EXCELLENCE in sports is not achieved by ordinary mortals but by those who are blessed with the gift of being extra ordinary in talent and also in character. The master batsman Sachin Tendulkar is blessed with both.
Having reached the landmark of scoring hundred international centuries last Friday against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup he now enjoys a unique place in history of being the only batsman in 134 years of international cricket to reach this feat. In nearly 23 years of his brilliant career at the top level his 51 Test centuries and 49 ODI hundreds are not an ordinary achievement.
Whenever he hangs up his boots, which may be soon, he will have one regret that he was unable to score hundred first-class centuries. He has made only 78 which include his 51 Test hundreds which of course is considered as a first-class match. One-day matches do not have that status.
Sunil Gavaskar’s 81 first-class centuries and Javed Miandad’s 80 at that level is more than Tendulkar has scored.
But the honour of making a century of centuries amongst all who played for the sub-continental teams remain with the great stylist of all Zaheer Abbas who in his glowing career made 108 first-class hundreds which also includes his 12 Test hundreds. The reason why Zaheer is remembered as the Asian Bradman.
To achieve that feat of scoring hundred first-class hundreds he will have to play for at least another five years which obviously will be beyond him being 39 now.
It does not however take away anything from the great Tendulkar. Sir Donald Bradman always thought he bats more like him and Steve Waugh the former Australian great once said that Sachin is a genius of our time and when he goes he will be remembered next to Bradman’s name.
Tendulkar’s precocious talent was evident from the day when he shared a 664 runs stand with Vinod Kambli for his school Vidiayashram in Mumbai. His rise to the top was pre-destined because the way he conducted himself as a schoolboy prodigy and later when he donned his country’s cap when making his Test debut at the National Stadium, Karachi in 1989.
Not a memorable start against Pakistan but the writing was already on the wall for the skill, temperament and talent that he displayed as he progressed to reach the pinnacle and be recognised as the master batsman.
I would have been a lot more delighted on reaching his feat on his last tour of England where he failed by a whisker getting out in the nineties in one of the match which I was covering.
But I am privileged that I covered his Test debut, his first Test hundred at Old Trafford against England in 1990 and his hundredth Test in 2006 at The Oval. Just can’t forget the day when he was out caught at deep extra cover by John Wright at Napier in 1989 when on 88, thus missing his first Test century and then walking back to the pavilion with tears at the corner of his eyes. I was a commentator then for TVNZ.
Had he made that first three-figure score of his career in Tests, he would have been the youngest batsman in Tests to do so beating Mushtaq Mohammad’s record.
Let us therefore appreciate this unique event and the man whose behind the scene charity work is no secret to the world.