian Lara are the only other international cricketers who had reached the milestone before him.
Tendulkar’s idol Sunil Gavaskar must have been very proud –after all he was the first cricketer in the history of the game to cross the 10,000 mark. That made Tendulkar the second Indian to score ten thousand runs in Tests.
At 17 years and 112 days he was the second youngest batsman to score a hundred. Pakistan’s Mushtaq Mohammad was the only other cricketer to score a century at a younger age. And the only other Indian who had held the record for youngest centurion before Sachin was the great Kapil Dev.
Tendulkar is the first male batsman to score a double century in ODIs – 200 runs against South Africa on 24 February 2010. Before this, Belinda Clark had scored 229 runs in women cricket. Sachin was also the first player in the world to reach ten thousand runs in ODIs. Ironically he took 70 ODIs to hit a 100 in the shorter version of the game. But once he got there, there was no looking back.
Amongst the numerous memorable innings of Sachin’s, the replays of which I never tire of watching is his 143 and 134 in the Coca-cola one-day series in Sharjah on 22nd and 24th April, 1998 against Australia. He was like a man possessed and played even after a massive sandstorm when he made those 143 runs before the finals. No wonder the Aussie captain, Steve Waugh admitted after the game, “There is no shame in being beaten by such a great player”.
Amongst the 100 centuries scored by Sachin, 51 have come in Tests and 49 in ODIs. He has got out more than 25 times in the nineties in international matches, ODIs and Tests inclusive. So calculate for yourselves the number of hundreds he would have had till now if those nineties had been converted into hundreds.
On a personal level every time I saw him walk away from the pitch and saunter towards the pavilion after getting out in the nineties it broke my heart. Such is the power of the man. And such is the emotion that he evokes in the people of this country and his fellow cricketers.
Sachin has given cricket lovers around the world and his coach Ramakant Achrekar numerous moments to be proud of. Tributes are not new for the magician of the willow.
Accolades have been showered on the little genius by one and all. In 2002, he was ranked by Wisden as the second greatest Test batsman of all time, only behind the greatest of them all, Sir Donald Bradman. He was also ranked the second greatest one day batsman of all time, only behind his other idol, the devastating Sir Vivian Richards. Sir Vivian once said, “He is 99.5 percent perfect...I’ll pay to watch him play."
One of the greatest leg spinners of all time, Australian Shane Warne rated Tendulkar as the greatest player he had played with or against in 2007. He admitted once, “I would go to bed having nightmares of Sachin dancing down the ground and hitting me for sixes."
Brian Lara once said, “Sachin is the best batsman in the world." And listen to former England captain, Alec Stewart - "Sachin is a modern day Bradman."
And our own Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni when asked what had motivated Tendulkar, to keep playing at such a high level for so long told reporters some time back, "I think he loves the game, he has a passion for the game. Every time he turns up on the field he wants to improve his game. Overall, I think he`s an ideal cricketer to look up to, the way he has conducted himself on and off the field, irrespective of the fact that when he made his debut in one year`s time he was a superstar. He has remained the same.”
Former English skipper Michael Vaughan once wrote in the Daily Telegraph, “There is an air of goodwill from everyone towards Tendulkar that other great players have not enjoyed. I have never heard anyone say anything bad about him. Normally when you have a player who is the greatest sportsman in this field, he is seen as selfish and makes enemies. Not Tendulkar."
Mathew Hayden on Sachin - “I have seen God, he bats at number four for India." The praises heaped on Sachin and deservedly so have been so much and so many that one can simply go on and on.
But my personal best is the one by the undisputed king of the game, Sir Don Bradman – “I saw him playing on television and was struck by his technique, so I asked my wife to come look at him. Now I never saw myself play but I feel that this player is playing much the same as I used to play." I am sure this ultimate compliment by the Don himself must be at the top of Sachin’s list too.
I guess, no space is enough to write about Sachin Tendulkar – his batting abilities, the kind of person he is, his cricket longevity and the accolades showered on him.
I feel privileged to be an Indian simply because Sachin has been born in the same country. We can never thank God enough for this. Let us enjoy and soak in this moment.
Moments like these come once in a lifetime. Not sure if we are going to witness something like this ever again. What amazes everyone is Sachin’s hunger and determination to carry on even after so many years of international cricket. And yes, even after scaling such dizzying heights how can the magician batsman remain so humble?
Call him by any name if you must - Little Master, The Little Champion, The God of Cricket or The Master Blaster – he is simply the best.
Post Script: A quote by the most powerful man in the world, The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama – “I don’t know about cricket but still I watch cricket to see Sachin play. Not because I love his play, it’s because I want to know the reason why my country’s production goes down by 5 percent when he’s in batting.”