The monkey is finally off his back.
At about half past four at Mirpur's Shere Bangla Stadium, Sachin Tendulkar tapped a delivery from Shakib Al Hasan on his pads behind square. He scampered to the non-striker's end for a single. There was no exaggerated celebration; just a tired-looking glance heavenwards, a raised bat accepting the congratulations, and a finger pointed at the tri-colour on his helmet.
He was embraced by Suresh Raina in the middle before the Bangladesh players also ran up to congratulate him. The crowd welcomed the moment. They didn't mind that the home team had been at the receiving end of this milestone. The oldest man on the park had finally done it.
With that single, Tendulkar completed his hundredth century in international cricket — an unprecedented feat that will not be passed again by anyone in a hurry. It was also his 49th hundred in an ODI, ending his year-long wait for a three-figure knock.
There may have been a more befitting stage for such an incredible milestone than an Asia Cup encounter against a weak bowling attack. Less befitting was the manner in which he crawled to the mark. There were 82 dot balls in Tendulkar's innings, completely in contrast with how Virat Kohli, Raina, and several of the Bangladeshi batsmen played this game. He was a shadow of his former aggressive self in this innings, but what's beyond doubt is Tendulkar's place among the greatest sports persons of all times.
A hundred hundreds in international cricket was unheard of. In 1998, Tendulkar took the record at 36 hundreds held jointly by Sunil Gavaskar, Vivian Richards and Desmond Haynes. He has nearly tripled the mark, and this incredible feat of longevity will put him along such sporting icons as Pele, Navratilova and Federer.
Tendulkar, who is now in the 23rd year of his international career had been searching for this landmark since March 12 2011 when he last scored a hundred, against South Africa in Nagpur during the World Cup. Since then, he went 33 innings — including whole tours to England and Australia — without a hundred.
With each failure, the clamour around the milestone grew louder, with experts even questioning his motives behind continuing playing for India at the expense of young players waiting in the wings.
Today, India lost the early wicket of Gautam Gambhir in the sixth over when Shafiul Islam clean bowled the left-handed opener. Tendulkar and Virat Kohli (66) then added 148 runs for the second wicket, setting the stage for a big score.
Tendulkar scored his half-century in 63 balls with a lofted drive over extra cover off Shakib. He'd had a rough tour of Australia and this was also his first fifty since the 85 he scored against Pakistan in the World Cup semi-final.
He took 138 deliveries to score his century, which is one of his slowest in ODIs, but the occasion was so historic that it shouldn't take the sheen off the landmark.
Tendulkar scored 114 from 147 balls before he was caught behind off Mashrafe Mortaza's bowling in the 47th over of India's innings which ended at 289-5 in their allotted 50 overs.
'It was mentally tough'
Talking to Neo Cricket commentator Rameez Raja after India's innings, Tendulkar said it has been a tough phase for him even though he started the season batting "reasonably well". Asked if he had been thinking about the milestone, Tendulkar said he hadn't.
Tendulkar said the hype around his hundredth century was started by the media and he was asked about it wherever he went - be it restaurants, house-keeping, or even while ordering room service. "Whoever met me spoke about it," he said.
"I was not (thinking about it) to be honest. Nobody spoke about the 99th hundred when I got it in the World Cup. But since then, I have been asked about it wherever I have gone. "
"It became difficult mentally because I am not playing only for my hundredth hundred."
"Everybody has their opinions but I've got to do what it important for the team."
He conceded the moment hadn't sunk in yet but said "I have lost about fifty kilos."
Asked what he would advice young people watching him at this moment, Tendulkar said, "Enjoy your game and chase your dreams. Dreams do come true.I had to wait for 22 years to realise my dream of winning the World Cup. Don't stop chasing your dreams."
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was amongst the first to wish Tendulkar and said he has made the country proud. "Tendulkar's long career has been a triumph of class, character and courage. I wish him many more innings and feats to continue inspiring the youth," Singh said in a press release.
Tendulkar was also congratulated by ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat said he is a marvel to cricket lovers around the world, adding he is a true role model. "On behalf of every cricket fan around the globe I congratulate Sachin on becoming the first person to score 100 centuries for his country. This is indeed a magnificent feat and not likely to be easily emulated," Lorgat was quoted as saying in an ICC release.
Lorgat also said: "Like millions of others I have personally followed his career ever since he first played for India as a gifted 16-year-old and now, more than two decades later, his passion and personal records, which include more than 33,000 runs at international level, is a modern day wonder."
Tendulkar scored his first international century - 119* - against England at Old Trafford in August 1990; while his first ODI century (110) came against Australia at Colombo on 9 September 1994.
Tendulkar scored 12 centuries in 1998 - the most he has in a year in his career. He has scored eight centuries in three different years (1996, 1999 and 2010).
Tendulkar, who is the most capped player in Tests and ODIs, holds an array of batting records including for the most runs and centuries scored in those two formats of the game.
In his 188 Tests, Tendulkar has scored 15470 runs, including 51 centuries; and in his 462 ODIs, the batting maestro has scored 18,374 runs, including 49 centuries.
Tendulkar has scored 1000 or more runs in a calendar six times - 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2008, 2010. He has also scored 1,000 or more ODI runs in a calendar year seven times - 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2007.
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