: Now the last doubts have been pushed to one side, the cynics sent packing, the last questions answered and those who called for him to retire have gone underground.

Sachin Tendulkar is a fit and proper person to sit among the cricketing gods, not just one of the elite. Viv Richards, with the world's quickest hundred, Jack Hobbs, scorer of 197 first-class hundreds, Brian Lara, with 501, 400 and 375 and even Donald Bradman with a Test average of 99.94, will line up to shake his hand wherever and whenever they meet again.

His 100th International hundred gives him a distinction that cannot be taken from him as long as cricket is played on a pitch 22 yards long, with a round red ball, three stumps covering nine inches and a bat half as wide.

He is no longer just one of the elite or even one of the very great.

All who follow have to prove their right to compete with this record, knowing they cannot beat it. Well, not in the lifetime of anyone on earth at this moment.

His 100th century — against Bangladesh in a One-Dayer against Bangladesh at Mirpur — was a year in the hatching, and in recent months, he has thrown away chances in England and Australia when scoring a hundred seemed easier than getting out.

The debate about whether Tendulkar is the greatest was settled in India long ago, of course, but it will continue while cricket is played.

No doubt a ‘speedo' will soon be called forward to prove that Richards hit the ball harder, Hobbs struck it more precisely, while every West Indian will argue that Lara was the most pleasing to the eye.

Greatest asset

Geoff Boycott hit the nail on the head when he said that Sachin's desire was his greatest asset.

Even from 100 yards distant in the press box, it is clear Tendulkar still loves playing as much as he did when he began his successful international career with a century at Old Trafford.

Enthralling sight

I watched that day enthralled at the sight of a lad so cool, so determined and so unaffected by the crowd — inspired by a glass or two of their favourite beer; Boddington's or Boddies, as they call it.

The fans are often from Old Trafford where Sir Alex Ferguson works his magic and they do not understand the word “quiet”.

Sachin let that robust noise go over his head, quietly defended for four hours and when he was out, walked off to a standing ovation, apparently, aged 17, unimpressed by the applause that greeted his century.

Nor will I ever forget another crowd. Sachin was playing for Yorkshire at Harrogate, where the posh of the county have their homes.

Although they probably have a pocketful of silver, they are typical Tykes — as they call themselves — and defy anyone to be better than his neighbour.

“If you think you're good, prove it to me,” they seem to say.

That day, their applause had that desperate note behind it as they urged Tendulkar on, stretched forward each time he played an attacking shot and finally when he was out ten runs short of his century, they too stood to give him a send-off he can probably still remember.

His trip as a Yorkshire professional was a failure in scoring terms; he hit only two centuries, although he left with hundreds of friends.

Now he has put all that in the background, as he has joined the gods in cricket's celestial pavilion and shown he is fit to bat alongside anyone.

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