Sachin Tendulkar raises his bat after completing a hundred. The maestro will be hoping that he can do likewise at Lord’s and wipe away unhappy memories of his previous visits at this venue © Getty Images
Sachin Tendulkar raises his bat after completing a hundred. The maestro will be hoping that he can do likewise at Lord’s and wipe away unhappy memories of his previous visits at this venue © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

When you go through the record books, you will find that Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Mahendra Singh Dhoni have all happy memories of Lord’s – a venue where they have either scored hundreds or come close to it. But without exceptions, all of them have pretty good batting average at the venue.

 

Sachin Tendulkar, India’s batting spearhead over the last two decades, has left a lasting impact on the Englishman, right from his first tour as a teenager. In four visits to England, he has played in six venues and scored hundreds in four and came close to three figures in the fifth: Edgbaston 122, Headingley 193, Old Trafford 119*, Trent Bridge 177 and The Oval 82. His average of 62.00 in England is well above his average in all Test matches against all comers, home and away.

 

There has, however, been one great disappointment for Tendulkar. In four visits to Lord’s he has not even managed even one half-century; his highest being 37. And an average of 21.29 at Mecca of cricket does no good for a man who is widely held at the greatest after Sir Don Bradman.

 

There is, however, a sense of occasion about Tendulkar’s milestones. This could be his final hurrah at Lord’s and he would like to correct the imbalance in his otherwise awesome track record. And what better an occasion than the 2000th Test in the history of the game. Months before this hyped-up series between the world No 1 side and the challengers England, there has been considerable excitement about Tendulkar getting to his 100th century for India (Tests + ODIs). And there cannot be a better confluence of occasions that the first India-England Test starting at Lord’s tomorrow (Thursday).

 

Over the years, Tendulkar’s fans had had to wait for him to scale a few select landmarks. In December 2004, he equaled Sunil Gavaskar’s record of 34 Test centuries. It came at a time when he was struggling with a tennis elbow injury and the critics were coming down hard on him. Fans were then made to wait for a year to see him reach the landmark – against Sri Lanka at Delhi in December 2005 – of 35 hundreds. In between, he came agonizingly close to scoring a hundred – against Pakistan in March 2005; he was dismissed in the 90s.

 

Fast forward to October 2010, Australia were in India for a two-match Test series. At the start of the series, Tendulkar was on 48 hundreds. In the first Test he got out in the 90s at the same venue where Pakistan denied him his 35th in the year 2005. However, in the second Test Tendulkar scored his 49th Test hundred as he smashed 214 in the first innings. New Zealand toured India right after Australia left and almost everybody expected him to score his 50th hundred, but he went through three hundred-less Tests. He finally got to the much-awaited milestone in South Africa on a testing track and against the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. It was satisfying to see the landmark coming against stronger opponents in tough conditions rather than a struggling unit on friendly home conditions.

 

Currently we are witnessing another waiting period. During the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 Group stages, he scored two hundreds to take his overall tally to 99. When he walked out to bat against the West Indies in the final group game, the Chennai crowds were praying to be the fortunate ones to have witnessed history. However, in the very first over of the game he edged Ravi Rampaul to slip and walked. Against Australia in the quarter-finals, after anchoring India’s run-chase with a half-century, he edged Shaun Tait. In the semi-finals against Pakistan, he lived a charmed life only to find his luck ending in the 80s.

 

When India met Sri Lanka in the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, the whole of India was praying for an Indian victory, but their hearts hoped that a Tendulkar hundred should get the cup with a hundred off his bat. But Lasith Malinga spoilt the party as he dismissed Tendulkar early.

 

Maybe, it’s in the fitness of things that Tendulkar gets his 100th international hundred in the purest form of cricket – Test match – and, hopefully. The stage is set for the Lord and Master of modern cricket to make the 2000th Test match an unforgettable one. The law of averages overwhelmingly favours Tendulkar getting that coveted hundred at this hallowed venue.

 

Cometh the hour, cometh the man?

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)