Sachin scales Mount Everest at last

Sachin Tendulkar: 100th was my toughest…

By Kersi Meher-Homji

After 33 innings in England, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Australia in 370 days, master batsman Sachin Tendulkar went from 99 to 100 international centuries on 16 March.

AT LONG LAST! It was a prolonged period but worth the wait as expectations reached fever pitch from 12 March 2011 to 16 March 2012. It was like a mother delivering a baby after a double gestation period of 18 months!

Will it be at Lord’s last July to mark the 2000th Test match or the Mumbai near tied Test last November or in Melbourne in the Boxing Day Test or in Sydney in the New Year 2012 Test, journalists and his fans wondered?

But Sachin took his time. After scoring 92, 73 and 80 in successive Tests in Mumbai, Melbourne and Sydney Tests, it looked mission impossible as he failed in the last two Tests in Perth and Adelaide and in the Tri-nation one-day internationals (ODIs).

It was a bit of an anticlimax as the 100th century international landmark was reached in Asia Cup match against Bangladesh. To make the occasion bitter sweet for him India lost this match despite totalling 289 thanks to Sachin’s 114 with 12 fours and a six.

To reach the milestone, he nudged Shakib Al Hasan behind square leg to hit a single to end the agony for him and his billion supporters.

“It has been a tough phase for me”, he said at the press conference after the Bangladesh match. “I was not thinking about the milestone. The media started all these. Wherever I went, restaurants, room service, everyone was talking about the 100th hundred.

“It’s been a tough journey… I batted well in Australia, in England and again in Mumbai [against West Indies] I got so close to the hundred but somehow it was not happening. I’m a human being and I’ve emotions… The 100th hundred was the toughest one. It was a testing time so I thank God for whatever comes my way.”

Perhaps it was a clever psychological ploy by the overseas journalists to put extra pressure on him with this artificial landmark of 100th international century, combining Test and ODI statistics. Whereas the finest bowlers in the world could not upset the rhythm of Tendulkar, this artificial landmark did. Now that the ‘monkey’ is off his back we expect fireworks from the iconic Indian once again.

And it was a relaxed Tendulkar who stroked 52 runs with five fours and a six against Pakistan in the next Asia Cup match two days later, adding 133 runs for the second wicket with the match-winner Virat Kohli (183).

So far Tendulkar has hit most runs and centuries in both Tests and ODIs with the next best batsman way behind. In 184 Tests, Tendulkar has scored 15,470 runs at 55.44 with 51 centuries. He is 2182 runs ahead of the next best batsman Rahul Dravid and nine centuries ahead of the next centurion South Africa’s Jacques Kallis.

Same way in ODIs. He has amassed 18,426 runs at 44.83 in 463 matches, hitting 49 centuries. Next best, Ricky Ponting, has scored 4722 runs less and registered 13 fewer centuries.

Significant figures which place Sachin ‘miles’ ahead of other great batsmen. Compared to his 100 international centuries, Ponting is the next best with 71 (29 centuries behind) and Kallis with 69.

Enough of stats, below are my personal favourite Tendulkar innings:

  • Sydney Test of January 1992. The 18 year-old Sachin dazzled all present with his unbeaten 148 with 14 fours as he added 196 runs with Ravi Shastri (206). Sachin became the youngest to score a century in Australia, as he smashed debutant Shane Warne to smithereens. Neil Harvey, the famous Australian batsman of 1950s and 60s, commented, “He is the best player I’ve seen since ages.”
  • Perth Test, February 1992. Next month on a bouncy WACA pitch, teenager Sachin announced himself as a master batsman stroking 114, as none of his countrymen could reach 50 in either innings. ABC commentator Tim Lane gushed, “This boy is from heaven. He will do anything.” Allan Border added, “If he could play like this at 18, I shudder to think what he will be at 25.” The famous London Times correspondent John Woodcock was moved to say: “Gentlemen, he is THE best batsman I have seen in my life. And unlike most of you, I have seen Bradman.”
  • Manchester Test, August 1990. The 17 year-old hit his first Test century against England which prompted noted historian David Frith to write, “Hail the Boy King. How can anyone so young be so good at the highest level?”
  • World Cup, March 2003. Against arch-rival Pakistan, Tendulkar played an astounding innings of 98 off 75 balls. This inspired Peter Roebuck to write, “Tendulkar was blistering and monumental… He is the greatest player and the best batsman to appear since World War II.”
  • Gwalior against South Africa in February 2010. He scored 200 not out against South Africa, the first ever ODI double century.
  • Cape Town Test, January 2011. On a bowler’s pitch Tendulkar stroked 146 of the best against quality fast bowling. It was his 51st Test century when no one else had made 40 Test tons. “The contest was a match-up between Tendulkar and [fast bowler Dale] Steyn”, to quote Wisden 2011.
  • All 2011 World Cup matches in the Indian sub-continent including his 99th international century against South Africa at Nagpur in March 2011.
  • His 73 in the Melbourne Test and 80 in the Sydney Test in 2011-12. However, according to the media down under he was a failure because he did not score a century. How ignorant can you get?

This is what experts and Test greats said about maestro Sachin:

  • After Tendulkar scored a masterly 177 against Mark Taylor’s Australians in the 1998 Bangalore Test, MiD DAY (India) asked fast bowling great Dennis Lillee how he would have bowled to Tendulkar and he replied, “with a helmet on!”
  • In the never-ending debate on who among Sir Donald Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest batsman of all time, former England captain Naseer Hussain said this month that his vote goes to the iconic Indian: “Sir Donald Bradman was great but for me the greatest batsman to have ever played the game is Sachin Tendulkar”.
  • Richie Benaud in his book Over But Not Out recalls Sachin Tendulkar’s back-to-back centuries against Steve Waugh’s Australians at Sharjah in 1998. “It was there I watched two of the greatest innings I have ever seen played in limited-overs cricket: Sachin Tendulkar was the batsman and he hit two centuries. The first, in which he guided or blasted India to the final, was a classic. So was the second century, for that matter, but the first, with him knowing that millions of viewers in India were sitting in front of the television sets, willing him to succeed, was quite something.”  

But the tribute Sachin treasures most is the one by Don Bradman. In an interview by Ray Martin on Channel 9 in May 1996, he said, “Sachin plays more like me than any other modern player I’ve seen.”

 

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Posted by on May 30 2012. Filed under Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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