Angus Fraser: 'It was clear then he was a special talent'
Sachin Tendulkar scored his first century in 1990 against Angus Fraser who is delighted he's gone on to hit 99 more
Saturday 17 March 2012
As the bowler who bowled the ball that conceded the runs to allow Sachin Tendulkar to post his first international hundred, back in 1990, it was extremely satisfying for me to learn that the "Little Master" had yesterday become the first player in the history of cricket to score 100 international hundreds. Reaching the ultimate batting record has been some time coming, 34 innings to be precise, but nobody involved in the game of cricket will begrudge Tendulkar this special and remarkable moment of triumph.
On this occasion it was Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan who was nurdled through the leg side for a single. It was a stroke Tendulkar would have completed successfully on thousands of occasions in his remarkable career, but rarely can it have caused such unimaginable joy. That Tendulkar had been stuck on 99 international hundreds for more than a year had become a national obsession in India. Last night there would have been a mixture of relief and joy across this cricket-mad country as more than a billion people celebrated the extraordinary achievements of one of world's greatest sportsmen.
It is difficult to quantify the size of the feats Tendulkar has completed in his stellar career. Yesterday's hundred was his 49th in one-day international cricket and when added to the 51 three-figure scores he has compiled in Test cricket you have an achievement as great as any in cricket's rich and colourful history.
Completing 100 hundreds has to be a greater feat than that of the late, great Sir Donald Bradman, whose Test batting average was an incredible 99.94, and it compares favourably with the 1,281 goals Pele scored in his football career or the five Olympic rowing gold medals won by Sir Steve Redgrave.
Tendulkar is also the top run scorer in both Test and one-day cricket. In Tests he has amassed 15,470 runs, more than 2,000 more than the next man – India's recently retired Rahul Dravid. In one-day cricket the gap is even bigger. In 50-over cricket the 39-year-old has now scored an unbelievable 18,374 runs, 4,670 more than Australia's Ricky Ponting.
It was at Old Trafford in Manchester, on 14 August 1990, that Tendulkar reached 100 in an international match for the first time. When he effortlessly pushed a good length ball from myself through mid off for three the England team was aware that they were in the presence of a special talent. But very few if any of us would have predicted that the diminutive, angelic looking 17-year-old would go on to become the holder of many of cricket's most sought-after records.
That this defining innings was played at the Shere Bangla National Stadium at Mirpur in Dhaka was apt, even if it was something of a disappointment. It was apt because no matter where Tendulkar has played in the world he has never lost his desire to accumulate runs. It is sad because an innings of such notability should have been played at one of cricket's iconic venues, such as Lord's, Mumbai, Kolkata or Sydney.
Tendulkar's brilliance runs far deeper than the gift of batting. No cricketer has ever had to cope with the attention and pressure he has, and the fact that he has dealt with such intrusion, adoration and expectation and still managed to remain humble and human is as great a feat as compiling the hundreds he has. It is hard to imagine how the cricket crazy Indian public will cope with his retirement. It will be like a monarch passing away.
The question now is how long does Tendulkar wish to continue playing for? India's poor recent run of form – they have won two and lost eight of their last 11 Test matches – has placed the country's selectors under pressure to make changes to the side. India's form has played a role in Dravid recently announcing his retirement, and VVS Laxman will be lucky to keep his place in the team.
If Tendulkar were to go too it would leave a huge void for India to fill. The departure of Dravid, if anything, has placed greater pressure on Tendulkar to carry on and I believe he will. His commitment to Indian cricket is as great as his commitment to scoring runs and he will strap on his pads for a final time when it best suits Indian cricket as well as himself.
That means bowlers around the world will continue to witness the sight of Tendulkar raising his bat in acknowledgment of another three-figure score.
He has already created records that are unlikely to be surpassed; it is just a question of how far over the horizon he ends up before calling time.
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