Cow Corner: Another little masterstroke from Tendulkar

Cow Corner: Masterstroke


Glorious venues and scenarios passed Tendulkar by. The World Cup final, the chance of a first appearance on the honours board at Lord's, the Boxing Day and New Year's Day Tests in Australia all came and went, ungraced by another century.

By the time the record arrived, the anticipation of the record had spiralled out of control. India, in the Test arena at least, were in freefall, battered and bruised after whitewashes at the hands of England and Australia.

The Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur is not quite such a prestigious or long-established venue as others worldwide, nor Bangladesh the most illustrious of opponents.

But in its own way, it was fitting. A match that meant, ultimately, not very much, for a record which has only ever been an artificial construct.

That's not a criticism of Tendulkar himself — it's a criticism of the aura the record took on. Test and one-day records don't merge comfortably in this way. Muttiah Muralitharan reaching 1,000 international wickets did attract some column inches back in 2006, but now that Murali has retired, that is not the statistic people remember.

Also fitting — though history may yet cast this inconvenient little fact aside — is the fact that Bangladesh staged an unlikely second innings chase and in front of jubilant fans knocked off a target of 290 for victory in the final over.

Some feared that the Little Master's quest for a personal landmark had become an unwelcome sideshow during India's travails. Some others felt that, actually, India's cricket itself had become the sideshow in Tendulkar's quest for history.

If perspective was lost, it was not Sachin who lost it. He has always somehow managed to remain grounded despite the adulation he is accorded in his homeland, and he demonstrated that in the immediate aftermath of this moment of triumph.

"Precisely a year ago when I got my 99th hundred no one spoke about it during the World Cup," said Tendulkar just minutes after reaching the landmark.

"And then it was I guess the media who started all these. Wherever I went, to restaurant, the house keeping, the room service, whoever I met just spoke about the 100th hundred.

"It became a little difficult mentally, because I am not playing only for my 100th hundred.

"The 99 hundreds that I scored, nobody spoke about them. Everyone had their opinion but eventually I have got to do what is important for the team."

Never mind. This record is simply a way of recognising just how much the man has achieved. The 100th century proves nothing that the previous 99 had not already done.

Tendulkar's greatest achievement is his longevity. In the Asia Cup he is facing opponents born after November 15 1989, the day the 16-year-old made his international debut for India. Mushfiqur Rahim, the Bangladesh captain today, was all of 14 months old when Tendulkar was facing Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

Tendulkar played in the same side as the likes of Kapil Dev (who made his debut in 1978), and has taken on the great and good of fast bowling, from Akram and Younis on debut, to Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, to Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, Murali, Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald, to today's finest, such as Dale Steyn and James Anderson. Tendulkar has bridged the generations, seen that roll call of excellent cricketers come and go, and he has churned out the runs against the lot of them.

For well over half his life — and for coming up to four solid years of days on the field — Tendulkar has played international cricket for India.

The statistics are mind-boggling (and, to those impartial to a bit of cricketing nerdsmanship, great fun to explore). Like Don Bradman's 99.94, some of Tendulkar's run counts and records will assume mythical, untouchable status in due course, when he finally does put his bat in the attic and call time on his career — if they haven't already.

As the 100th run of the 100th hundred disappeared safely into the leg side, Tendulkar looked pensively up at the skies, looking more relieved than delighted. Where next?

The answer, for now, is likely to be the same as it ever was: in the India team. The Test and one-day elevens are stronger for his presence, and Tendulkar is not one to shirk responsibility.

And the landmarks will doubtless continue to fall along the way. Next up: 50 one-day international centuries. Just one more ton will do it.

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