Sachin Tendulkar has had to wait for several important milestones in his career

Another Test, another disappointment for Sachin Tendulkar © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Sachin Tendulkar’s 99th international century came against South Africa in the 2011 World Cup. Every encounter since has been built up as the occasion for the mega milestone. Right from the venue to the history to the opposition, everything has been taken into account to justify the possibility of the historic moment. Right from the semi-final of the World Cup at Mohali to the ongoingTest match at Adelaide, people have found reasons to believe that he would grace the occasion with the much-awaited feat.

 

History is proof that Tendulkar had to wait for several important milestones in his glittering career. A precociously talented 16-year old burst on to the scene in December 1989, but it wasn’t until September 1994 i.e. almost five years later when he scored his first One-Day International (ODI) hundred. It came in his 79th ODI, a surprising fact considering the number of one-day tons he has scored since.

 

In December 2004, the tennis-elbow ridden Tendulkar equalled Sunil Gavaskar’s record of 34 Test centuries while scoring 248 not out against Bangladesh at Dhaka. The pressure to get to the landmark was building with every passing game, though not as intense as the current 100th ton mania. It took him another year to become the batsman with the most Test centuries. In the midst of the two records, he was dismissed in the 90s once – in a Test against Pakistan.

 

Fast forward to July 2008, India landed in Sri Lanka for a Test series with Tendulkar 171 runs behind Brian Lara’s tally of 11,953 runs. Sri Lanka has been Tendulkar’s happy hunting ground and a three-match series was considered a long enough contest to accommodate a new Test record. In a series dominated by Ajantha Mendis, Tendulkar amassed only 95 runs to delay his coronation as Test cricket’s leading run-scorer.

 

India’s next assignment was against Australia at home and he played a crucial role in saving the first Test. In the fourth innings, Tendulkar scored a fighting 49 and was dismissed 14 runs shy of Lara’s tally. The record was finally obliterated in the next game, much to Tendulkar’s relief and that of his fans.

 

A similar waiting period preceded his 50th Test century. In the year 2010, Tendulkar was on a mission that saw him conquer new territories as runs and centuries flowed from his bat at a torrential rate. In October 2010, he smashed his 49th Test ton against Australia and when New Zealand arrived, all eyes were on the man. The three Tests against New Zealand were uneventful as far as he was concerned. One may say that three games without a ton is understandable, but given the form he was in, it made the fans even more impatient. The moment arrived when India travelled to South Africa after the home series against New Zealand was done.

 

The anticipation and mania consuming Indian cricket fans with regard to Tendulkar’s 100th international century pales in comparison to any of the meaningful milestones discussed earlier. In 1994, he was an established youngster who was working his way to great things. The lapse between the 34th and the 35th ton coincided with his struggles with the tennis elbow injury. Moving past Lara was a foregone conclusion and the 50th ton craze was quashed relatively quickly.

 

Since the end of the World Cup, Tendulkar has continued to look good, which has raised the levels of expectations. But he has come too close many times to the elusive 100th hundred before suffering the heartbreak. None was more painful than the 94 against the West Indies at his home ground, Mumbai, when he contradicted certain beliefs and accelerated as he neared the ton.

 

The ongoing tour of Australia has been one of the worst in the history of Indian cricket. A Tendulkar hundred will certainly act as a balm on the wounds of Indian cricket fans, but it would be much nicer if the big moment comes on a meaningful occasion – an Indian win, which certainly doesn’t look like happening in the fourth Test at Adelaide.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-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.”)