Mirpur: One year and five days since he scored his 99th international century, Sachin Tendulkar reached the unprecedented landmark of 100. For over a year a legion of fans had watched in anticipation as Tendulkar strode to the crease in India, England and Australia, and at 17:07 local time, when he nudged towards square leg for a single, there was a collective release of emotions.
Tendulkar, 38, had been stuck on 99 international centuries since March 12, 2011 when he scored a century against South Africa during the World Cup. During the time he took to move from 99 to 100, so much has changed for the Indian cricket team. In the last 12 months they have won the World Cup, slipped form their No. 1 perch in the ICC’s Test rankings, been whitewashed in consecutive overseas Test tours, failed to make the finals of a tri-series, and have seen Rahul Dravid make his exit from the international scene.
In those 12 months, Tendulkar’s batting returns had also diminished. In 11 Tests he has scored 778 runs at an average of 37.04, with a best of 94. He came close to scoring that a hundred a couple other times too; at The Oval he made 91 and in Sydney he reached 80. That innings of 94 was the best chance he had of getting to three figures – Tendulkar came out on the fourth morning in Mumbai in robust mood – but an unwarranted dab to third man ended up in the slips.
Tendulkar did not play an ODI since the World Cup final on April 2, 2011 until he was named in India’s squad for the CB Series after the Test debacle in Australia. That period included four ODI contests, against West Indies and England home and away. Injury played its part, with Tendulkar being ruled out of the ODI leg in England. In 12 ODIs since that century in Nagpur Tendulkar had made 307 runs at 25.58, with his best shot at the 100th hundred being his chancy 85 against Pakistan in the World Cup semi-final. He had not crossed 48 since then, until today.
Tendulkar’s 100th century was a fluent innings, which began a brilliant cover drive for four in the second over of India’s innings in Mirpur. His cutting and driving was especially eye-catching, and the way he maneuvered the Bangladesh spinners was masterful. His half-century came up with a lofted boundary over extra, off the 63 balls, and three figures came in the 44th over, off 138 deliveries and with ten fours and one six.
Upon reaching three figures, Tendulkar closed his eyes and looked up to the skies as he has so many times before this. And yes, a big sigh of relief.