Forty-nine centuries. Some may have lacked aesthetics but were all constructed with purpose. India won quite a few of them and in the rest, the team was not disgraced. For Sachin Tendulkar, one-day cricket was a challenge he learnt to love.

His first ODI century came after 79 matches, a piece of statistics that is bound to surprise many for generations to follow. Once he broke the barrier, there was no looking back.

His best ODI innings, however, fell short of a century. It was the 98 against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup.

Here, we pick five of his centuries and follow them through the non-strikers at the other end when he crossed the mark.

110 (130 balls, 8x4, 2x6) vs. Australia in Colombo (Singer World Series, 1994) — 1st century: “He was in super touch. He had so much time to play his shots that (humid) day and he hammered them all over. A mid-wicket six off McDermott was just breathtaking!” Vinod Kambli reminisced.

“The humidity was forgotten and I enjoyed his knock. We didn’t have a big partnership, but I was there when he reached his century. No hand-shakes. I just hugged him. In the evening, we had a nice party, just the two of us.”

118 (140 balls, 8x4, 2x6) vs. Pakistan in Sharjah (Pepsi Cup, 1996) — 8th century: “It was an education,” remembered Navjot Singh Sidhu, who also hit a century. “(Aamer) Sohail and I had a slanging match. We batted first and I just enjoyed every moment of his batting.

“I don’t remember if Sachin was even beaten once. He hit them at will and had a calming impact on me. ‘Thanda (cool) rehna hai, thanda rehna hai’, he kept telling me every time I lost cool with Sohail.

“I remained ‘thanda’ but he was on fire. The Pakistanis tried needling him but he only responded with his bat. I would love to play some of the shots that came from him. It was indeed a privilege to be at the other end that day.”

143 (131 balls, 9x4, 5x6) vs. Australia in Sharjah (Coca Cola Cup, 1998) — 14th century: “It was easily the most brilliant and destructive knock I have ever seen from Sachin. He was like a man possessed, in a zone,” recalled V.V.S. Laxman, his partner in the middle.

“He knew he was left alone to do the job. He played some amazing shots off the fast bowlers. His determination was seen in his aggression.

“His eyes were burning from the dust storm but nothing could stop him that night. He hit a century in the final too but this sensational knock remains etched in my memory.”

122 (138 balls, 12x4) vs. South Africa in Vadodara (Bilateral Series, 2000) — 25th century: “I remember we got off to a great start. It was a superbly controlled knock and it was a treat for every student of the game.

“He paced his innings well and given the conditions, it was one of his best performances,” said Sourav Ganguly. “Sachin was determined that day. It may have been a small ground but his innings was huge.”

200 not out (147 balls, 25x4, 3x6) vs. South Africa in Gwalior (Bilateral series, 2010) — 46th century: The curator, Ajay Sahasrabuddhe, had assured Sachin it was a “Donshe chi wicket (pitch worthy of a double century).”

The master put his stamp on it. For Dinesh Karthik, it was a lifetime experience.

“It was a slow pitch but he placed his shots through point and covers with ease. How he used the pace of the ball to score was a lesson for all. He was always looking to hit boundaries and I ensured he stayed on strike as much as possible.

“He played normal shots, Test match shots, and destroyed the South Africans. He was in a different zone and didn’t rush; He was amazing.”

Tendulkar indeed has been an amazing phenomenon!

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