Scoring runs is something that he has mastered. True, he wanted to become a fast bowler but, thank god, Dennis Lillee turned the youngster away from the MRF Pace Foundation. Had Lillee erred in his judgment, world cricket would have missed this batting genius.
Sachin Tendulkar has grown with every match, every season. In fact, he has developed as a batsman with “every visit to the middle.” He believes so.
He showed early signs of his ability to build an innings and with time, his collection of centuries swelled. And now he has 100 centuries in international cricket (51 in Tests and 49 in ODIs).
Left to Sachin, he would find it impossible to pick his best five Test centuries. For different reasons, he values each of his Test hundreds differently.
There can be an unending debate on this subject but then the following five centuries have been close to his heart for a long, long time.
Top slot: The 114 in Perth in 1992 came against a hostile attack on a difficult pitch with the ball taking off, on many occasions, frighteningly. He whipped the Australian attack in a stellar performance after being promoted in the batting order. This was sublime batting.
Astounding second: On the tour of South Africa in 1992, the biggest threat to India was its little understanding of the playing conditions. But Sachin was at ‘home' literally, producing a thrilling 111 in Johannesburg. He came up with astounding shots against Allan Donald, who spat fire.
Impeccable third: His knock in Birmingham in 1996 was a lesson in correct batsmanship. In making 122, Sachin did not play a single false stroke. His footwork had the stamp of a maestro. He conquered variable bounce and, of course, some top class seam bowling.
The Chennai knock: Sachin's unbeaten 155, against Australia in Chennai in 1998, remains an unforgettable jugalbandi with leg-spin magician Shane Warne. The spectators were treated to some vintage stuff with Warne at his best and Sachin too. They tried outsmarting each other and in the process the spectators witnessed an epic show.
The last in the list: We complete the list with his 103 not out against England in 2008. The nation was grieving and convalescing in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks and this gallant cricketer paid his tribute with an innings that bore testimony to his amazing desire to go on and on. There was emotion in his innings. It was truly a ‘Sachin Special'.
It took Tendulkar 79 games to notch up his maiden ODI hundred. And then the floodgates opened.
Nine of his ODI centuries have come against Australia and eight against Sri Lanka. He has scored a hundred against every Test-playing nation.
110 (130 balls, 8x4, 2x6) vs. Australia in Colombo (Singer World Series, 1994): On a humid day, when even the reserves got tired of rushing drinks to the middle, Sachin scored his first ODI century as he smashed the Australian attack to set up India's victory. The Premadasa Stadium was a noisy cauldron as Craig McDermott, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Tim May came to grief against the 23-year-old.
Sachin, who opened the innings, took charge and maintained a rollicking pace even as Manoj Prabhakar, Navjot Sidhu and Mohammad Azharuddin fell. He was at ease with his task when Vinod Kambli joined him. The Aussies, especially Warne, were mauled and a great rivalry with the leg-spinner was born that day.
118 (140 balls, 8x4, 2x6) vs. Pakistan in Sharjah (Pepsi Cup, 1996):Victories in Sharjah have been rare and ought to be cherished. Sachin's eighth century stays in memory for the fact that a sensational batting performance was followed by a victory.
An attack, comprising Waqar Younis, Aaqib Javed, Ata-Ur-Rehman, Saqlain Mushtaq and Aamer Sohail, was savaged by Sachin's clinical batting.
Most Indian restaurants in Dubai offered heavy discounts that night, while some even entertained their customers free.
143 (131 balls, 9x4, 5x6) vs. Australia in Sharjah (Coca Cola Cup, 1998): India lost but Sachin won with his 14th hundred. He enthralled millions with a majestic show that had even the opposition admiring his incredible capacity to dominate.
India was confronted with the challenge of making 285 to win or 254 to qualify for the final on net run-rate. “I'll do it,” he promised Aunshuman Gaekwad, the coach, and did it in style. He tore into the Aussies, sending the spectators into ecstasy.
The equation was revised to 276 to win and 237 to qualify because of a dust storm. But a storm was brewing in the Indian dressing room too. When play resumed, the storm swept the Australians — Damien Fleming, Michael Kasprowicz, Shane Warne, Tom Moody and Steve Waugh — off their feet.
122 (138 balls, 12x4) vs. South Africa in Vadodara (Bilateral series, 2000): Small ground but a big knock and one of the most exhilarating displays. Sachin's 25th century set up a win, chasing 283, even though a middle-order collapse almost frustrated India. Nearly a decade ago, a total of 280 was considered sound enough to seal a contest, but Sachin had his own dreams to chase that day. He was the ‘Man-of-the-match' but importantly he ensured India won the series.
200 not out (147 balls, 25x4, 3x6) vs. South Africa in Gwalior (Bilateral series, 2010): A summit was scaled that day at the Roop Singh Stadium. When most of us thought players like Vivian Richards, Sanath Jayasuriya, Virender Sehwag, Shahid Afridi, Brian Lara, Adam Gilchrist and Chris Gayle were better equipped to get a double century in ODIs, the Little Master became the first to conquer that height.
He has set many benchmarks but this one was a gem. He had made just four in the preceding match but was fiercely determined on this occasion. Sachin got to the coveted mark with just three balls to spare but he was worthy of the honour. World cricket had waited forty years for this moment.
After Sehwag fell to a catch at third man, Dinesh Karthik joined Sachin to earn a vantage place at the other end. “I am blessed to have batted with him that day. It was a slow pitch but the ease with which he placed his shots through point and covers took my breath away,” said Karthik in praise of Sachin.