Saturday, March 17, 2012

Tendulker- A Century for centuries

Three hours and five minutes into his 651st international match, Sachin Tendulkar ascended to an extraordinary high. And yesterday's Asia Cup game at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium became the moment of history all of world cricket had been awaiting for a year and three days. He reached the much-awaited, often much-maligned and ultimately the much-adored milestone of one-hundred international hundreds.

The moment arrived in the 44th over after he had waited on 99 for all of ten minutes.

As Shakib Al Hasan trotted in for the fourth ball, the magical figure came up as Tendulkar tucked it around the corner for a single; the jogged run followed by a reaction that was very Tendulkar-like; thanking the heavens above, the teammates below and the capacity crowd all around. It hardly showcased the air of the extraordinary circumstances that has been staged since March 12, 2011. Yet now he is a man head and shoulders above the world of cricket in terms of numbers, milestones and reverence.

As Tendulkar reached the century in 138 balls, some credit was due for the Bangladesh bowlers for not letting him have it all his way (though the last few runs leading into the century came with the field put back).

Mushfiqur Rahim took a break from the tradition of captains to tactically delay an impending batting landmark by placing fielders within the circle. But the man from Bogra walked to one side of the wicket to applaud, as did the other Tigers, among whom Mashrafe Bin Mortaza shook his hands.

The packed house in Mirpur showed its cricketing awareness by staying loyal to the home team till much of the day, a section even initiating to boo at one stage, but everyone stood up to appreciate this once-in-a-lifetime moment. The Dhaka crowd has seen many a Tigers' victory over the last few years but this was as unique as it comes; the added luxury of watching a Tendulkar hundred was the bonus on the magnanimous occasion.

A brilliant drive started it all, through extra-cover with merely a waft of the thick blade, also his 2,000th boundary in ODIs. After the first ten overs, old signs of a big innings was coming up, especially the assured footwork, be it the stretch for the defensive prod or minimal movement for the famed checked drive. Off his 63rd ball, Tendulkar reached his third ODI half-century since hitting the last ton. He slowed down significantly afterwards, letting Virat Kohli control the partnership. There were phases of attrition, like a man stuck on 99 for 34 minutes or balls, but he fought through them one single at a time.

Once he had reached the ton, incidentally his 49th in ODI cricket, he pulled Shahadat Hossain first before timing the ball past backward point, his twelfth and final hit to the fence apart from the one six he hit off Shakib over mid-wicket. Five more singles followed before he edged a Mashrafe delivery to Mushfiqur to end his hundredth hundred, an occasion that will finally put Tendulkar on a pedestal that has only his name etched on it.

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