A peak was scaled, a long wait fulfilled and a glorious chapter was added to cricketing lore at a packed Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, here on Friday.
Sachin Tendulkar's love affair with international hundreds, which began with an unbeaten 119 against England at Manchester in August 1990, registered an immense statistical high under the warm Dhaka skies. The maestro's 100th century in the global arena — 51 in Tests, 49 in ODIs — struck against Bangladesh will remain a benchmark that will hold batsmen in awe much like Sir Don Bradman's Test average of 99.94.
A single off Shakib Al Hasan at 5.05 p.m. local time led to a reverberation of applause and the familiar gestures of bat raised to the skies, the whispered ‘thanks' to his late father and a measured smile as Tendulkar allowed the moment to sink in. There may have been moments of doubt and probably the silent prayer on 51 and 89, but the stumping and run-out spectres were overcome and destiny was on his side.
The century-drought, spread over a year since the 111 against South Africa at Nagpur and 33 innings across England, India and Australia, was finally over. He was eventually dismissed for 114.
It is a hundred that may not have the audacity of his 114 at Perth in 1992, the pathos of a 136 against Pakistan at Chennai in 1999, the menace of those ‘Desert Storm' tons against Australia at Sharjah in 1998, the singular monkish zeal of not playing a cover-drive in that unbeaten 241 at Sydney in 2004 or the ‘fire-is-still-burning' match-winning unbeaten 103 against England at Chennai in 2008, but as a culmination of an incredible journey since 1989, this ton will be savoured forever.
On a 25th anniversary
Fittingly, it came a week after the 25th anniversary of another peak being scaled in the annals of cricket and the man who scripted that moment was beaming inside the commentary box.
In 1987, Sunil Gavaskar's late cut off Pakistan's Ijaz Fakih at Ahmedabad helped him become the first player to score 10,000 Test runs and it is fitting that his successor from the Mumbai school of batsmanship is extending that legacy of busting numbers.
When Tendulkar scored his first century at Manchester, Virat Kohli was a toddler in Delhi. Tendulkar has also batted against Paul Reiffel, the Australian fast bowler. On Thursday, Kohli was a key partner for Tendulkar and Reiffel was one of the on-field umpires, and that tells a tale of how long the 38-year-old has lasted, overcoming the ravages of time, injuries and the odd dips in form.
In these days of excessive cricket cutting across three formats, it remains to be seen if any other batsman can last as long as Tendulkar has, along with the consistency and longevity, despite his recent travails in Australia.
When he started out, Tendulkar's tons were the consolation balms amidst India's losses. And now, as he strides into his twilight zone, this knock comes at a time when the backdrop is littered with losses in England and Australia. Life has indeed come a full circle for him, but he continues in his own ways, oblivious to the outside world, wearing that helmet with the tricolour and keeping bowlers on tenterhooks.